Pete Buttigieg speaks at Cronk's Cafe in Denison on Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic hopeful for president, speaks to an audience arranged in a square around him at Cronk’s Cafe in Denison on Tuesday. Photo by Gordon Wolf

Speaking from inside an audience arranged in a square in the back room at Cronk’s Café in Denison on Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, marketed himself as the person who can offer the ambitious ideas to solve the nation’s problems and at the same time unify a dangerously divided country.

He asked people to imagine the beginning of the first day after Donald Trump is no longer president, which Buttigieg, a Democrat, hopes is January 20, 2021.

He said the chaos created by Trump will be in the past.

“And this daily drumbeat of news about corruption and indictments will be behind us. The tweets,” he added. “I think we’re all ready to move on from the tweets.”

But Buttigieg added that the nation will still be facing the major crises of the day before and will be even more divided and polarized than it is today.

He said the way to solve that is to “organize around our values and to lead the American people in the name of values that can take us in a very clear, forward, progressive direction on getting problems solved but can also unify us as we get it done.”

He said the U.S. flag, which stands for a set of values, can unify people who have nothing in common besides the fact of being Americans.

Buttigieg said the flag also stands for a deeper patriotism that is needed now, “not a cheap nationalism that tries to write some people out of the American experience based on what language they speak at home or where their families came from or how they worship but rather one that recognizes that our country is made of people.

He said people can’t love their country if they hate half the people who are in it.

Buttigieg also spoke about not confusing the 2nd Amendment with an excuse to do nothing on gun violence when schools are in danger and when gun owners, Republicans and Democrats know that there has to be at least universal background checks, red flag laws and the disarming of domestic abusers.

He talked about making sure that climate change doesn’t become an obstacle for people to be able to get ahead, specifically when looking forward to the future.

On that issue, Buttigieg later said global climate change has to be solved by all nations.

“We can’t solve this issue on our own. We’re less than a fifth of the emissions around the world, but the world can’t solve it without us because we’re the biggest economy in the world,” he said.

He said addressing global climate change has a good chance to regain America’s credibility with other nations.

“It’s hard to think of something that puts us more on the front foot with China than having climate be something that matters,” Buttigieg offered. “And if we are leading the world, for example, leading the world on how farming can be part of the solution through cover crops and soil management, negative carbon farming, if we’re leading the world not just in technological development but making this part of our relationships with others, I believe that is part of how we recover the moral authority that’s been so badly squandered by this president.”

He also spoke about health care as a freedom issue and offered details of his “Medicare For All Who Want It” plan.

“We take a version of Medicare – everybody can get in on that but I trust you to decide whether you want it or if you’d rather be on the plan you’ve got,” he explained. “The important thing is that one way or the other, we make sure that every American gets health care. And when we do that we’re respecting freedom and solving the problem.”

He later expanded on his health care plan, explaining that a cap would be placed on premiums so that they would never be more than 8.5 percent of income and that he would make sure it’s supported for low-income folks as well.

He said the government also has to do something about prescription drug prices.

“Step one, allow Medicare and the plan I’m going to create and Health and Human Services on behalf of the private plans to negotiate drug prices. But a second thing I believe we must do is establish a limit on how much prices can be jacked up,” Buttigieg explained.

“If there’s an emergency and one of your medicines is hard to come by, that’s one thing. But what we see going on with a lot of these medications is the prices are being inflated because they can and because they think they can get away with it. We’re talking about medicines you need in order to live.”

Buttigieg’s plan is that any company that tries to raise prices faster than inflation would face such a tax penalty that they wouldn’t try it in the first place.

He said the plan is not about punishing innovation and that the drug companies will still be successful if the create good products.

When asked to describe his foreign policy stance, Buttigieg responded, “We are in a whole new world now when it comes to the Unites States’ relationship to other countries even compared to four years ago, largely because of the actions of this president, of course.

“We have allies questioning whether it’s a good idea to bet your life on the credibility of the United States of America. We have a lot of work to do just to restore that American credibility.”

He said half of the solution is what shouldn’t be done.

“Don‘t turn your back on an ally. Don’t make foreign policy by tweet. Don’t go around poking a country in the eyes with tariffs before you know what that’s going to mean to American farmers,” he said.

Buttigieg addressed the need for broadband accessibility throughout the nation as an issue of infrastructure.

“I’m proposing that we invest $80 billion, which is what it would take to get every person in America the chance to be connected,” he said.

“Half of that we could raise just by off shooting off spectrums that the government has been holding onto for a long time, and we could do that in a responsible way and raise about $40 billion.

“The other $40 billion will come from how I was saying earlier how the largest corporations in the world need to start paying their fair share. We can do this if we want to. We’ve just got to decide that it’s a priority, and when I am president, it will be.”

Larry Peterson, of Denison, was nodding his head when Buttigieg spoke about broadband.

“We’re talking local economic growth if we’re going to allow our high tech companies to stay in town and expand, plus our school system,” Peterson said.

He also agreed that something has to be done about Medicare.

“The system itself needs to be simplified and it needs to be set up so that it’s affordable and that we all have skin in the game,” Peterson said. “We don’t want to convince people it’s going to be a free giveaway, so Medicare has to be participatory; all people have to be involved in it, and yes, I think gradually, I agreed with the choice thing. People will choose it once they decide they don’t want to give profits to corporations. I think those big healthcare companies have enough money invested in real estate and ever thing else. I don’t think they’re going to suffer that much.”

Peterson said he has seen all of the Democratic presidential candidates so far except for Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

He is an organizer for Kamala Harris but is still grasping for his No. 2 candidate.

“And when we do this realignment in our caucuses to get that viable group, we all have to have that No. 2 choice,” Peterson explained.

Carol Crampton became aware of Buttigieg through her youngest son.

“He said I needed to check him out,” she said.

She supported Buttigieg before she came to Tuesday’s event and said she will caucus for him.

“I’m just really impressed with his idea and his plans for creating change for everyone and working together as a country instead of continuing the divisive manner that we’ve been experiencing,” she said. “Mayor Pete, his character in listening to him is what drew me to him because he is so respectful of his fellow man and such a thought-filled person. We need a presence like that in the White House to help heal our country and bring people together, and he’s so passionate about doing that, that I’m just very hopeful that he can lead us to a much, much better place.”

Connie Keairnes, of Denison, was undecided about Buttigieg before Tuesday’s campaign stop.

“He was in my top tier of candidates, and I wanted to see what he had to say. And I think after listening to him I think I will caucus for him,” she said. “I really like his empathy and his caring nature.

“And it isn’t about him. It’s about the country and wanting to do better and it’s just so nice not to have that egocentric perspective,” Keairnes said.

She continued she likes how he wants to make things safe, his plan for education and having choices for Medicare.

At age 37, Buttigieg is the youngest candidate on the campaign trail, but not by much. Tulsi Gabbard is 38. Both have a chance to be the youngest president ever if elected. Buttigieg would be 39 years and one day; Gabbard would be 39 years and 283 days if elected.

Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest person to serve as president at 42 years and 322 days.

The Democratic Party boasts some other young candidates. Andrew Yang is 44 and Julian Castro is 45.

Keairnes thinks that Buttigieg’s age is a plus.

“Age is irrelevant compared to so many other factors,” said Crampton.

“I think it’s really nice that he is a millennial in that we need new ideas. We need young people to take and interest and be a part of the change that needs to happen in this county, and I think he can really relate to the millennials, obviously, and I think he inspires them greatly,” said Crampton.

She pointed out her youngest son is a millennial.

“I meet young people all the time that are really tired and scared about the future that is in the hands of people that are sticking with ideas and plans with kind of a more of an egocentric perspective that are not serving our country well,” Crampton said. “We’re in a scary place right now.

“I can see him sitting down with world leaders and negotiating and talking to them and understanding their perspective,” said Keairnes. “I think that he would be a plus for that as well.”

“He seems to be a person that is all about learning from the world and the people around him and for using that to help us all to move forward,” Crampton continued, “versus Trump said one time when interviewed, ‘I am my own best consultant. I pretty much follow my own brain.’

“It’s going to take a village to get our country moving forward, not one person’s brain,” she added.

Crampton didn’t specify the source of that quote but may have been referring to a comment Trump made in a phone interview on the March 16, 2016, MSNBC Morning Joe show when answering a question about who he talks to consistently on foreign policy so that he’s ready on Day 1 in the White House. “I’m speaking with myself, No. 1, because I have a very good brain, and I’ve said a lot of things,” Trump began and later added, “I know what I’m doing. But I listen to a lot of people. I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are, but I speak to a lot of people. But my primary consultant is myself, and I have, you know, I have a good instinct for this stuff.”

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