Pete Buttigieg, the small-town Indiana mayor making an improbable run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is pledging to grant statehood to the District of Columbia, prepare America for the job consequences of automation and artificial intelligence and confront threats to U.S. security if he wins the White House, according to campaign aides.
Buttigieg, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who is openly gay, has also expressed support for key liberal policy priorities, including dramatically expanding government health insurance, granting paid family leave and giving America’s undocumented population a pathway to U.S. citizenship, the aides said.
“The center of gravity of the American people is way to the left of the center of gravity of Congress and, in many ways, to the left of the national Democratic Party,” Buttigieg said earlier in an interview with The Washington Post. Buttigieg announced Monday that he had raised about $7 million in the first quarter of 2019, a surprisingly large sum for an outsider candidate.
Still, the mayor has faced some criticism from the left for his positions on some issues, including for saying he was “troubled” by the Obama administration’s decision to grant clemency to Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who leaked classified military documents. Buttigieg has also said that while he supports Medicare-for-all, he does not seek to end private health insurance. That appears to represent a break with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has called for virtually eradicating private health insurance in favor of a single-payer government-run insurance system.
“No serious progressive should want Pete Buttigieg anywhere near national public office,” Current Affairs, a left-wing publication, said in an recent editorial, citing his time at the corporate consulting firm McKinsey and arguing he is similar to too many “CV-padding corporate zombies.”
Conservatives have also criticized Buttigieg, noting he praised then-New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large sodas (which was later struck down in court), while alumni of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign have bristled at Buttigieg’s criticism of her message in that race.
Buttigieg’s aides broke his policy priorities into three main areas: the economy, which includes confronting automation, improving infrastructure and higher tax rates on higher earners; “freedom,” including Medicare-for-all, greater consumer protections and paid parental leave; and security, including confronting climate change and limiting presidential authority over declaring war.
Here’s a look at some of the policy proposals Buttigieg aides say are central to his run for the White House.
Structural changes to U.S. democracy, including D.C. statehood. Buttigieg has repeatedly talked during the campaign about the need to implement structural changes to U.S. democracy, part of a broader push among liberals to overhaul the rules of American elections.
“Democracy is front and center right now, but some very important dimensions (like electoral college reform, DC statehood) get way too little attention,” Buttigieg said on Twitter. “We must not become the first generation to see USA get less democratic versus more.”
House Democrats recently passed a set of proposed democracy measures that include making the District of Columbia the 51st state in the union. The District has a larger population than two states but lacks voting members in Congress, and the District pays more in federal taxes than roughly 20 states, The Washington Post has previously reported. Buttigieg has backed D.C. statehood and told The Post that Puerto Rico has the right to become a U.S. state “if they want it,” which would probably add two Democratic members to the U.S. Senate.
Similarly, Buttigieg has called for the abolition of the electoral college, a difficult obstacle that would require a constitutional amendment but comes amid liberal frustration over losing several recent presidential elections despite winning the popular vote. (As a workaround to the difficulty of a constitutional amendment, several states have pushed an “interstate compact” in which states would agree to allocate their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, regardless of the winner in their state.)
Buttigieg has also called for the need to end gerrymandering, the practice of drawing congressional districts to particular partisan advantage, according to his campaign aides. He has also called for “packing” the Supreme Court, or unilaterally having the president expand the number of justices on the court.
“We definitely need to do structural reform on the Supreme Court. Adding justices can be part of the solution but not in and of itself; it’s not enough,” Buttigieg told the Intercept.
Plan for artificial intelligence. A 2017 study from McKinsey found that automation could force as many as 70 million U.S. workers to find another way to earn money, with demand for American workers dropping by 20 percent. Buttigieg has said six times as many jobs were lost because of automation as trade from 2000 to 2010.
Buttigieg’s aides said preparing for this scenario would be a top priority if he were elected. Buttigieg has pointed to his decision as mayor to offer new city positions to some garbage workers who had lost their jobs because the city had automated some functions.
Buttigieg’s campaign has released few details about exactly how he would prepare America for the impact of artificial intelligence on the federal workforce, but the mayor is expected to announce more fleshed-out policy positions at a later date. He has served as chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ task force on automation.
“We need to begin softening the expectation that the workplace can supply your sense of identity,” Buttigieg told Vice about the effect of automation. “You’re going to be more resilient if your sense of who you are is not only with your workplace.”
Medicare-for-all. Medicare-for-all is a proposal, championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) in the House, to move every American to a single government-run insurer that charges no deductibles or premiums.
Doing so would significantly increase government expenditures — by as much as $33 trillion over a 10-year period, according to one conservative think tank — while offering health insurance to the Americans who lack it and preventing millions more from being forced into medical bankruptcy. It would require enormous tax increases to finance, although supporters maintain the increases would be offset by zeroing out every family’s spending on premiums and deductibles.
Buttigieg has said “Medicare-for-all is the best framework.” Still, his campaign has said private insurance can stay for now. Buttigieg previously told ABC News he did not believe Medicare-for-all required eliminating private insurance, noting many countries with single-payer systems also allow private forms of supplemental insurance.
Federal protections for LGBTQ community. Aides also cited Buttigieg’s support for the Equality Act, a bill in Congress aimed at outlawing discrimination against the LGTBQ community.
The measure would amend federal civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected groups, according to the Human Rights Campaign. It would ensure nondiscrimination protections in areas such as employment, housing, credit, education and jury service, the group says.
Conservatives have criticized the legislation, arguing it risks violating Americans’ religious liberty. “The bill essentially nullifies federal and state religious freedom protections by handing authority to the U.S. Department of Justice to interpret and investigate claims of discrimination,” a columnist for the Federalist, a conservative publication, wrote.
Paid family leave. Currently, the United States is the only country in the developed world that does not require businesses to give paid leave to new mothers, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found. Mothers in the United States are guaranteed zero paid time off. Those given such benefits from their employers are likely to be much higher up the income ladder, said Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.
Buttigieg aides said he would support paid parental leave, pointing to his push as South Bend mayor for paid leave for city employees.