Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke to the Human Rights Campaign on Saturday night at a gala in Las Vegas, warning Democrats to stay away from “identity politics” because they are creating a “crisis of belonging” in the United States.
Buttigieg warned about making the election about Trump, “because if Americans see us spending all our time talking about him, they’ll be left with this question, ‘who’s talking about us?’”
Buttigieg said that the country is “being buffeted by tectonic change” and said the focus needs to be on “winning an era… we are preparing our country for a better life.”
Buttigieg said Democrats need to start talking about the values behind their policies: “It’s time for us to get comfortable once again talking about values … like freedom. We have allowed conservatives to monopolize the language of freedom. But we know that freedom isn’t just about freedom from, it’s about freedom to. Not just freedom from regulation, but freedom to live a life of your choosing.”
Buttigieg also spoke about “identity politics,” a phrase he said was used “usually to wave away our attention from some of the things that make our lived experiences different, and the political implications of those differences.”
Buttigieg said that the Trump administration has “mastered the practice of the most divisive form of such politics, peak White identity politics, designed to drive apart people with common interests.”
Buttigieg said we should see in our identities “the beginning of a new form of American solidarity” rather than the things that make us different.
Said Buttigieg: “I may be part of the LGBTQ community. But being a gay man doesn’t even tell me what it’s like to be a trans woman of color in that same community, let alone an undocumented mother of four or a disabled veteran or a displaced autoworker. But being gay just like every other fact about me means that I have a story and if I look to that story I can find the building blocks not only for empathy but for the impetus to action. Because the more you know about exclusion, the more you know about belonging, and we have a crisis of belonging in this country.”
“Divisive lines of thinking have entered into the consciousness of my own party,” said Buttigieg. “Like when we’re told we need to choose between supporting an auto worker and supporting a trans women of color, without stopping to think about the fact that sometimes the auto worker is a trans woman of color and she definitely needs all the support that she can get.”
Added Buttigieg: “The wall I worry about most isn’t the president’s fantasy wall on the Mexican border that’s never gonna built anyway. What I worry about are the very real walls being put up between us as we get divided and carved up. … And what every gay person has in common with every excluded person of any kind is knowing what it’s like to see a wall between you and the rest of the world and wonder what it’s like on the other side. … Yes, I am gay. And I am the son of an immigrant and an Army brat. And I am a husband. And I am a musician. And I am an Episcopalian, and I am a Democrat.”
The mayor then talked about tearing down the walls that divide us: “I am ready to use my story, my energy, my alliances, and yes, my privilege, to throw myself into tearing down those walls.”