I’d Rather Have Buttigieg V. Haley

How is it that the two parties are likely to nominate candidates that about two-thirds of Americans don’t want? About 70% of Americans don’t want Pres. Joe Biden to run for a second term and 60% of them don’t want to see Donald Trump on the ballot again. And yet, if Biden can just remember his name and Trump can just stay out of jail for the next 15 months or so, it looks like both will win their party’s nomination.

How is it that our system is producing, at least to this point, such a disagreeable choice?

Let me rush to add here that the choice is only somewhat disagreeable to me. I’m part of the 41% of Americans who approve of the job Biden is doing while I’m also with the 70% who don’t want him to run again. I like Biden and I think he’s done a good job, but I worry about his electability in 2024 and his sustainability in the following four years. I think it flirts with irresponsibility for a guy who would be 86 when his term ends to go for another four years in that grueling job.

But if the choice is between Biden and Trump I’ll scour those fine, detailed reports from Michael Gableman to learn how I can vote multiple times for Biden. I understand it’s easy.

I think the parties got here by different paths. For the Republicans — who still have some hope of avoiding a Trump disaster — it’s a cult. Trump’s voters are the truest of true believers. It doesn’t matter what he says or does, they will stay with him. The only chance for the Republicans is to unite behind one alternative. That one alternative, Ron DeSantis, seems to be self-destructing. None of the others look to be all that compelling, and so what we could get is a replay of 2016 when the party’s own rules pre-ordained Trump. The candidate with a plurality gets all the delegates from a given state and Trump is likely to have more votes than any one candidate in a fractured field.

For the Democrats it was more like the process of elimination. A lot of us are nervous about Biden, but who’s your second choice? I don’t think either Kamala Harris or Gavin Newsom are any more electable than Biden, and probably less so. If Biden had decided not to run again I’d be with Pete Buttigieg, but I can’t honestly say that his chances would be better than ol’ Joe’s. So, as risky as Biden’s candidacy feels, the alternatives feel riskier.

Both parties reached this point for understandable reasons, but the result is unsatisfactory. If I had a choice I’d pick Buttigieg against Nikki Haley. Two relatively young candidates who can articulate striking differences in vision, but do so without unnecessary vitriol. I may be a Democrat, but I want a healthy GOP that pushes for smaller government, lower taxes and more personal freedom. I may not vote for them, but I want them to keep my guys honest and hold them accountable. I would love to see a Republican Party that actually made my general election choices hard. But I will never, ever mark a ballot for anybody in the Party of Trump.

My over-riding concern is that this contest will further erode Americans’ — especially young Americans’ — confidence in our system. I’m already hoping for better choices in 2028.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

7 thoughts on “I’d Rather Have Buttigieg V. Haley

  1. Unfortunately, VERY unfortunately, I’m not sure enough Americans would be “ready” for an openly gay politician to be President. If people in the leadership of the Democratic Party really thought so, I think there would have been some real buzz for Tammy Baldwin as Biden’s VP choice in 2020. Female, very popular, progressive yet practical, from an all-important swing state.


    1. I have a little more optimism about that, Brad. I think Buttigieg is the best political communicator of his generation, in a league with Bill Clinton (anti-war protestor) and Barack Obama (Black guy). Tammy has never wanted to be an executive. She has often said that she sees herself as a legislator.


  2. That we can get anyone to do the work is amazing to me. We struggle with decent candidates for lots of public work. Recent Supreme Court race is a good example. You know who I wish would run on the GOP side: Liz Cheney. Am I the only one? We need that brand of steadfast courage and morality.


  3. Once again, I agree with everything in this post. Polls clearly show that most Democrats don’t want Biden to run again but he doesn’t seem to care about that. Even though there’s no shame in retirement at age 82, when more than half his American male peers are already dead, he doesn’t want to take one for the team. Power seems to do that to a politician. The sad thing is, it’s going to be pretty hard to justify a vote for the old dude and he’ll deserve to lose, unless it’s against Trump, in which case he could eke it out. Another cabinet member who could be a good choice is Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, our party’s mirror of Nikki Haley. She’s smart, articulate, pragmatic, a left-centrist, and scandal-free. Most importantly, she’s a whipper-snapper compared to Joe.
    All we can realistically do is hope that Biden comes to his senses and pulls an LBJ, who bowed out in the spring of his re-election year before the inevitable sh*t hit the fan. Of course, Nixon won that year and it didn’t turn out so great for the country but…


  4. Last election Buttigieg was doing just fine before S. Carolina. Would Black Democrats vote for him this time? What changed? Who would they vote for?

    I admit I dislike electability questions. They remind me of supposedly safe investments that lost money. Buttigieg follows the Democratic party’s tradition of electing really smart, reasonable, capable presidents: Clinton, Obama, Biden. I like that.

    I agree that Biden turned out to be a way better president than anyone anticipated. Oh, I guess you didn’t actually say that. Well, I’ll say it. He had to deal with Covid, Trump, the temporary takeover of Congress, a land war in Europe, and still managed to make progress on climate change. The economy has made a remarkable recovery although the deficit and inflation are concerning. An impressive record.


  5. Democratic candidate: RJK Jr. Genuinely courageous, intelligent, well-informed. Impeccable family history.

    I am really tired of soaring oratory while acting like a neo-con puppet.


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