Small Town Mayor Offers Big Political Reforms

Small Town Mayor Offers Big Political Reforms


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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You probably don’t know much about Pete Buttigieg, starting with how to pronounce his last name.

He’s a former Navy lieutenant who served in Afghanistan. He’s a two-term mayor of South Bend, Ind., who also happens to be gay and, just last year, married his husband Chasten.

Now he’s running for president. Coming from a red state like Indiana, you might guess Buttigieg is casting himself as a very cautious, centrist candidate offering very cautious, centrist policies.

Except that you would be very wrong.

Yes, Buttigieg wants Democrats to talk to voters in very “common sense” terms, but from the Supreme Court, to the Electoral College and beyond, Buttigieg is suggesting some pretty strong reforms if he is elected next year.

For instance, with the Supreme Court having become such a bitterly political and partisan issue as it has tilted further to the right, Buttigieg has suggested that the court go from nine justices to 15.

“What we need to do is stop the Supreme Court from sliding toward being viewed as a nakedly political institution,” he said. “I’m for us contemplating whatever policy options will allow that to be possible. One of them involves having 15 instead of nine justices, but I’m not just talking about suppose I get elected as president and daring the next president who might be conservative to throw on a couple more. That’s the last thing we want to do. What we need to do is stop every vacancy from becoming this apocalyptic battle that harms the country.

“The proposal I mentioned that is one of many we should probably consider does expand the court to 15, but it changes the structure a little bit. Only 10 of them are politically appointed by Democratic or Republican presidents. The other five can only be seated by unanimous consent of the remaining 10,” Buttigieg explained. “So the idea is that those five by necessity will be those who command the respect of the other 10 and can be counted on to think for themselves.

“I don’t know that’s necessarily the right option, there’s others that have been floated that would involve a rotation of people up for the bench. … There’s some legal scholars who think this could be done just by statute, not with a change in the Constitution. So I think that it whichever particular mechanism is best, we need to begin to debate on what it will take to make sure our Supreme Court is less political,” Buttigieg added. “I don’t think there’s anything about this approach that’s anymore radical than the shattering of norms they have gone through to get the court to where it is today.”

He also has called for doing away with the Electoral College, which has now produced two presidential results in the past 20 years in which the winner of the popular vote did not end up becoming the president.

“At risk of sounding simplistic, one thing I believe is in a presidential election, the person who gets the most votes ought to be the person that wins. I can see Twitter mentions blowing up now. If we’re not a democratic society, what are we? If we can’t come together on an equal vote, how can we say’re a democratic society? We ought to make sure that everybody has the same voice,” Buttigieg said.

“… The general trajectory of America has been that it became more democratic over time. We extended the vote to more people. We made it possible for individuals to vote on their senators instead of state that changed in the grand scheme of things. And we stand now to be a generation that sees democracy in retreat,” he added. “Even the international rankings of how free and democratic different country are, we’re slipping in the rankings. It’s incredibly troubling because barriers are being put up for the ability to vote.”

Buttigieg also wants to change the way Americans think about and address climate change.

“We have to treat this like the emergency that it is and we’ve also got to treat it as a security issue because we need our expectations of 21st century security to include the concept of climate security,” he said. “… What are we going to do about it? It’s not like it’s going to be easy. To some extent, we’re already in adaptation mode no matter what, because of the warming that’s already occurred and will be unstoppable. But we’ve got to make sure that we are reducing carbon levels at least to the kinds of commitments that were in the Paris Accord, which we should rejoin immediately when the new president takes office.

“More investments in renewables are going to be needed. We are going to have to contemplate a carbon tax. And by the way, there are ways to do it that most Americans would be better off fiscally because we could return it right back to the American people,” Buttigieg added. “But in so doing would help capture the true cost of things that are happening right now because it’s in your and my lifetime that cost is going to be paid one way or the other.”

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