During last night’s Democratic debate, South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg foiled an attempted attack from Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who started a spat about accepting the support of wealthy donors. Warren criticized the mayor for hosting what she referred to as a fundraiser held in a “wine cave.” Here’s more from what she said:
So the mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900-a-bottle wine. Think about who comes to that. He had promised that every fundraiser he would do would be open door, but this one was closed door. We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States. Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.
And here’s how Buttigieg responded:
You know, according to Forbes magazine, I am literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire. . . . This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass. If I pledge never to be in the company of a progressive Democratic donor, I couldn’t be up here. Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine. Now, supposing that you went home feeling the holiday spirit — I know this isn’t likely, but stay with me — and decided to go onto peteforamerica.com and gave the maximum allowable by law, $2,800, would that pollute my campaign because it came from a wealthy person? No, I would be glad to have that support. We need the support from everybody who is committed to helping us defeat Donald Trump. . . .
First of all, if you can’t say no to a donor, then you have no business running for office in the first place. But also, Senator, your presidential campaign right now as we speak is funded in part by money you transferred, having raised it at those exact same big-ticket fundraisers you now denounce. Did it corrupt you, Senator? Of course not.
So to denounce the same kind of fundraising guidelines that President Obama went by, that Speaker Pelosi goes by, that you yourself went by until not long ago, in order to build the Democratic Party and build a campaign ready for the fight of our lives, these purity tests shrink the stakes of the most important election…
Clearly, the mayor was prepared for this line of criticism and was able to skillfully turn it back on his opponent. But while Buttigieg was correct, tactically speaking, to decry “purity tests,” his own rhetoric on the campaign trail calls his sincerity into question. Throughout the primary race, Buttigieg has frequently defaulted to a line of attack on conservatives that could easily be called a purity test of its own.
During the June Democratic-primary debate, Buttigieg attacked the GOP for “cloak[ing] itself in the language of religion,” saying, “We should call out hypocrisy when we see it.” He went on to construct an absurd straw man to insinuate that Republicans can’t be authentic Christians: “For a party that associates itself with Christianity, to say that . . . God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.”
In July’s debate, meanwhile, Buttigieg used the minimum wage as another opportunity to attack GOP leaders for their supposedly fake Christian faith. “The minimum wage is just too low,” he intoned, “and so-called conservative Christian senators right now in the Senate are blocking a bill to raise the minimum wage, when scripture says that whoever oppresses the poor taunts their maker.”
It’s little surprise that Buttigieg talks this way. In an April interview with USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers, he said that the Left “need[s] to not be afraid to invoke arguments that are convincing on why Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction.”
The mayor got the better of his exchange with Warren yesterday evening, but the Christian mayor will surely forgive us if his reasonable stand against purity tests rings just a bit hollow.