Buttigieg tells Chicago audience he sees a different future for country

By Kevin Beese Staff Reporter

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for president, addresses the media after a talk before the City Club of Chicago on May 16. (Photo by Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

The Studebaker hasn’t been made in South Bend since two decades before Pete Buttigieg was born, but that didn’t stop people in the Indiana factory town from lamenting about the loss of the iconic carmaker.

When Buttigieg ran for mayor in 2011 at the age of 29, people were still longing for some form of a Studebaker reincarnation

“Some people were still talking about it like ‘if we could only get some version of Studebaker back — making cars again — our city would be all right,’” the South Bend mayor and U.S. presidential candidate said. “That’s how profound the blow of losing some of those jobs had been for us; and what we had to face is that the future was not going to look like the past.

“The way out of the abandoned factories and collapsing homes and population lost and reduced income wasn’t to try to drudge greatness out of some impossible ‘again,’ but rather to make sure the future looked different than the past. That’s what we’ve been able to achieve as a city in the past 10 years.”

Buttigieg spoke May 16 before a packed City Club of Chicago luncheon and said his town’s fate is not that much different than other regional metropolitan areas.

“We are typical of so many communities in the industrial Midwest,” Mayor Pete, as he is commonly called, said.

Buttigieg, who has been South Bend’s mayor for eight years, addresses the City Club of Chicago about his decision to run for president. (Screenshot from City Club video)

He said that his city is proud that it has raised people out of poverty and that the per-capita income in South Bend is back above $20,000 for the first time in a long time.

Buttigieg said South Bend blossomed when people realized that the city wasn’t simply going to be made great again, that it just simply couldn’t hit rewind.

“We had to accept that the future was going to be different from the past. Be honest about it,” Buttigieg said. “Be honest that certain things were not coming back, but we were and then talk about how. That’s why I think there is no such thing as an honest politics built around the word ‘again,’ but I do believe there could be a very optimistic future for the industrial Midwest.”

Buttigieg, in his eighth and final year as South Bend mayor, said in a media session after his City Club talk that he is happy with where his campaign is right now. He said the unglamorous campaign work of polling and canvassing has to take place in order for him to continue the momentum his campaign has gained so far.

Asked if he thought his campaigning was peaking too early in the marathon that is the Democratic primary, Buttigieg responded, “I’m not sitting in first place.”

The Rhodes scholar said that the Trump administrators and pundits too often characterize Midwest residents “as the only way to our heart is through nostalgia and through resentment.”

Buttigieg chats with individuals following his City Club talk. (Photo by Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

The 37-year-old, openly gay mayor of South Bend said he believes we have the good and bad fortune to be living in one of the most memorable times in our country’s history since the beginning of the New Deal or the beginning of the Ronald Reagan era.

“What will happen in the next three or four years can set the tone for what will happen in the next 30 or 40,” Buttigieg said.

He said that was one of the things that led him to make the “admittedly improbable” choice to step up as a mid-30s, Midwestern mayor to run for president of the United States.

He said he has seen his message resonate with voters.

“People welcome and embrace the idea of a different kind of leadership,” Buttigieg said.

He said it is vital to get Washington D.C. looking more like our best-run cities and towns before the nation’s cities and towns look more like Washington D.C.

Buttigieg said there needs to be new leadership at the helm of our nation.

“We need to change the channel from the show we have been watching,” Buttigieg said. “… You don’t even get a presidency like this unless something is wrong. “