Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg ignited a backlash on Twitter, particularly among people of color, after he claimed that the country’s next president needed to embody the values of “the American Heartland.”
“In the face of unprecedented challenges, we need a president whose vision was shaped by the American Heartland rather than the ineffective Washington politics we’ve come to know and expect,” Mr. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, tweeted to his 1.6 million followers Wednesday afternoon.
As of Thursday morning, the tweet racked up only 1,300 retweets and a whopping 10,600 replies, with some users accusing Mr. Buttigieg of casual racism and furthering deepening his divide with the black community.
“Uhhh… what?” former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien tweeted. “Shaping by the heartland is better? Is that where all the ‘Real Americans’ live? Is that the only place where ‘American Values’ can be found? This is offensive and disgraceful.
“Also: talk to some of your staffers of color. They will explain what the ‘Real America/heartland’ stuff sounds like to them. Every American is a Real American. Living in the heartland doesn’t make your values better, your work harder, your integrity deeper,” she continued. “It is a dog whistle. And maybe Mayor Pete isn’t aware of that. There is nothing more virtuous about a vision honed in the Heartland. Again—he should sit with his staffers of color and have them explain this to him. (And yes, I’m tired of politicians pandering.)”
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay also weighed in to ask whether places like Compton, California, could ever be considered the “American Heartland.”
“Respectfully, where is the American Heartland located exactly in your mind as you write this tweet?” she asked. “Does it include Compton and other places like it? Because us folks from those places would like a president shaped by our vision too. Serious question. Would love an answer.”
Mr. Buttigieg responded to the criticism in a statement provided to The Washington Times, explaining that he believes the American heartland is shaped by racial diversity.
“I understand that family, faith, freedom, patriotism aren’t owned by any one party or point of view, and neither is the American heartland,” he said. “In my experience the heart of America is shaped by racially diverse voices — including my hometown, which is 40% people of color. And while we are racially diverse across the Midwest, the values we hold aren’t exclusive to the middle of the country.
“What we all have in common is a feeling politics in Washington has failed us,” he continued. “It doesn’t reflect the decency, optimism, and hunger to get things done that is in the hearts of all Americans. It’s been more focused on fighting with each other than fighting to get results. With re-litigating the battles of the past, than dealing with urgent crises on our doorstep and that will define our future. Communities across the nation like South Bend have been devastated by decisions made in boardrooms on Wall Street and committee rooms in Washington. It’s time to turn the page to a politics that has the perspective of those who have seen the impact of these decisions rather than return to the perspective of those who made them.”
The former mayor’s lack of black support has been a point of concern for his campaign, as a recent Washington Post/Ipsos poll shows only 2% of black Democratic-leaning registered voters would vote for him.
Meanwhile, current and former staff members of color in the Buttigieg campaign have reported feeling undervalued within the campaign and like they were hired just to give the appearance of diversity, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
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