The hope and sadness of watching Pete

Pete Buttigieg showed how much has changed for LGBTQ Americans — and how much hasn't

Pete Buttigieg.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Given the avalanche of news this week, Pete Buttigieg's exit from the 2020 campaign Sunday night may seem like a distant memory by now. Yet as the Democratic primary settles into a not unpredictable two-person race, it's worth remembering that for the first time ever a gay man became a serious contender, however briefly, for the presidency. As a gay man not much older than Mayor Pete myself, I've also spent time this week painfully reflecting on what it means that Buttigieg endured so many personal attacks while he was busy making history.

From the start, Buttigieg faced legitimate opposition to his candidacy. Back in June, I noted that Buttigieg's political career, especially his poor handling of race relations and law enforcement issues in South Bend, deserved close scrutiny. On the campaign trail, his political ping-ponging from moderate to less-moderate positions, although not an uncommon habit of those running for president, drew outrage from the left. And his youthfulness and brief resume, while regarded by some as anti-establishment features, understandably elicited worries about his inexperience from many more. All of these are valid criticisms of Buttigieg.

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Neil J. Young

Neil J. Young is a historian and the author of We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics. He writes frequently on American politics, culture, and religion for publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, HuffPost, Vox, and Politico. He co-hosts the history podcast Past Present.