Pete Buttigieg and The Politics of American Greatness

Anxious Bench | 4/18/2019 | Staff
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On Sunday, Pete Buttigieg made it official. He’s running for president, because he wants “to tell a different story than ‘Make America Great Again.’”

But one way or another, his, too, will be a story of American greatness.

Gay - Mayor - Rust - Belt - Veteran

As an openly gay, openly Episcopalian mayor of a Rust Belt city—and a veteran who served in Afghanistan—Buttigieg is a rising star in a crowded field of Democratic contenders.

In offering an alternate vision of religion and politics, Buttigieg has called for a revival of the religious left. Inspired by Catholic liberation theology and the prophetic tradition of African American Christianity, Buttigieg’s is a faith that is “about lifting up the least among us and taking care of strangers, which is another word for immigrants.” It is about “making sure that you’re focusing your effort on the poor.” And, it’s about how one conducts oneself: “Not chest thumping look-at-me-ism, but humbling yourself before others. Foot washing is one of the central images in the New Testament.” All this, he adds, is diametrically opposed to what we see in the current presidency.

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With Buttigieg emerging as the new poster boy for the religious left, it’s probably a good time to reflect on the fact that the religious left hasn’t had much of a track record when it comes to electoral victories in recent decades.

On the national stage, the influence of the religious left has paled in comparison to that of the Religious Right, for a variety of reasons. The left has always lacked the financial resources and the organizational prowess of the Right—at least for the past half century. Part of this problem is an ideological one. A religion that celebrates the divestment of power is at a disadvantage when it comes to claiming political power.


The religious left faces a similar conundrum when it comes to the...
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