Will Americans Be Willing to Elect a Gay Man President? A Skeptical View of Peter Buttigieg

Everything I’ve read about him makes him seem very good on many issues and he’s getting a lot of positive attention from the media too. I’ve heard him interviewed at length on Deconstructed , the podcast associated with The Intercept and was impressed by him there as well. I’m sure there are some positions he takes that I disagree with, but if I could press a button and he would defeat Trump in 2020 I wouldn’t hesitate to do so rather than take my chances with someone whose views might line up more with mine now, e.g., Sanders or Warren.

Yet, despite the above, I do not want him to be the Democrats’ presidential nominee for only one reason: electability. Yes, it’s because he’s gay, but not because I care about that. I’m an atheist, but would oppose nominating a fellow non-believer who didn’t hide that fact, even if I agreed with that person on every issue.

My position is based entirely on public opinion survey data. A Gallup poll taken in 2015, while headlining opposition to a socialist candidate, indicated that 24 percent of the population would not vote for a gay or lesbian candidate. Maybe there is a newer poll, but I haven’t seen one yet. The number opposed might go down a few points in 2019, but would still be quite high. In fairness, the numbers opposed to a gay or lesbian candidate were much higher in the past, according to the survey. On the other hand, people might be more reluctant to reveal prejudices to pollsters these days.

But, one might say, the Democrats would not have nominated Obama in 2008 based on the identical reasoning. The reasoning was identical indeed, but the numbers were not. In that same poll only 7 percent indicated they would not vote for a black Presidential candidate., and it was 5 percent in 2007, the year before Obama won the first time…the poll has an appendix which provides trends regarding this question. One has to go back to the late 60s to find as high a percentage of Americans who said they would not vote for a black candidate for president.

Moreover, Obama’s victory came in the aftermath of a near collapse of the economy. No GOP candidate could survive that, but analysts felt Obama’s victory would have been significantly greater if everything was the same about him other than his skin color. In fact, it was estimated he lost about 4 points because he was black. What he gained to make up for that was an enormous increase in black turnout.

But what about 2012? By then Obama was a known quantity and so racist tropes were not going to be as effective as they might have when he first ran. Moreover, in his first term, Obama made sure to avoid being viewed as a black President. Still, given his pulling us out of the Crash, and running against the uncharismatic Romney, one would have imagined a landslide victory.

Significantly, Buttigieg came out as gay only after he had shown what he could do as mayor, not when he was first running. He did a great job and was re-elected in a landslide. I have little doubt Buttigieg could be re-elected. It’s the first time that’s my concern.

Now, it is certainly true that the people who would never vote for a gay or lesbian for President might have other views that would reduce the likelihood they would ever vote for any Democrat. In the case of Obama, racists vote Republican anyway on many other issues (many of which are coded forms of racism) so Obama might not have lost a lot of “gettable” votes.

Evangelicals and deeply religious people of any religion (with the likely exception of Islam, because of the Trump and the GOP’s intense Islamophobia}, tend overwhelmingly to vote GOP. But, black and Latino voters, especially the former, are overwhelmingly supporters of Democrats.

Black support for gay marriage—unfortunately, I haven’t found the breakdown by race for the poll on supporting a gay or lesbian President—has been decidedly less than among whites (48% to 63%). Blacks who are gay or lesbian, especially gay, are more apt to have to hide that fact than whites. The term “down low” is specific to the experience of gay or bi black men.

Among Latinos, the situation is more complex. Support for gay marriage is just a few points less than among whites (61 percent) and there seems to be a divide in which the more religious members of the Latino population tend to be more hostile towards it. Perhaps these Latinos tend to vote GOP more anyway, in which case it would be less of a problem for Buttigieg. But, certainly a nominee that would reduce black turnout for the Democrats in 2020 would be disastrous. This would be especially harmful in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Philadelphia, because those cities are in the key states that gave Trump victory in 2016.

The GOP, of course, wouldn’t be able to get black voters to vote for Trump. They could just run a false flag campaign to depress black votes, as they have done against other candidates with other constituencies.

One soft sign of the GOP wanting to run against Buttigieg is the very favorable FB comments I’ve seen about him on threads I’m on from GOP supporters who relentlessly attack all Dems. I can’t help but think they are being strategic and letting liberals imagine Buttigieg could be a cross-over candidate. But, that’s just a hunch.

Honesty requires me to admit the 50 percent highlighted in the same survey said they wouldn’t vote for a Socialist. Sanders, doesn’t use that self-descriptor these days for good reason (hugging FDR not Debs), might also be a liability, even though I’m supporting him until polls actually demonstrate that–not so far. I do think Sanders is going to be viciously attacked by the GOP, which held its fire when he was running against Clinton because they thought she was the stronger candidate. But, if Sanders is the nominee the gloves will be off. One of the reasons I’m happy he’s going on Fox is because he will no doubt be forced to respond to those talking points in that venue—unless the moderators hold their fire for the same reason the Trump camp did in 2016—save it for November.

But Buttigieg can’t redefine himself the way Sanders is trying to–and Sanders might fail in that effort. Now, if Buttigieg becomes well known and polls show that opposition to a gay President is now minuscule, even among key Democrat demographics, I’ll be delighted to change my mind. But I think the fact the media hasn’t harped on it does not mean a thing. It’s the elephant in the room.

In many areas of life our own choices are all that matters–what we eat, who we love, our favorite teams and movies. But, when choosing a candidate we also have to take into account what others voters think. One more thing I feel the need to address, because when I originally posted this on the Daily Kos, a few people accused me of being an open or unconscious homophobe. Nothing could be further from the truth and i replied to those accusations with the following question: Do you think a Muslim-American could be elected President now and, if not, would that make you an Islamophobe or just a realist in terms of the powerful prejudices a significant portion of Americans irrationally have towards Muslims.

Here’s the survey and again, one can look behind the topline numbers and view trends when the question was aked in the past…link towards bottom of the article.


Men who play ‘hide the sausage’ with each other are always going to be suspected to lean left. And THAT is why many people won’t vote for them. Those who don’t want a homosexer in the oval office simply because of his sexual preference are relatively few.

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Depends on if he has enough money to buy the office as Jared Polis did in Colorado.

Of course running on the platform of I’m gay vote for me would work for progressives however anyone with their had screwed on straight would ask about the issues we are faced with today, something the left ignores.

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Anybody that has to sell his sexual orientation for votes is not worth a spit in my view. I don’t vote for the party, but the candidate who best represents my interests, and if you can’t have a unifying message that best speaks to the majority of Americans, than any candidate that fails to do so doesn’t have much of a chance of winning a national election. Also this election is going to be a referendum on Socialism vs. Capitalism and according to latest polls when ask people about this question in what they favor most, socialism was popular among millenials. (Bernie Sanders supporters) Independents were not so keen on the idea, and lets face it, that is a huge swing vote that Buttugieg is going to need to convince for them to vote for him, because being Gay is simply not going to be enough, its the substance of his arguments that is going to matter.

His advocacy for such policies is a hard “NO” from this voter! Next!

More proof that he is merely pandering to a particular voting base! Not surprised by anything coming from the left these days!

South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg said Thursday that he is no longer using the phrase “all lives matter.” Buttigieg referred to the phrase while speaking at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network convention, which has become a high-profile event for Democratic candidates.

In his speech, Buttigieg stressed the importance of addressing racial inequalities. “Racial justice must be compatible with being pro-rule of law and respectful of law enforcement doing the right thing. It should enhance, not diminish, the value of a good police department when we assert what should go without saying. But in these times it has to be said clearly, again and again, that black lives matter,” Buttigieg said.

On Thursday, after speaking to the largely African American audience, Buttigieg told reporters he didn’t initially realize how the phrase “all lives matter” was used to undercut and “devalue” the Black Lives Matter movement. “Since learning about how that phrase was being used to push back on that activism, I stopped using it,” the mayor said.

No thank you! Another useful idiot who appears to be clueless by already alienating a group of people! All lives do indeed matter!

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I’m happy to see that in the US, socialist candidates are the least appealing to voters. I don’t think the gay factor matters as much as it once did. I personally would not vote for a homosexual president because I don’t want to see the tradition of the First Lady ruined by having a First Gentleman who is the husband of a male POTUS.

The appeal to the minority he’s speaking to at the moment.

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That’s gonna generate some Peter Butthole memes.

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He is nothing more than a deep state candidate who has been groomed by elites for some time. His election as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana was totally bought and paid for by elites.

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The full-blown panic when you realize you’ve demoralized your imported base far too fast, and don’t have another viable non-white Deep State Candidate (who you’ve groomed for years and who can run on a platform of platitudes with no real track record) in the waiting.This article’s title, though. Literally the title.

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Great high quality post @sooner this level of analysis and detail should serve as a model for us all :clap:

A little historical context first. When he was first running for president JFK had to go on television to convince the American people that it was OK to vote for a Catholic for president. And, of course, more recently we asked: “Will America vote for a black man for president?”. So I believe that the answer to the underlying question of electability is always dependent on the particular person running for office.

As you stated, the only applicable poll was released in 2015. A long time ago in the shelf-life of polling data.

I am a big fan of applying neuroscience, political psychology, and linguistics to the political process. Based on my understanding of George Lakoff’s work, I think the fact that mayor Pete is married actually helps him. When he talks about his marriage he will tap into the “family values” framework of conservatives without their even realizing it. (Again, that’s most likely if I’m correct in my reading of the literature.)


In the poll archives at bottom of page it shows opinions over time. Opposition to a Catholic in 1960 was pretty much the same as to a gay now. However, I suspect most of that opposition was in the very Protestant southern states that always voted for Dems…until LBJ. Resentment over the Civil War probably outweighed fears of the Pope’s tool in the White House. I don’t think the analogy is strong enough because of that history.

The south went GOP only when the Dems became the party of Lincoln.

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I think it comes down to trust for any candidate, no matter the gender, sexual orientation, or race. If people see you, hear you, basically agree with you, and trust you, then you have a reasonably good chance to get their vote, depending on other factors such as fierce competition in this 2020 Dem primary. My calculations about how this plays out are based more on that idea than any other. The Dem coalition sets up a little better for others in the field. Buttigieg would have a better chance in a less competitive race. This one’s a humdinger.

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Dear God…can we stop with the electability bullshit???

Thats a fools game and we lose when we try to do it. Vote for who most represents your values, and quit trying to place yourself in someone else’s head (somewhere you have no business being), and stick with your own. If Pete represents your values…vote for him in the primary. If Kamala, Elizabeth, Corey, or whomever else represents your values thats who you vote for and let those chips fall where they may. Your responsibility as a voter is to vote your values…not the values of some theoretical person who might not think like you do. WHY IS THIS SO HARD???

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Sorry, but electability matters. It might be impossible to know what will determine the race in late 2020 now, but we do know the person with the most electoral votes wins and what states are in play and which not.

No Dem can lose Calif or win Mississippi. But, some might have a better shot in Pa., Wisc., and Michigan. Turnout is key in those states. A gay male candidate almost certainly will depress black and Latino votes and bring the rednecks to the polls in greater numbers than we Democrats want.

My personal preferences matter most in spheres where I get the only vote.


I respect the argument, and I appreciate that you supported it with numbers. I’d be interested in hearing the perspectives of those who :heart: your essay.

Of course it gets complicated when we bring other candidates in. Hillary was easily the most qualified woman in the entire country to be our standard bearer in 2016, and yet she lost. Sexism played a huge role in explicit and insidious ways. So all our female candidates are out, by that logic. Your own argument about Obama suggests that with electability as our guide, we’d be foolish to nominate anyone who is not white — we’d be lining up behind the start line. A candidate who makes people think “socialist” will face an even stronger, a much stronger headwind than someone who is gay, female, black, biracial, Latino, or Asian. Sorry, Bernie. So you’re really saying, it seems to me, that we need to vote for Joe Biden, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper, John Delaney, or Tim Ryan.

So @madison has a point.

By the way:

It depends on the candidate, doesn’t it? First guy with a beard. First Ph.D. First Catholic. First former actor. First black person. Buttigieg won’t even be the first non-straight man to be president, just the first one to be honest about his homosexuality.

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Progressives tend to provide higher quality posts due to our levels of education and experience in the world. It’s fairly consistent across political forums like this. The right just screams and resorts to personal attacks because they can’t debate the issues.

Great post @sooner!

Only the left would pin "electability " on the candidate’s outer appearance, sex, religions i.e. identity politics, and not their policies. Love how your best chance at winning 2020, Uncle Joe “Touchy-feely” Biden by throwing him under the bus bc he doesnt meet the diversity criteria.

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Yeah sexism. The fact that you ran a shitty candidate with a ton of baggage and she was your best option had absolutely nothing to do with it. Do you people hear yourselves? If people were supposed to vote for her because of her gender, what does that say about her stand on issues (or lack there of)? Honestly. And you wonder why you lost. Too funny. :laughing:


You’re acting like she didn’t get the majority of the votes. She did. When we finally get rid of the electoral college we won’t ever have this problem again.

Hope and Change. :laughing: