Why Pete Buttigieg Enrages the Young Left

As the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries draw near and South Bend’s boy wonder, Pete Buttigieg, seems buoyant in the all-important early-state polls, “Mayor Pete” has been perpetually dogged by a major issue: the youngest and most activated voters in his party all seem to—how to put this delicately?—hate his guts.

Normally the first candidate of a generation can expect to ride a wave of youth enthusiasm, as John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton once did. For the 37-year-old Buttigieg, it’s been quite the opposite. The newly radicalized Teen Vogue invoked a cringeworthy class-warfare pun to declare his campaign a “Lesson in ‘Petey’ Bourgeois Politics.” Jacobin, tribune of the socialist wing of the Democratic Party, has developed seemingly an entire vertical focused on slamming Mayor Pete. A writer for Out magazine, putting it in starker terms, tweeted that if he “had balls he’d run as the republican he is against trump in the primary.”

Why is the enmity from young, left-wing activists toward Buttigieg so visceral? It’s true that they favor Bernie Sanders, but Buttigieg comes in for a type of loathing that surpasses even that they hold for Sanders’ older rivals, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

The Los Angeles Times’ Matt Pearce compiled a list of potential explanations on Twitter, including that the left may perceive him as a traitor to his generation, a stark opportunist, or the representative of a shadowy and discredited D.C. professional class. The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson also surveyed the theories, ultimately concluding that the continuity with the Obama era that Buttigieg promises might be too much for progressives to stomach. The answer, of course, is likely “all of the above.”

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