TRANSCRIPT: Pete Buttigieg rally 4/16/2019

Des Moines, IA

The following is a transcript of Pete Buttigieg’s rally in Des Moines, IA. If you are only looking for the newsy bits, I recommend doing a ctrl+f or command+f to search for the following key words:

  • “CDC”

  • “climate”

  • “gay President”

  • “wire”


I want to thank Mayor Cownie for arranging this fantastic weather. At home -- I don't know how it works here -- but at home, the city is in charge of the weather from about May through September. The rest of the time, the county is in charge, and makes me feel right at home. So thanks so much for the chance to spend a little bit of the evening with you.

I'm just blown away. We thought that the message would land, we thought that people would be excited about what we had to say. But frankly, we also thought we'd be spending the better part of April just explaining to people how to say my name. And then once we got that done with, vindicating the idea that somebody like me ought to -- maybe -- be included in the conversation.

I think it's safe to say we've cleared that bar, what do you think?

Turns out many of the same things that made my candidacy so unlikely, are I think some of the reasons that have propelled us into the top tier. The idea of coming from a different background -- in local government -- at a moment when Washington is crippled, not just with negativity, but with dysfunction. And I'm here to argue that we would be well served if we get Washington to look a little more like the best run cities and towns in this country instead of the other way around.

We were told it would be a disadvantage to come from a region that people didn't expect or think of when they thought of Democratic politics. But you and I have this in common, and I would argue that there is no better place to launch a progressive revival in this country than in the American Heartland.

Now there's so many parts, especially in the Midwest, whether that's industrial communities like where I come from, or rural communities, not far from where we're standing today, where young people grow up, taking on board the message that the only way to succeed, the only way to get somewhere in life is to get out.

It drains our communities of their lifeblood. It's demoralizing, but the good news is, some of us came back and found purpose and meaning right at home where we started out.

And the growth, and the recovery and so many communities including our own, not that we're done not by a long shot, we got a long way to go in South Bend. But the way that we were able to change our trajectory, in my view, is living proof. It makes our communities living proof that the way to greatness is not to try to live in the past.

Our communities are the evidence that there is no such thing as an honest politics that revolves around the word again. You know, this is the region where 100 years ago, a lot of intelligent bored farmhands started tinkering with things wound up inventing the airplane.

It's where a lot of concerned Americans including -- by the way -- concerned religious Americans, among farmers and workers, gave us the original progressive movement.

So nowhere is it written that any state, especially in the American Heartland has to be conservative forever.

Now, lots been said about the fact that I am a little bit younger than your conventional American presidential candidate.

I love this guy right there, by the way, I want him at all of my rallies from now on.

But of course, looking at me, or even more looking at him, reminds us what's at stake, that the decisions we make today are going to decide what kind of country I retire in, and he's working it.

The decisions we make right now are going to decide not just what the next four years are going to look like but, the next 40. And I believe it is incumbent upon us to make sure that we win, not just an election but an era.

We are -- we're experiencing the great fortune and the great hazard of living at one of those tectonic shifts in American society and politics. One of those moments, they only happen every 30, 40 or 50 years, the dawn of the New Deal was one of those moments. So was the dawn of Reagan supply-side conservatism, which I would argue helped explain how Republicans and Democrats had to make their choices over the last 40 years. But --

[five minute gap containing standard stump]

Security means a lot more than what it used to. Which is why we need to call climate what it is: a national security emergency. Lives are on the line. Our economy is on the line. From floods in Indiana, Nebraska or Iowa, to tornadoes, to hurricanes, to fires in California, lives are on the line.

And we can no longer -- we literally don't have the luxury of arguing over whether it's real. Anybody who doesn't think it's real is going to have to be left behind because the only debate worth having is over whose plan is the best plan and if somebody doesn't like our plan, show us theirs.

Security means dealing with election security, and cyber security. And yes, it means confronting and naming violent white nationalism before it takes one more life.

But in order to do any of the things we care about whether it's security, whether it's all the different forms of freedom, it's taken our policies, we got to do a little tuning up on our democracy.

You can clap for that. Because our Democratic republic is not democratic enough right now. It's not democratic enough if districts are drawn to where politicians get to pick their voters, instead of the voters, picking the politicians

Or if the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution to mean that dollars get to outvote people. I don't believe the Constitution says that but if it does, then that is exactly what constitutional amendments are for, we can clear that up.

And at risk of sounding simple-minded, I believe that the best way that a nation like ours should select its national leader is to have an election, count up all the votes, and give it to the woman or man who gets the most.

This I believe is a message that will make as much sense in 2013, 2014, or that year I love talking about, 2054 when I get to the current age of the current president, just as much as in 2020.

And it's very important that we have our minds on that future, not just because the future matters so much, but because that's the message that, by definition doesn't revolve around the personality of the current president. It can't be all about him. Can't be all about me either. It's got to be about us. It's got to be about you. It's got to be about everyday life.

And if you want to know why I believe politics is worth engaging, and especially now with the negativity and the complexity and the difficulty. It is because every political decision cashes out in everyday life for somebody. That's what makes me tick when we're doing this.

I think as somebody who served overseas, went over wars. [audience member says something] all right -- not the only squid in the house -- all right.

So anyone who shares that experience knows what is personally at stake when a President makes a decision about sending somebody to war, when you've written that letter, and left it where your folks can find it, if you don't come back. When you’ve gotten on that plane, when you gotten behind that wheel, when you wave goodbye to the gate guard on your way outside the wire, pray that you're going to come back OK. You never again forget that politics is personal for someone.

I've been making -- making sure to share a little bit about one of my most vulnerable moments recently, because there was another one that brought home to me just how much politics has mattered in my life, not as a politician but as a human being. And that was some of the toughest times we've gone through. At the beginning of this year when we lost my father, and when my mother became very dangerously ill and hospitalized with heart issues. And I think again and again about the moment that I left the hospital bedside of my mother to go find my dad in another side of town to let him know -- while he was getting the middle of chemotherapy treatment -- that the doctor saying mom needs open heart surgery and she needs it now. Because it's not the kind of thing you put in a text message.

And on my way out to find him, I had a certain set of things going for me. Had father Brian from our church, who was there -- with -- at the hospital. Also had my husband there at the hospital.

Incidentally, Chasten is sitting next to my healthy and fully recovered mother right over there. She's the best. He's pretty great too.

It was not exotic for him to be there with her at the hospital, because he is my lawfully married spouse. Our marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court. And on this 10th anniversary of Iowa breaking some ground in that regard, I would like to say thank you.

[protester shouts about Sodom and Gammorah]

Yup. We got it. Promise you, we got it.

[short intermission as protester is led out by security]

… the other point I was about to make is that the other thing that served our family so well, was another decision -- another one of those decisions made in one of those stately white buildings in Washington that came into our family, which was Medicare. The idea that you shouldn't go bankrupt over a health issue. When you reach a certain age in life, Uncle Sam's going to take care of you and make sure that a health episode like that will not break your family.

So of course, I am motivated to make sure that every American at any age has the same freedom that we had because that was taken off our hands.

I'm pretty excited about the last few weeks. They’re pretty encouraging. They fill me with hope. And I believe that running for office is an act of hope.

So is showing up to help somebody running for office. So is caucusing for somebody running for office -- you probably see where I'm going with this. I need your help.

I'm thrilled that we've launched into the top tier, but it's April. We've got a lot of months between now and the caucuses. And I'm gonna need help from anybody who believes in this message, to tell a neighbor, to tell a friend, to sign on, to chip in, to do whatever you can to be part of this. We are going to build out an organization here that will help us reach into every community, whether they are typically red, blue, or purple. Every community that we believe will respond to a common sense message about our values and what they mean in everyday life. But I can't do it without you.

And with that, we planned -- when we thought this is going to be 50 people -- for it to be as interactive as possible. It was less than obvious by how to do that with, uh, I'm told 1,100+?

But I told me figured out a way to gather up some questions and, and go over this. So I think one of my colleagues -- everybody meet Cindy.

All right. This is fun.

[question about climate change]

Is Courtney here? Yeah? All right. So like I said, climate change, I think is an existential issue. And we are frankly going to have to adapt no matter what. But we still have to deal with the root cause. Here's what I think the Green New Deal framework gets right. First of all, it correctly identifies this as an issue that's on par with a Great Depression or World War.

It has that much destructive power. Now, the interesting thing about the Great Depression is it was actually in rising to meet WWII that we conquered the Great Depression, because of all the economic activity that it created. And it shouldn't require a war in order to have that kind of mobilization, that kind of national purpose around dealing with a national enemy.

And for once the national enemy isn't other human beings. It's what we've been doing to the climate. So we can create a lot of economic opportunity while we're at it, but we're gonna have to make some concrete specific choices in order to get that done. And the Green New Deal represents I think, right now, more a set of goals than a fully laid out game plan.

Here's some of the things I think that game plan needs to have. First of all, we're going to have to have a carbon tax. Now, the political history of politicians admitting that we might need to tax is not fantastic.

But the good news is we can actually rebate that right back out to the American people. The important thing about the carbon tax is not to take money out of the economy, it's to make sure that the pricing of things that have a long term cost is actually reflected in the price you see. And so we can rebate that out and actually make it quite progressive while we're at it and make most Americans as well or better off.

So we're going to have to do that. That will be enough. We're going to have to have massive R&D, probably on par with while the original Manhattan Project or something like that, which in today's dollars is something like $10 billion a year, and is well worth it, given that climate represents a multi trillion dollar emergency.

What can we use it for? Well, we know that there are more major technological advantage -- advances to be had around things like energy storage that make solar and wind more feasible. We also know that there's a lot of potential opportunity around carbon capture and storage. Although we shouldn't use that to give us a pass on what we're putting into the atmosphere in the first place. So we need to invest in that.

We also can do some things with existing technologies. I think building retrofits are a great idea for no other reason than they put a lot of people to work in the building trades. So if that makes our committees more efficient, great.

Fourth thing I think we ought to do is talk about energy efficiency and energy independence, not only at the national level, but at the individual level.

Imagine if a household in Iowa got a kit or a voucher from Uncle Sam, to help make you personally use specifically your home net zero emissions.

And think about how that would liberate -- talk about freedom -- liberate a lot of us from utility costs. So it's going to take a portfolio of things. There's no one piece is going to make it happen.

But the bottom line is are we or are we not willing to acknowledge that this is a major emergency? Because all the controversy over, can we do this by 2030 or not? Misses the point that the timeline is not being decided by politicians. The timeline has been decided by science and the right time to get to that level of carbon emissions was yesterday. Thank you for the question.

[question about gun violence research]

Is Hope out here? Can I -- yeah. Oh, wow. All right. Nice to see ya.

Well, first of all, thanks. I see the Moms Demand Action shirt and that is a fantastic organization.

The real reason -- not to dip too much into political strategy but -- the real reason that the NRA has struck fear into the hearts of so many politicians isn't just the money. It's their ability to mobilize people. So why shouldn't the majority that believes in common sense gun reform, mobilize just as much, and that's what you all are doing.

So, being a mayor of your hometown is a fantastic job. I love it. The worst part of that wonderful job is when you get notified, when you get the message, or you get the call that we've lost somebody to gun violence. And it's just heartbreaking. We've lost far too many people in our community. And I feel like I've been fighting it with one hand tied behind my back. I'm proud of the work we've been doing with gang violence intervention that I think has saved lives. But we're not able to implement -- state of Indiana won't let me -- implement any kind of common sense gun policy. Now your specific question was about research on gun violence. And before we even talk about funding, we should talk about ending the CDC ban on research into this as a public health issue. If an epidemic of something is killing Americans than that is a public health issue.

So we lift the ban, we make it eligible for CDC research. And we also consider whether other sources of research funding, like NSF, could be part of the solution here. But that's got to be part of a whole suite of common sense gun reform, from background checks, to deciding where we're going to draw the line. By the way, all of this compatible with the Second Amendment but deciding where we're going to draw the line on the kind of weapons we allow into our neighborhoods in peacetime in America.

Thank you. Thank you for raising that question.

[question: “What do I tell my friends who say America is not ready for a gay President”]

Where’s Reed? Good. First of all, tell your friends I said hi. You could tell them about Indiana in 2015. Indiana in 2015 was not exactly an ideal place to be gay. For better for worse, that was the time and place where I realized that I needed to let everybody know I was gay, mostly because I want to start dating.

And I was just done especially after the deployment, I realized a little bit humiliatingly, when I was deployed, that my life could end, and I would be in my early 30s, the mayor of a city, grown-ass man and -- and have no idea what it's like to be in love. And I just had to put an end to that.

Now inconveniently, this was a re-election year when I came home from the deployment and said, I gotta, I gotta do this. And we did not know the political implications of doing this, you know, Mike Pence was the Governor of the state.

And, you know -- know I feel about -- my differences with the VP are well known.

The -- we'd never had an “out” executive in Indiana history, so we didn't know what to expect. And it's not like you can run a poll and be like, if you heard Mayor P was gay, would that change your vote?

So… I guess we could have but it -- might have been a little obvious. So… so we just… I just did what I had to do, and knew that I had to let the chips fall where they may and where they fell was, I got reelected with 80% of the vote.

So if that can be my story in Indiana -- I mean, look -- it's still not simple. It's not straightforward as our buddy over here showed us, right? Acceptance is not universal in the struggle for equality didn't end with marriage equality.

But at the beginning of this decade, I knew as a matter of fact, you could either be out, or you could be in elected office, where I came from, and not both and it was a matter of law. You could be -- either be “out” or you can serve in the military, but not both. I got to do both. And when I was in -- when I came on to the stage as a Presidential candidate at the end of that speech, first thing I got to do was greet my amazing loving husband.

Thank you.

[Q: Can you tell us you've changed your mind about since you wrote your book.]

Since I wrote the book. Let's see. I guess I changed my mind about whether I should run for President.

It crossed my mind -- but uh -- at the time I wrote the book, it was -- it was not anywhere near -- where’s Scott, I like to see -- where’s Scott? Hey, Scott. Thank you. Thanks for reading the book. The book is how we’re paying off the bills from the wedding. So we really appreciate that.

I still stand by pretty much everything I put in there. But I think what we've seen, even in in the month since then, and especially in the 2018 election, which you know, the book came out this year, but I had to -- I had to send in the final edits before that happened, was that the Heartland actually wound up producing a lot of the gains for progressive values and for our worldview.

That it was not as hard as I might have thought, to get people to realize that when these policies go into effect in our everyday lives, they make a huge difference. Think about how the ACA went from 2010, a toxic issue that just killed us as Democrats, to 2018, when it became the winning issue for Democrats running for Congress. That was a pretty good sign.

I could not again, when I turned in the book, if I knew that was coming, I would have written a little more about what happens when we when we lay out how these things touch our everyday lives. I believed in it, but I didn't have that kind of evidence. And so I'm glad I was able to do that. I'm sure this process will teach me a lot of things and teach me some areas where I was wrong. And I'll keep a little -- little set of notes on that, and maybe that'll make for the next book.

[Q: What is your strategy for beating Trump?]

That's good question. Is Ken here? There ya are. Thanks for coming. So, it's kinda -- it's kind of like a Chinese finger trap, you know, the harder you pull, the more you get stuck.

It's really -- it's really important to think about the strategy here, because, you know, the idea of being here's -- here's why I think we're at risk. I think every well spoken Democrat -- I bet everybody here has thought, at least once, pictures what you would say, if you were on the debate stage with that guy, right? It's just hard not to. And we all have our things we might like to say.

But the idea that we're going to knock him flat with some zinger, you know, it almost makes it -- it sets it up to where it's like he's the one we're trying to impress. We're playing his game. That's the finger trap. We got to get out of that. And so it's not -- you can't ignore it completely. You can't ignore it completely. Because when somebody tells a lie, you got to correct it, and when somebody does something wrong, you got to say why it's wrong and move on. But then we got to move on.

And, you know, frankly, the energy around this Presidency from the -- the unmovable base, and from those of us who think it's really harmed our country. That's there. It is punching us in the face every day.

But what I'm interested in, is the people who voted Democrat again and again and again, except this one time they voted that way. Why did they do that? And these are our neighbors. Iowa is one of the places where this happened most. Happened a lot where I come from too.

And we've got to acknowledge, without giving an inch, on the racism or xenophobia that played a role in that campaign -- we got also pay attention to the things that make people susceptible to that message, and make sure we're addressing them. That's where talking about everyday life is so important.

So the more -- the more we can talk not about him, but about you. That's how I think we're going to win. Because it turns out when we're actually discussing how our values land, and what they mean in everyday life. Turns out the American people already agree with us. We just need to go point it out.

There we go. Sounds like my time is up. But I'll be back. Can't wait.