Pete Buttigieg’s polling strength is, as far as I can tell, based on one factor only: He’s a smooth talker. He speaks the kind of fluent Ivy League-technocrat-consultancy lingo that makes a certain kind of highly educated white liberal’s heart melt, especially when combined with an appealing sense of reasonableness and youthful, forward-thinking optimism. Alas for him, he can’t talk much about the wonderful improvements he made as two-term mayor of South Bend, Indiana, because they aren’t there.
James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal, notes that South Bend has an extremely high crime rate for a city its size and that a recent program to provide housing for addicts has just ended in complete failure. Buttigieg has not successfully navigated the problems arising from the shooting death of Eric Logan, a black South Bend man, by white police officers. More than a quarter of the city lives at or below the poverty line, well above the national average of 14 percent. A USA Today survey called it the 40th worst city in the country, noting it is “one of the most dangerous cities in America” and has depressed property values. The median South Bend home is worth $77,400.
Buttigieg has had eight years to turn around South Bend. If the Buttigieg candidacy implicitly says, “I promise to make America more like South Bend,” I don’t think he is going to find many takers. He certainly seems like a bright young man, but he wouldn’t be the first clever fellow to prove to be all talk and no action.