2020 presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg came down on President Donald Trump’s political rhetoric and “identity politics” in an interview with the Associated Press Tuesday night.
“By far the political movement that is most based on identity politics is Trumpism,” he said. “It’s based on white guy identity politics. It uses race to divide the working and middle class.”
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor addressed a crowd of over 1,600 in Des Moines, Iowa – the host city of the first Democratic primary – on topics ranging from religion to his proposed strategy for defeating Trump in 2020.
“We’ve got to acknowledge – without giving an inch on the racism or xenophobia that played a role in the campaign — we’ve also got to pay attention to the things that make people susceptible to that message and make sure we’re addressing them,” he said.
The rally, which exceeded projected turnout by 1,400, was one of the largest in the Des Moines area for the 2020 campaign cycle so far. This marks a significant achievement given that Buttigieg had not met the 65,000-donor threshold required to qualify for Democratic debate appearance until a month ago — two months after announcing his exploratory committee.
He will now be tasked with the challenge of turning his recent spark of grassroots support into a sustainable campaign.
One of his strategies for accomplishing this feat has been arguing he can attract white working-class voters that previously disaffiliated with the Democratic party. A recent Emerson poll indicated that he is now in third place among primary contenders, with only 57% of his supporters registered as Democrats.
Buttigieg previously took to the press to criticize fellow Indiana politician Vice President Mike Pence for his rhetoric surrounding same-sex marriage. He has painted himself as a Christian foil to the Trump administration by questioning the moral integrity of evangelicals that oppose gay rights but stay silent about the president’s personal conduct.
“There are a lot of strategies to blame problems on people who look different or are of a different faith or even of a different sexuality or gender identity,” he told the AP. “It’s a cynical political strategy that works in the short term but winds up weakening the whole country in the long term.”