WE’RE LIVING IN A MORAL HIGH-HORSE WORLD AND TWITTER IS ITS HELL
By Anna Tingley
5 · 18 · 2019
Pete Buttigieg, the 37 year-old gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who’s now running to be on the Democratic ticket for 2020, is what many would classify as a traditional liberal. He’s voiced his support of pro-immigration policies like DACA and is openly pro-choice; he’s a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, supporting comprehensive background checks and gun control; he believes climate change deserves crisis-level attention and wants to increase the minimum wage; he’s called for Trump’s impeachment.
He also holds degrees from both Harvard and Oxford, is a Rhodes scholar, served in Afghanistan as a naval reservist, and speaks seven languages.
But liberals on Twitter don’t care – they’ve already #canceled him.
The left’s disinterest in the young mayor percolated since his official announcement in early April, with many disheartened by the idea of yet another white male gaining entry into the Oval Office. Wasn’t this election cycle supposed to be different? To many, a vote for Buttigieg – particularly one in favor over candidates such as Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris – was a vote for misogyny.
But the real outrage erupted during Tuesday night’s town hall, during which the five Democratic hopefuls were asked a host of questions to better solidify their platforms. When asked whether prisoners should have the right to vote, the mayor was quick to say no, serving as a departure from statements made by Harris and Bernie Sanders who have both advocated for prisoner’s rights. What became the biggest news of the night, though, was one student’s question surrounding Buttigieg’s past record in Indiana, which involved the mayor demoting South Bend’s black police chief and secretly recorded tapes that allegedly include racist remarks about the chief.
When asked what he knew about the scandal, Buttigieg said he had never heard the tapes but that "it wasn't just about whether we were right or wrong to be concerned about the federal wiretap act, it was about whether communities of color could trust that communities had their best interest at heart.” He continued, “I realized lifting the veil of mistrust between communities of color and our police department had to be one of my top priorities as mayor."
And as always, Twitter became a firestorm. “Pete Buttigieg is the first openly republican presidential candidate,” Twitter user @averybigbear wrote on the site the following day. He received more than 12,000 likes and close to 2,000 retweets. Another user, in response to Buttigieg’s Town Hall responses, wrote: “My vote is less important to him than David Duke’s vote.” That received close to 500 likes. Another reads, “Pete Buttigieg speaks the language of the people he’d be having murdered as President.”
On Twitter, the openly gay, anti-gun, pro-choice candidate has turned into a white supremacist whose values are more in line with David Duke than the Democratic party. On Twitter, one strike and you’re out.
The social media site’s 250 character limit is certainly one reason that nuanced takes aren’t welcome – a laugh grants a retweet even if its arguments are baseless. And thus, ill-informed black-and-white takes are born. But users also seem to revel in the act of canceling public figures, and in this case , candidates with which they disagree. Enjoying the view from their moral high-horse, they take pride in battling those they deem as “wrong.”
Buttigieg is far from the only candidate whose values have been ridiculed for the sake of a retweet. The same goes for Joe Biden whose candidacy was cancelled before he even officially entered the race. For good reason, the former VP’s announcement to run was met with outrage when his part in the 1991 Anita Hill hearing resurfaced during the Kavanaugh fiasco. Once the likeable right-hand man to Obama, Biden soon became another clueless white male politician who, most recently, has been accused of inappropriate behavior by upwards of seven women. While his political ideologies are in line with the liberal agenda, much like Buttigieg, the presidential candidate has been deemed un-votable, at least in the Twitter-sphere.
To be clear, this level of accountability and desire for transparency is why I’m a loyal Democrat myself. I too would prefer not to vote for a candidate who publicly dismissed a courageous survivor 28 years ago or has been accused of harassment and assault by numerous women. And Buttigieg’s lack of commitment to the black community in South Bend, Indiana shouldn’t be taken lightly.
But such deep-rooted positions become harmful when the politically-active left begins to split into factions based on their aggressive standpoints. While a unaminous backing of Elizabeth Warren seems like a perfect course of actions for the far-left, it doesn’t seem productive to out every other candidate in doing so. Holding candidates accountable for past actions is an integral part of the democratic process but Democrats need to understand that a perfect candidate doesn’t exist and, in an effort to find one, many liberals are weakening their own party.
Now, I understand that Twitter isn’t representative of America. But those who are on the social media site to talk politics can be assumed to also be a part of the small proportion going to the polls in November. And according to the Pew Research Center, social media plays a significant part in how young voters become informed about ballot selections, with 22% of registered voters letting others know how they voted on a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter. I’m also not saying such tweets are an accurate foreshadow of how these users (and retweeters) are going to vote – it’s very possible that those who showed extreme disdain towards Buttigieg or Biden will find themselves voting for them in the general election if they’re on the ticket.
However, such aggressive cancellations early on the election cycle, which go viral through ill-informed tweets meant to spark a laugh, can certainly affect the necessary backing needed to raise a viable candidate through to the general election in the first place. With polarized views within the Democratic party becoming the norm, I’m fearful that many will begin to lack the drive to knock on doors and fundraise money for the candidates that could very well be running against Trump. The strong moral integrity of the left is why I’m so proud to be a Democrat in the first place but it would be a shame to see such rectitude be the reason for our downfall.