Pete Buttigieg has a certain familiarity to him.
The South Bend mayor doesn’t come across as just another politician. He doesn’t pretentiously talk down to Americans. He doesn’t maintain a rigid air of professionalism or keep his personal life and his interests to himself. Buttigieg instead makes every effort to be incredibly transparent, personable, and down-to-earth.
He is, quite frankly, an exceptionally charming guy. In the past few weeks, as he’s gained popularity in his bid for the presidency in 2020, he’s reminded many people of a certain former president: Barack Obama.
While the two men have different backgrounds, interests, and policies, they both leave people with a refreshing sense of hopefulness, an invigorating sort of energy.
Like Obama, Buttigieg comes across as an intelligent, capable, and passionate leader. But at the same time, he gives the impression that he’d make an absolutely superb best friend. The perfect balance between personal and professional is often incredibly difficult to strike — especially when a position as serious as president is on the horizon — but it’s one both Obama and Buttigieg seem to have nailed very early on.
On Friday, Buttigieg visited The Ellen DeGeneres Show and sat down with one of America’s favorite talk show hosts to discuss everything from his candidacy announcement to Vice President Mike Pence’s feelings about the LGBTQ community. Buttigieg covered a lot of ground during the interview, but one clip from the show perfectly captures his ability to transition from lighthearted jokester to impassioned activist ready to stand up for his beliefs.
In less than two minutes, Buttigieg poked fun at the pronunciation of his last name, joked about wanting an invite to Tig Notaro’s show, and addressed Mike Pence’s anti-LGBTQ stance, saying, “I’m not critical of his faith, I’m critical of bad policies. I don’t have a problem with religion, I’m religious too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people, especially in the LGBTQ community…”
He spoke casually but remained firm. He went on to delve into a deeper conversation about religion and his own faith. He even addressed people’s desire for a woman president and gender diversity and balance — all while maintaining his calm, cool, and collected temperament.
I watched Buttigieg on Ellen. He made me feel he’s the real thing. Not only how he dealt with Pence, but religion itself and it’s place in politics. He and Obama aren’t really alike, but I get the same feeling of excitement, of being a better person and a better people with him.
— Jeffrey Barnett (@holajefe) April 12, 2019
We already know Buttigieg is an Afghanistan war veteran, a married, openly gay man, a lover of dogs and Harry Potter. He’s a Hufflepuff who handles himself well on Twitter, which, as we know from thousands of unhinged tweets Trump has sent since taking office, is a very important skill in a potential candidate. And his husband Chasten is a star on his own, tweeting everything from corny jokes, personal photos of the family, and even his expert advice for heartbreak. (Ice cream.)
Your friend who keeps telling you they’re fine, even though they just got their heart broken, is probably lying. Go take them ice cream.
— Chasten Buttigieg (@Chas10Buttigieg) April 11, 2019
As we’ve learned from Obama, and even more recently the viral hype surrounding Beto O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, there’s something so uniting about a politician engaging in candid, personalized discussions and sharing their unfiltered selves on social media. Knowing a political figure is comfortable enough to let their guard down when they’re not debating competitors or arguing about policy is reassuring.
Knowing Obama’s favorite books and music and seeing him crack jokes, speak casually, and display public affection for Michelle gave people a fuller picture of the man that was running our country. And it allowed for a deeper level of trust to be established. There’s, of course, so much more that factors into choosing a presidential candidate to vote for, but these little personable anecdotes and extras certainly go a long way.
By opening up about his sexuality, his religion, his personal life, love, and more, Buttigieg seems to be following the same path as Obama. He knows how to carry himself, how to appropriately stay true to his beliefs in a public setting, and how to joke without coming across as unprofessional.
And since Obama left the White House I believe those are qualities many Americans have missed in their leader.