Who the hell knows what they’re on about this time. I saw a headline about it and can barely bring myself to read the story, but I need content now that impeachment news is starting to slow down.
I’m going to guess it’s about racism. Give me five minutes to read the story.
Okay, yeah, racism. Turns out this tweet, posted five days before a momentous election in Iowa, isn’t just lazy regional pandering, it’s racist.
In the face of unprecedented challenges, we need a president whose vision was shaped by the American Heartland rather than the ineffective Washington politics we’ve come to know and expect.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) January 29, 2020
He’s from Indiana, he needs a top-two finish in Iowa for his campaign to survive, so here he is on the eve of an election making happy noises about “the heartland.” Tomorrow he’ll be posting photos of himself physically embracing stalks of corn. If he were being knocked because the trope is stale, that would be one thing. “Common-sense rural voters vs. corrupt Washington city slickers” is an attack line older than Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders put together. But no:
It is a dog whistle. And maybe Mayor Pete isn’t aware of that. There is nothing more virtuous about a vision honed in the Heartland. Again—he should sit with his staffers of color and have them explain this to him. (And yes, I’m tired of politicians pandering.) https://t.co/7GhGhlNzi6
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) January 30, 2020
Respectfully, where is the American Heartland located exactly in your mind as you write this tweet? Does it include Compton and other places like it? Because us folks from those places would like a president shaped by our vision too. Serious question. Would love an answer.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 30, 2020
Heartland is code. And I'm over it. It erases the legitimacy of the experiences and reality of Black mid-Westerners and cloaks white mid-Western communities in a gauzy innocence and authenticity. https://t.co/FzNz0VzFAH
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) January 30, 2020
I was not shaped by the American Heartland. I was born and raised in California, a state of nearly 40 million people. Thus, I am not a real American. I am a Replicant, a son of Pakistani immigrants. I drink elitist coffee because it is not from a coffee shop in the Rust Belt.
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) January 30, 2020
If you’re wondering how seriously to take Ali’s umbrage at exclusionary regional politics, remember that he was one of the people guffawing at yokel jokes about rural Trump voters in last weekend’s notorious Don Lemon segment. Anyway, the pile-on here reeks of an opportunistic attack on a guy who’s famously spent much of the primary struggling to win minority support, with little to show for it. He’s tried to demonstrate his sensitivity to their concerns in various ways, sometimes awkwardly, but his political identity as “the white candidate” left him ripe for a bad-faith distortion of what he meant by praising the heartland. His intentions in the tweet are perfectly clear: The last thing this guy needed was to give the media another reason to focus on his problems with black voters, and a supposed “dog whistle” of this sort would logically do little for him among a monolithically white electorate like Iowa’s. He obviously didn’t mean anything by it.
“I understand that family, faith, freedom, patriotism aren’t owned by any one party or point of view, and neither is the American heartland,” he said [in a statement to the Washington Times]. “In my experience the heart of America is shaped by racially diverse voices — including my hometown, which is 40% people of color. And while we are racially diverse across the Midwest, the values we hold aren’t exclusive to the middle of the country.
“What we all have in common is a feeling politics in Washington has failed us,” he continued. “It doesn’t reflect the decency, optimism, and hunger to get things done that is in the hearts of all Americans. It’s been more focused on fighting with each other than fighting to get results. With re-litigating the battles of the past, than dealing with urgent crises on our doorstep and that will define our future. Communities across the nation like South Bend have been devastated by decisions made in boardrooms on Wall Street and committee rooms in Washington. It’s time to turn the page to a politics that has the perspective of those who have seen the impact of these decisions rather than return to the perspective of those who made them.”
The most charitable interpretation of the progressive overreaction is that they’re tired of people being demagogued as not “real Americans” because they’re nonwhite or they live in cities or what have you. Buttigieg didn’t mean to imply otherwise — that’d be a weird take from an openly gay candidate — but he inadvertently touched a sore spot and they flinched. The less charitable interpretation is that this is a pure “kill Buttigieg” effort that was in search of a pretext and he gave them just enough of one in his tweet to justify it. Lefties dislike him for all sorts of reasons: He’s smarmy, he’s underqualified, he’s not as left-wing as young Democrats are “supposed” to be, and yes, for whatever reason, he can’t connect with black Democrats. His only use to progressives at this point is the fact that he might steal enough votes from Joe Biden in the center on Monday night to enable a Bernie Sanders victory. But in the meantime, if he hands them any excuse to channel their grievances against him into a garbage attack like this one, they’re going to go for it.
Besides, they won’t have him to kick around much longer. Gotta get their shots in now.
In case there’s any doubt that the criticism is in bad faith, Fox News notes other examples, some very recent, of Democratic pols praising the heartland:
During the 2012 presidential cycle, former President Obama seemed to disparage coastal cities in comparison to middle America. “Sometimes when we have foreign visitors, they’re only visiting the coasts,” he prevously said. “They go to New York, they go to Washington, they go to Los Angeles, but the heartland is what it’s all about.”
And in the past few months, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., repeatedly used the phrase, even referring to herself as “Heartland Amy.”
“We need a voice from the Heartland on that debate stage in November — a voice that isn’t afraid to call out this President’s broken promises & repeated failures,” she tweeted. Buttigieg, however, has continually faced criticism over his relationship with the African American community.
Go figure that pols like Klobuchar and Buttigieg, both of whom are depending heavily on a win in Iowa to launch their campaigns nationally, and both of whom are wekk aware that Democrats have major liabilities in rural America after Trump’s Rust Belt wins in 2016, might chatter admiringly about the “heartland.”
Are they … actually going to have to stay away from rhetoric like this on the trail in the general election because the woke brigades will start tweet-farting about it if they don’t? The idea that anyone outside the Twitter bubble objects to burbling about the heartland reminds me of that survey from November finding that 98 percent of Latinos — 98 percent — don’t identify with the veddy fashionable “Latinx” label championed by some progressives. No one cares about stuff like this except the activist class, and the activist class will talk itself into supporting the Democratic nominee no matter what in the interest of defeating Trump, even if that nominee is Pete Buttigieg. Spoiler: It won’t be Pete Buttigieg.