Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor who is running for president, understands how Joe Biden might think Vice President Mike Pence is a “decent guy.” But he believes that Pence’s demeanor is covering up something else.
“I mean to your face, if he were sitting right here, you'd think that this guy is very polite,” Buttigieg told BuzzFeed News’ Profile of Pence after being asked about Biden’s comments in an interview filmed from SXSW last weekend. “But that masks this absolutely fanatical view about how the world works or how the universe works that has led to these incredibly hurtful, dangerous, and harmful policies, and that's what we have now in the White House. And I think it chills a lot of us, especially in the LGBTQ community, to see that somebody like that can be in that kind of position of power.”
Biden tried to clarify his comments about Pence soon after making them during a speech last month, but seemed to brush off the criticism he's received on the left during a speech this week. "If you notice, I get criticized for saying anything nice about a Republican," he told a firefighters convention in Washington Tuesday. "Folks, that’s not who we are.”
Buttigieg, who is 37 and a self-admitted long shot for the Democratic presidential nomination, has gotten some viral hype this week in the aftermath of a CNN town hall performance, where he gave open answers and dug into Pence, the former governor of his state. In the 24 hours after the town hall, his presidential campaign said it raised more than $600,000 from more than 22,200 donors.
Part of what has moved his campaign so far is his identity — he is pitching himself to voters as a millennial candidate who represents a new generation that is “walking away from the politics of our past.” Buttigieg, who publicly revealed that he is gay in 2015 in response to Pence-approved policies in his state, argues that identity “is part of our story.”
“You know, part of what it means to me is that I'll never forget why politics matters, because the most important thing in my life, my marriage, is something that only exists because of a single vote on the US Supreme Court,” Buttigieg told Profile. “And so it's a reminder of every minute of my life that these things hit home in our personal and everyday freedoms and everyday lives.”
At the same time, he said issues of identity should not be used by politicians to segment off blocs of voters.
“Where I think we go off the rails is if we allow identity to become a wedge. And frankly, I think the current president, who has mastered what I would call white identity politics, has used identity in order to divide people who have a lot of common interests. We need to move past that,” he said. “That doesn't mean we move past acknowledging where we come from. It means that we take on board everything that makes us who we are. Everything that goes into our story. And we use that as a way to contribute and hopefully build solidarity with people who have completely different stories, but strands of it can relate to what we bring to the table.”
The full interview airs on Profile on Sunday, March 24, at 8 a.m. ET.