South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has emerged as a serious contender in the Democratic presidential primaries, had it easy for a while there — people fawned over his ability to speak eight languages and his Harvard University and military pedigree. His hopeful messaging has also resonated with many, who view Buttigieg's rhetoric as a welcome reprieve from the divisive nature of contemporary American politics.
But the spotlight also comes with risks. A burgeoning Buttigieg backlash has begun to take shape alongside the praise. For example, The New York Times Magazine writes that Buttigieg's famed intelligence is, in part, the result of "internetty smarts," or an intelligence designed to appeal to people's "vanities and prejudices," exemplified by his ability to speak non-fluent Norwegian or his "mostly incoherent" takes on James Joyce.
Many of Buttigieg's left-wing critics, the Times writes, are also wary of Buttigieg's campaign strategy of building bridges between coastal elites and America's heartland, thinking it could be nothing more than a "trick." Instead, they argue he's just another meritocrat seeking political power. Indeed, Buttigieg has faced criticism for an urban redevelopment plan he initiated in South Bend, Indiana, which resulted in the loss of homes for black and Latino communities. And his stance that incarcerated felons should remain unable to vote garnered further skepticism, especially as candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke in favor of the alternative.
Still, there is also the idea that Buttigieg's actual policy stances simply remain unclear at this point and voters want to know what'd he do for them as president. Either way, it's clear that his honeymoon phase has officially ended. Tim O'Donnell