South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg took issue with Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “my way or the highway” politics at Friday’s debate — but a 20-year-old essay written by Buttigieg had nothing but praise for the self-described socialist.
In the early moments of the ABC-hosted debate in New Hampshire, Buttigieg warned against “my way or the highway politics” and when moderator George Stephanopoulos asked whether he was referring to Sanders, he said that he was. (RELATED: ‘This Is Going To Hurt You’: Meghan McCain Says Pete Buttigieg’s Late-Term Abortion Stance Crosses A Line)
Just two decades earlier, however, Buttigieg won the John F. Kennedy “Profiles in Courage” essay contest with a piece lauding Sanders — both for his willingness to take unpopular stands and his ability to work across the aisle.
Buttigieg began by praising the Vermont senator for his fearlessness with regard to claiming the name “socialist”:
Sanders’ courage is evident in the first word he uses to describe himself: ‘Socialist’. In a country where Communism is still the dirtiest of ideological dirty words, in a climate where even liberalism is considered radical, and Socialism is immediately and perhaps willfully confused with Communism, a politician dares to call himself a socialist? He does indeed. Here is someone who has ‘looked into his own soul/ and expressed an ideology, the endorsement of which, in today’s political atmosphere, is analogous to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Even though he has lived through a time in which an admitted socialist could not act in a film, let alone hold a Congressional seat, Sanders is not afraid to be candid about his political persuasion.
Buttigieg went on to note Sanders’ early acceptance of same sex marriage, his willingness to challenge the NRA and his independently organized drug-purchasing trips to Canada that were intended to draw attention to the rising cost of prescription drugs — all issues that Sanders still prides himself on 20 years later.
Buttigieg then argued that simply taking a principled stand, while courageous, was not the full picture of Sanders. It was his ability to bring both side together, Buttigieg explained, that truly made him a “profile in courage.”
It is the second half of Sanders’ political role that puts the first half into perspective: he is a powerful force for conciliation and bi-partisanship on Capitol Hill. In Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy wrote that ‘we should not be too hasty in condemning all compromise as bad morals. For politics and legislation are not matters for inflexible principles or unattainable ideals.’ It may seem strange that someone so steadfast in his principles has a reputation as a peacemaker between divided forces in Washington, but this is what makes Sanders truly remarkable. He represents President Kennedy’s ideal of ‘compromises of issues, not of principles.’
The two frontrunners — Buttigieg leads the delegate count after last week’s disastrous Iowa caucuses, but Sanders holds the lead in raw vote counts — have clashed on several occasions, particularly with regard to health care. Sanders favors Medicare for All, while Buttigieg stresses the need to leave the people a choice and favors a plan he’s dubbed “Medicare for All Who Want It.”