Government

Election will shape century, Pete Buttigieg tells Iowa Democrats

Indiana Democrat says county facing big, tough, long-standing challenges

Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall meeting in January in Indianola. Buttigieg, who finished tied Bernie Sanders in the
Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall meeting in January in Indianola. Buttigieg, who finished tied Bernie Sanders in the Iowa Democratic presidential caucuses, was the featured speaker Wednesday night for Progress Iowa’s annual Corn Feed fundraiser, held virtually this year because of the pandemic. (Associated Press)

DES MOINES — A top finisher in the 2020 Iowa caucuses returned to Iowa on Wednesday night — virtually, anyway — to deliver an urgent address at a Democratic fundraiser.

Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Ind., mayor who finished atop the Democratic caucuses with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, addressed Progress Iowa’s annual Corn Feed fundraiser, which was held virtually this year because of the pandemic.

Buttigieg recalled a staple of his presidential campaign speeches in calling politics “personal,” relating that to the 2020 general election presidential race between Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden and Republican incumbent President Donald Trump.

“When I first had a chance to address you (during the caucus campaign), I talked about how politics is personal, and it’s personal for me because of how my life has gone,” Buttigieg said. “It’s personal for you in a different way. And this pandemic is showing us just how urgently, searingly, bluntly personal everything about the election at hand is for all of us.

“We are now confronting some of our biggest, toughest, long-standing challenges as a country, things that we’ve been concerned about for a long time.”

During Wednesday night’s fundraiser, Buttigieg said he wished he could be in Iowa in person and that he and his husband, Chasten, are thinking about the Iowans whose lives were upended by the Aug. 10 derecho.

Buttigieg also said the country inevitably will look different after the pandemic, and that is, in part, what makes November’s presidential election so crucial.

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“Our recovery is going to have to include decisions that by their nature will shape American life for the rest of our lifetimes,” Buttigieg said. “And we’re not just going to be re-establishing all of the old political and economic arrangements we knew before with the same winners and losers and the same weaknesses and injustices. We can’t do that. And we shouldn’t try.

“I’m convinced that the decision we’re making right now, at the start of what’s going to be America’s deciding decade for this century, is going to shape everything for the rest of our lives.”

Ashley Biden, the daughter of Joe and Jill Biden, also spoke, telling Iowa Democrats that her father as president would expand access to health care, address climate change, reduce gun violence and assist caregivers.

She also said the race is about character.

“Right now, people are suffering,” she said. “We’re experiencing collective loss and grief in the hands of this pandemic. We’re struggling to keep our economy afloat. And we’re outraged at the systemic racism that continues to plague every aspect of our society.

“These are trying times. And it’s also true that even before all of this, the system wasn’t working. My dad knows that. And there’s no one better to lead us forward.”

Iowa’s Democratic candidates for federal office also spoke at the fundraiser: Theresa Greenfield for U.S. Senate and Abby Finkenauer, Rita Hart, Cindy Axne and J.D. Scholten for the U.S. House.

Those candidates — and keynote speaker Katie Porter, an Iowa native and California congresswoman — were the target of a statement issued by the Iowa Republican Party, which accused Democratic candidates of favoring policies that Republicans labeled “anti-agriculture.”

“It’s fitting that Iowa Democrats are appearing alongside an out-of-touch California liberal tonight, since they share the same radical, anti-ag agenda that would cripple Iowa’s economy,” Iowa GOP spokesman Aaron Britt said in the statement. “Their priorities lie with coastal elites like Katie Porter and the radical environmental groups supporting them, not with the thousands of Iowans that feed and fuel the world.”

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Online viewership of the event peaked at roughly 2,900, and total viewers reached 110,000, according to Progress Iowa executive director Matt Sinovic.

Comments: (563) 333-2659; erin.murphy@lee.net

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