So I definitely didn’t know much about Pete Buttigieg before I went to see him. Just that he’s a gay mayor from South bend Indiana whose name I have no idea how to pronounce. The main thing I was interested in is what would differentiate him from other candidates. If I’m honest I can’t say there is a whole lot that does, at least when it comes to politics. I learned he is in the Navy, he is short – by presidential standards, he’s about my height – and he pronounces his name “Pete”.
I’m being a bit flippant, but of the candidates I’ve encountered so far Pete Buttigieg provided the least substance. His speech felt like it was 15, maybe twenty minutes long, where the others have gone for more like 30-45 I think. He hit on many of the same issues that make up the Democratic platform at the moment. The main point Pete Buttigieg used to differentiate himself is his connection to Midwestern small town America. I’m not sure I would consider South Bend, Indiana, population 100,000+ a small town, but I did grow up in a town of 4,000. After living away from South Bend for a time the pull of home brought him back and he recovered South Bend from a city ranked as 8th worst, to whatever it is now. Apparently better. Now that I think about it I don’t think he said how he recovered it, or what about his success in South Bend makes me a good candidate for president, beyond that he was successful in South Bend.
The other part of his speech that differentiate Pete Buttigieg from other candidates focused on the need to reclaim the use of freedom in the Democratic Party. Not in the way that Republicans often frame the use of freedom, as in a freedom from…, but rather phrasing it in terms of freedom to… Such as freedom to marry, freedom to start a business, freedom to obtain an education, freedom to afford health care. Freedoms that the Republican approach has prevented Americans from accessing.
I found Pete Buttigieg to be extremely light on substance in terms of the how-to. He gave a list of things that we should have freedoms to, but it was just a list of things, not really a list of policies, or plans to achieve them. He definitely did not differentiate himself based on policy in my eyes.
When it came to actually meeting him and asking him my decision-making question he did a fairly decent job. Upon asking how he makes decisions, and how he would advise his administration to make decisions and choose between policies he talked about the fact that his first step would be to lay a solid structure that would support addressing future challenges. That way once that solid structure is in place as new things arise he’d be able to adapt to them as they came up. I’m not sure exactly what he meant by structure, whether he meant in terms of the first policy priorities, or staff and administration structure, but both or either are good I suppose.
To me what Pete Buttigieg described is not exactly a decision making process but I would say that laying a good foundation is a good strategy for to making better decisions in the future. I followed up by saying I was asking because I’m a decision scientist and that’s why I’m curious about not just what candidates’ stances are but how they’ll address future issues as they arise, much as he described in his response. He also said that as someone tasked with making decisions for a living his is interested in the factors that contribute to good decision making and that he thinks a lot about this. As the line of people behind me was quite long I didn’t follow up or get any specific responses as to what he studied or how he’s gone about studying the field of decision science but at least he’s aware of it and finds it interesting. That is seemingly more than can be said for many politicians.
Summary: Without the one-on-one I was not impressed by Pete Buttigieg, but the one-on-one did raise my opinion of him. Pete Buttigieg is probably good at governance based on his response to me as apparent success as mayor, and would govern to progress toward the generic democratic platform. I don’t think he has the campaigning skills to get himself into the position to govern though. My conclusion is that he would probably be an OK president when it came to the day to day tasks, but I don’t think he is a good candidate for president, and might struggle with the sales pitch part of being president. Before talking one-on-one I would have placed Pete Buttigieg in Tier 5, and while I value his interest in decision making a lot and am tempted to bump him up for it, I don’t think it matters much if his campaigning won’t allow him to apply it in the White House.
Ranking of those I’ve meet so far:
- Tier 1: Andrew Yang
- Tier 2: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders*
- Kamala Harris
- Tier 3: Cory Booker
- Tier 4: Tulsi Gabbard
- Tier 5: Pete Buttigieg
- Tier Nope: tbd
- *(Based on past meetings and campaign launch video, w/o the decision-making question response)
Expected distribution of candidates is:
- Tier 1: 1 or 2
- Tier 2: ~3
- Tier 3: ~1/4 of remaining
- Tier 4: ~1/4 of remaining
- Tier 5: ~1/4 of remaining
- Tier Nope: ~1/4 of remaining