Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg stopped by Fresno State on June 3 for a televised town hall with MSNBC.
Buttigieg, 37, currently serves as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and is one of 24 Democratic candidates running in the 2020 presidential election, and the first openly gay candidate to run for President of the United States.
At the 4 o’clock hour, Buttigieg appeared live on Hardball hosted by Chris Matthews, with an audience of about 500 people. While receiving questions from the audience, he discussed his policies on issues like trade and tariffs, specifically for farm workers in the Central Valley, and student loan debt.
Tickets for the town hall sold out within an hour of its release, but Fresno residents had a second opportunity to see the presidential hopeful in person.
Hours before the live town hall, Buttigieg hosted a meet and greet in downtown Fresno at Tuolumne Hall.
Seats for the free meet and greet filled up quickly, resulting in a need for an overflow section just outside the Hall.
The crowd at the meet and greet welcomed Buttigieg with applause as he spent the first part of the event talking about freedom and what it means to him.
“You’re not free if you don’t have healthcare,” said Buttigieg. “You’re not free in this country if your reproductive rights are being dictated by male politicians. You can’t say that you’re free in this country if the county clerk gets to tell you who you ought to marry based on their view of their religion.”
As a white male, Buttigieg recognizes his privilege, stating it’s twice as important for him to stand up for reproductive rights, for communities of color and for dreamers.
But as an openly gay man, Buttigieg understands what it’s like to be on the other side.
“I know what it is to be on the other side of crisis of belonging in this country,” he said. “All of us do in different ways for different reasons.”
He said this is part of what is making Trump’s presidency so effective – this administration is able to tap into the hurt each of us have.
“Whether it is the hurt of someone that is living with a veil of mistrust between their African American family and the police officers sworn to keep them safe,” Buttigieg continued, “or a transgender kid in a high school that has to go to the bathroom like everybody else or an autoworker in the American midwest who loses his job 12 years into his career and no longer is able to explain who he is.”
Buttigieg encouraged the audience to tap into their own stories and use their stories to stand in the shoes of somebody else — to understand what others are going through. Saying it is through this action, standing shoulder to shoulder like the farm workers and civil rights leaders in the past did, that we as a nation will be more free.
“These are the values that bring us into the process: our commitment to freedom, our commitment to one another’s security and knowing what security means. By not allowing them to wrap themselves in the flag as if patriotism belongs to one political party. It’s an American value.
“Freedom does not belong to one political party,” Buttigieg continued. “Patriotism does not belong to one political party. God does not belong to a political party. People of any religion and people of no religion can come equally before American democracy in the public square and have our voices heard.”
Before Buttigieg went to questions from the audience, he brought up a cold, hard reality: that Donald Trump could very much win the presidential election again.
He believes this could happen if the Democratic party represents going back to “normal.”
Buttigieg says the party cannot promise to go back to a time when it was a better political climate, just as the Republican party cannot promise to turn back the clock to the 1950s.
“What we have now cannot continue,” said Buttigieg. “A lot of Americans are not willing to go back to a normal that has failed them over the course of their lives. We’ve got to do something completely different.”
As Mayor Pete departs Fresno and continues his presidential campaign around the country, he leaves many Fresno residents full of hope.
Yasmin Mendoza of the Fresno County Young Democrats said Buttigieg is a great presidential candidate, and at 37, understands the fears of things like overwhelming student debt and mass shootings that younger generations have.
“He meets people where they are,” Mendoza said. “He’s on the forefront of trying to unite people wherever they stand, whether they’re Republican or Democrat. He’s a young, gay millennial, and I feel he definitely bridges that generational gap that we have in this country in terms of leadership.”