Early in the campaign season, Pete Buttigieg made a stop here in Dallas for a big Democratic event. I was asked to deliver an invocation for the evening, which I was honored to do.
During Mayor Pete’s keynote speech, he was interrupted at several points by hecklers, in what was clearly an organized plan to disrupt both him and the evening. They were clearly Right Wing Christians.
These hecklers were situated at strategic points throughout the room. The room would grow quiet, when another would jump up and begin shouting at the stage and gesturing wildly. I’ve slept since then, but my memory is that several of us got up to escort the hecklers out of the space. I seem to recall Shawn Terry and Erin Moore jumping in to help.
After every heckler was escorted out, a period of calm would then settle in. Soon, yet another heckler would jump up and start yelling. It threw off everyone in the room, and there was an unsettled feeling among all the guests for the rest of the evening.
Mayor Pete was completely unfazed.
He paused calmly at each interruption, and waited until the commotion ceased before pickup up right where he had left off. He never once encouraged audience members to “rough ‘em up a little.” He never even had one bad word to say about what was happening.
I’ve thought about night a lot in the past few months, and it comes back to me powerfully tonight.
Pete’s candidacy certainly had flaws, which we do not have to get into here. It was especially fascinating for me to hear sometimes biting comments about Pete from my progressive friends, and even some from the LGBTQ community. I heard women begrudge him because he was a man, albeit a gay one.
All of us vote from our personal identities, and all of have multiple identities that we rank in various levels of importance when it comes to choosing a candidate. I get that. We *all* do that.
Worse, presidential politics demand that we whittle our choices down to *one,* eventually. Which can put those identities and values at odds, even within individual voters. Never before have we seen so many worthy “identities” played against each other in a primary contest as we have this past year.
Even further, Pete’s moderate politics slotted him at a certain place in the pantheon of candidates this cycle, and that opens him up to criticism from the Democratic left and beyond.
Having said all this, as he drops out of the race tonight, I’m left feeling like we have somehow minimized the importance of the fact that we have all just witnessed the first openly gay Presidential candidate.
Further, a candidate who many of us here in Dallas saw take that heckling with incredible grace, poise and ease.
I wonder if it’s not a symptom of the general trauma and PTSD that we all feel during this administration…along with a relentless news cycle that washes everything older than two hours out to sea…that this relatively historic moment feels like it’s just gonna get swept away.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Mayor Pete.
And finally, I don’t think that even with all the positive change in our society over the past two decades, anyone should underestimate the specific challenges it took to run for President as an out gay man.
Pete Buttigieg met those challenges with grace, calm, and —dare I say—a presidential demeanor.
Thank you, Mayor Pete.