Pete’s Voice Reaches Thousands, But Will His Policy Reach Them Too?
On the crisp fall morning of November 9th, Concord’s local firefighter station found its backyard overflowing with bright-eyed voters — and pots of chili.
The quiet capital of New Hampshire was prepared to host Joe Biden, the 2020 front-running Democratic presidential candidate, and what better way for the campaign to showcase his kindred spirit than by serving bowls of beans to the masses.
But while the air’s stinging wind chill was uncharacteristic of the day’s sunshine, the weather wasn’t the only thing undecided that morning. Several voters appeared conflicted over their 2020 candidate choice, unsure whether to prioritize younger candidates with a strong media presence or older candidates with legitimate policy experience. In the case of moderate Democrats, it seems that everything came down to Biden and Buttigieg.
“I actually think if I had to cast my ballot right now, it would be for Pete Buttigieg,” said Nicholas Dadekian, a 19-year-old student at Bryant University and a first-time voter. “I do feel that he might be a little bit more in touch with younger people’s values, and be able to understand them.”
Dadekian acknowledges Buttigieg’s vibrant social media presence, joking that on the other hand, Biden treats his social media as an ‘old person’ would be expected to. But while the media eats up Buttigieg’s Obama-esque presence, Pete’s political imprint seems lackluster compared to his more seasoned adversaries.
“I can worry a little more with someone in office being older,” he said. “But Biden’s definitely been in government for a long time. I think that he has a lot more connections with people on both sides of the aisle, and they’ll be able to get things done in office.”
Pushing moderate policies is a point of contention for Dadekian, who considers himself fiscally conservative. “In terms of healthcare, I like how both [Biden and Buttigeig] have both public and private options,” he said.
Susan Salls, an Onsite Drug Testing collection technician and grandmother, expresses a similar focus on nominating someone with significantly moderate policies.
“I believe that we have to focus on somebody that can beat Donald Trump, and it can’t be an extremely progressive person, because people in Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana are not going to vote for Warren and Sanders,” she said. “We’ve got to be realistic on what’s going to happen, and Joe Biden appeals to a wider range of people.”
Although she considers herself an avid Biden supporter, Salls is more concerned with unifying the Democratic party and taking Trump out of office.
“The reason Donald Trump won three-and-a-half years ago was because Bernie Sanders voters were like spoiled brats,” Salls said. “He wasn’t the nominee, so they decided they weren’t going to vote, and that’s why we ended up with what we got. I’m afraid a similar thing might happen.”
Her concerns are valid, given a Democratic field of 18 candidates, each with their own committed voter bases. It also might suggest why moderate candidates have been rising steadily in the polls; as smaller candidates begin to lose campaign money and media recognition, their supporters turn to the next best thing. For Buttigieg, the phenomenon might just be working in his favor.
A short ride from Concord’s sleepy town are the scenic mountains of Franklin, where a much larger and significantly more family-oriented crowd gathered that same day in a local barn to hear Mayor Buttigieg speak. The modern pop music greeting the crowd was a refreshing change from Biden’s looping playlist of Aretha Franklin and Billy Joel, and hinted at the more lively spirit of Pete’s crowd. Women sitting in rows chatted about what to bake for their next book club meeting, and whether or not they could carpool to soccer practice next weekend.
It felt much more like a friendly town potluck than a political rally.
Interestingly enough, most voters attending Buttigieg’s rally were simply curious about what he had to say and had no clue about their nominee choice just yet. Most of them thought Buttigieg’s policy platform seemed ambiguous, but they were enamored by his vocal presence on debate stages and on the media.
For 66-year-old retired social worker Beverly Murdough, the conflict between policy and personality seemed too daunting a task to tackle just yet.
“I was looking at Tom Steyer for a little while, but it’s too early for me to know who I’d want to vote for now,” she admits. “I’m just interested to hear about [Buttigieg’s] policies in education and the welfare of the American people.”
How a mayor from a small town rose to such Democratic prominence is a spectacular display of the nation’s desire to find someone to give them hope. His voice soothes growing numbers of disillusioned voters, promising them that the party can and will unite. He represents a young, fresh voice.
On that crisp November morning, on a sweeping hillside overlooking the mountains, Buttigieg represented the onset of calm amidst chaos.