South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is, at 37, the youngest Democrat running for the presidency in 2020, and don’t you forget it.
The mayor referenced his age several times during Tuesday evening’s Democratic debate on CNN, which featured 10 of the 20 qualifying candidates vying to unseat President Donald Trump. Buttigieg has quickly made a name for himself among the coalition of front-runners, facing off against septuagenarian Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and casting himself as a deft political opponent despite his youth.
The Constitution mandates that an American president be 35 or older to sit in the Oval Office, and Buttigieg fits the bill. But the mayor still really wants you to know how close to the cutoff he is, even if he says “we can have great presidents at any age.”
Here are some of Buttigieg’s reminders of his relative youth.
He’ll be in his 40s when climate change gets really bad.
“There’s good news and bad news. I’m going to start with the bad news. Our country is in trouble. GDP is going up and life expectancy is going down. Think about what that means. And it’s only getting tougher. By 2030, we will have passed the point of no return on climate, there are going to be 130 million more guns on our streets. I’ll be in my forties then. If you have kids, think about how old they will be then. But here’s the good news: It’s not too late.”
He knows about the plight of disappearing blue-collar jobs.
“Well, this happened in my community 20 years before I was born. And when I was growing up, we were still picking up the pieces. Empty factories, empty houses, poverty. I know exactly what happens to a community when these closures take place. And there will be more. ... This is about a moment when the economy is changing before our eyes. There are people in the gig economy who go through more jobs in a week than my parents went through in their lifetime. It’s why I’ve proposed that we allow gig workers to unionize, because a gig is a job and a worker is a worker.”
His generation has lived through an America in crisis.
“I’m running for president because our country is running out of time. It is even bigger than the emergency of the Trump presidency. Ask yourself how somebody like Donald Trump ever gets within cheating distance of the Oval Office in the first place. It doesn’t happen unless America is already in a crisis ― an economy that’s not working for everyone, endless war, climate change. We have lived this in my industrial Midwestern hometown. My generation has lived this as long as we have been alive. And it’s only accelerating.”
But despite all that, his age doesn’t matter.
“I don’t care how old you are. I care about your vision. But I do think it matters that we have a new generation of leaders stepping up around the world, leaders like the... I actually think it’s good that the prime minister of New Zealand’s gotten a lot of attention in Democratic debates. She’s masterful. She is younger than I would be when I take office. This is the kind of trend America might be leading, instead of following, but only if it’s actually backed by the right vision. And we can have great presidents at any age.”