In an essay written in 2000, a young Pete Buttigieg praised Bernie Sanders for having the “courage” to describe himself as a socialist.
Buttigieg was just a high school student when he won the JFK Library’s “Profile in Courage Essay Contest,” where he praised Bernie Sanders for having real courage for standing up for his beliefs.
“Candidates have discovered that is easier to be elected by not offending anyone rather than by impressing the voters,” Buttigieg lamented in the essay. “Politicians are rushing for the center, careful not to stick their necks out on issues.”
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Sanders was not like the other politicians, a young Buttigieg argued. “Sanders’s courage is evident in the first word he uses to describe himself: ‘Socialist’”:
In a country where Communism is still the dirtiest of ideological dirty words, in a climate where even liberalism is considered radical, and Socialism is immediately and perhaps willfully confused with Communism, a politician dares to call himself a socialist? He does indeed. Here is someone who has “looked into his own soul” and expressed an ideology, the endorsement of which, in today’s political atmosphere, is analogous to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Even though he has lived through a time in which an admitted socialist could not act in a film, let alone hold a Congressional seat, Sanders is not afraid to be candid about his political persuasion.
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Buttigieg continued to gush over Sanders throughout the essay. “His energy, candor, conviction, and ability to bring people together stand against the current of opportunism, moral compromise, and partisanship which runs rampant on the American political scene,” he wrote. “He and few others like him have the power to restore principle and leadership in Congress and to win back the faith of a voting public weary and wary of political opportunism.”
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Buttigieg ended the essay by commending Sanders for giving him “an answer to those who say American young people see politics as a cesspool of corruption, beyond redemption,” suggesting it was Sanders who inspired him to enter politics.
Of course, it begs the question as to why Mayor Pete had bothered to enter the race – if his political hero was already in the running, why did he throw his own hat in?