ATLANTA — Pete Buttigieg stood by his attempts during the fifth Democratic primary debate to identify with civil rights struggles by evoking discrimination he has faced as a gay man.
“This is a time for solidarity, and anyone who has experienced whatever personal struggle we bring to this fight needs to reach into that as a motivation to help others,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor, 37, said Thursday at a voter rights post-debate event with Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action group in Atlanta.
Asked about these Harris comments, @PeteButtigieg says: “This is a time for solidarity and anyone who has experienced whatever personal struggle we bring to this fight, needs to reach into that as motivation to help others.” https://t.co/a13CeQUxqj
— Laura Barrón-López (@lbarronlopez) November 21, 2019
Rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, such as California Sen. Kamala Harris, one of the few black candidates in the race, criticized Buttigieg’s comments as “naive.”
“What he did on the stage, it’s just not productive,” Harris, 55, said Thursday at her own “Black Women Power Breakfast” campaign stop in Atlanta.
During the debate, Buttigieg countered digs over his inability so far to connect with black voters by saying he welcomed “the challenge” of introducing himself to those who did not know him yet.
“While I do not have the experience of ever having been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, I do have the experience of sometimes feeling like a stranger in my own country, turning on the news, and seeing my own rights come up for debate,” Buttigieg said at Tyler Perry Studios. “And seeing my rights expanded by a coalition of people like me and people not at all like me, working side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, making it possible for me to be standing here, wearing this wedding ring in a way that couldn’t have happened two elections ago, lets me know how deep my obligation is to help those whose rights are on the line every day, even if they are nothing like me in their experience.”
Although Buttigieg, who married his husband Chasten, 30, in 2018, is performing well in majority-white, early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, a Quinnipiac University poll released last week reinforced scrutiny he has received for his lack of appeal with black Democrats, registering less than 1% support. The voting bloc is crucial for the party to restore former President Barack Obama’s coalition, at least in part, and win back the White House next year.