Let’s not elect another newbie for president

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg addresses the crowd at the 2019 South Carolina Democratic Party State Convention on June 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo by Sean Rayford | Getty Images

We need to focus on the day after Trump is no longer president.

That’s a line Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is now surging in the polls, repeats often. He believes the next president should be the opposite of Trump, someone capable of ending the chaos that currently dominates D.C. politics and turning the page to a new, sunny day.

I wholeheartedly agree, which is why I think Mayor Pete is the wrong choice for the Democratic presidential nominee.

Don’t get me wrong. I personally like Buttigieg, and he’s obviously quite different from Donald Trump. For starters, he’s smart, as in Rhodes Scholar smart. As a veteran, he understands service to country, which is a welcome change from Trump’s service to ego. He’s not an East Coast billionaire who became famous in spite of multiple bankruptcies and con games but rather a Midwesterner who seems genuinely sincere in his religious beliefs.

If Democrats nominate Buttigieg, I’d vote for him without hesitation. But Dems would be wise to consider the one area where Buttigieg is similar to Trump and would make that “sunny day” situation when Trump is out of office less luminous.

Trump was a political novice, a so-called outsider who promised to drain the swamp and bring in fresh leaders and ideas.

As someone unfamiliar with the inner workings of the federal government or the roles and responsibilities of important cabinet positions, Trump did something radically different than most presidents. Instead of filling department heads with the “best people,” he appointed a trove of “yes men” and high-dollar donors who knew little about (or in some cases, openly despised) the departments they were tasked with overseeing.

Take Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as an example. DeVos is one of the few original members of the Trump administration that hasn’t been fired or forced to resign, which is unfortunate for the countless students who have been negatively impacted by her policies.

As an ardent supporter of education privatization, DeVos has managed to repeal rules that made it easier for students to obtain student loan forgiveness from predatory, for-profit colleges. She changed the guidelines on campus sexual assaults, giving more rights to the accused. And because she is clueless about public education, she has even suggested that states be allowed to disregard the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

DeVos is a disaster, but unfortunately, she’s only one in a long list of awful appointments. From the Secretary of the Interior, to the EPA, to Labor, to Homeland Security, and the Energy and State departments, hardly a single agency has avoided Trump’s political naïveté.  

Trump’s inability to find stable, competent individuals to run the institutions Americans rely on is one of several key reasons he doesn’t deserve a second term in office. It’s also why voters should prioritize political experience.

While I do not believe Buttigieg would appoint a crew of unqualified minions to his cabinet, I do question his ability to bring in the best and the brightest.

Let’s go back to the “day after Trump leaves office” scenario that Mayor Pete refers to in his stump speeches. Trump is gone, but the country is still divided and angry. Congress is at a standstill. Federal departments are fractured and leaking talent.

The country can’t afford another president in need of a learning curve. Rather, we need someone who understands the inner workings of the federal government, who has already built relationships with other members of Congress and leaders across the globe, and who actually knows the “best people” for crucial federal appointments.

There are numerous individuals running for president who can fill that role. But Mayor Pete isn’t one of them.

He has no experience in Congress. He’s never won a state-wide race. He lacks trust and support among minority voters.

Much of Buttigieg’s appeal can be found in other candidates. He’s not the only non-septuagenarian running for president. Nor is he the only Rhodes Scholar, or the only individual who has overcome discrimination, or the only challenger from the Midwest.

It’s understandable that voters would find a smart and young candidate appealing. But after three years of authoritarian rule, our democracy needs more than just a fresh face. We need an experienced leader who can regain the trust of our allies, mend the divisions in our country and Congress, and capitalize on the potential of an illuminated America.

Julie Erfle
Julie Erfle hails from North Dakota, but has called Arizona home for more than twenty years. She began her career in Phoenix as a creative services producer at KPHO-TV5 and 3TV. Blending her background in communications with her passion for community activism, Julie launched the political blog Politics Uncuffed in 2011, and began working as a communications director and consultant on candidate and initiative campaigns. She is the former executive director of Progress Now Arizona, a progressive communications and advocacy non-profit, and a fellow with the Flinn-Brown Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and Leading for Change.