A video has resurfaced of Pete Buttigieg speaking to a Tea Party group in 2010, sparking fresh concerns among progressives about the candidate’s political alignment.
The organization, called Citizens for Common Sense, was affiliated with the local conservative Tea Party organization in South Bend, Indiana, according to the New York Times, where Buttigieg currently serves as mayor. The presidential candidate was running for state treasurer when he spoke to the group nine years ago. At the time, his opponent had declined to debate him and so the “Meet the Candidates” event was one of the only opportunities for them to share a stage.
“I have to admit, as a Democrat, that many of my friends and supporters looked at me as if I was absolutely nuts when I suggested that I would be coming tonight to speak with a group that’s often identified with the Tea Party,” Buttigieg said in his speech.
“There are some, especially in my party, who think the Tea Party’s a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party,” he went on. “But there are many others who believe that the Tea Party’s motivated by real concerns about the direction of our government and the responses of our government to citizens.”
Now that Buttigieg is running for president, his “both sides”-style legitimizing of the Tea Party a decade ago ha some progressive voters alarmed.
“Literally sidling up to racist Tea Partiers,” tweeted Jodi Jacobson, the former editor-in-chief of Rewire.News. “And he's got it wrong: @GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tea Party.”
“Behind the Tea Party wave were two free market loving billionaire brothers: Charles and David Koch. They pumped millions of dollars into electing race-baiting, right-wing fringe candidates willing to deregulate their businesses and lower their taxes,” added Salon commentator Walker Bragman.
“He’s done. Absolutely done. Not a single Dem of color gonna vote for a dude who backed the goddamn Tea Party,” concluded NFL columnist and reporter Mike Freeman, calling attention to his recent struggles with Black voters.
But the Buttigieg campaign pointed out today that the candidate’s words were fairly similar to those of Obama and Biden around the same time.
“I think there are a lot of people who are involved in the Tea Party who have very real and sincere concerns about spending that’s out of control or generally philosophically believe that the government should be less involved in certain aspects of American life,” Obama said in October of 2010 at a youth town hall. “They have every right and obligation as citizens to be involved and engaged in this process.”
Biden offered similar sentiments in 2010, explaining that he understood the concerns of people aligned with the Tea Party.
“Lots of people out there are frightened and scared, people have lost jobs, they’re not sure if they’re going to keep their homes,” he told the women of ABC’s The View, in an appearance that was widely praised at the time.
Buttigieg also acknowledged that he “comes from a very different perspective” from the Tea Party and made a case that he could fix Indiana’s economic woes.
“I did math for a living around economics — the economics of energy and the economics of stabilizing very tough places around the world in order to make sure there’s less violence there,” Buttigieg said at the event. “But I got to thinking: If I’m any good at stabilizing economies, maybe I ought to try to help stabilize the economy right here in Indiana.”
Buttigieg lost that election, garnering just 37.5 percent of the vote. He would later go on, however, to serve two terms as mayor of South Bend before running for president.