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Bernie Sanders supporters — and even some members of Congress — aren’t too happy with Mayor Pete Buttigieg for seeming to compare Sanders to Donald Trump.
The Democratic 2020 contender told supporters at a New Hampshire campaign event over the weekend that people feel a “sense of anger and disaffection” when there’s low unemployment and a growing GDP but yet they’re not seeing benefits themselves. When they feel like they’re “stuck,” Buttigieg said, they’re more likely to vote against “the system.”
“It just kind of turns you against the system in general, and then you’re more likely to want to vote to blow up the system,” said the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. “Which could lead you to somebody like Bernie, and it could lead you to somebody like Trump. That’s how we got where we are.”
As a teenager, Buttigieg actually wrote an award-winning essay about his admiration of Sanders, but his views of the Vermont senator have apparently changed. Buttigieg, positioning himself as a moderate alternative in the 2020 race, reportedly attended a “What To Do About Bernie” dinner hosted by wealthy Democratic donor and Hillary Clinton supporter Bernard Schwartz, along with party leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
Buttigieg’s comments have already sparked controversy from Bernie supporters and Democrats who take offense at the notion that Trump’s win was rooted more in “economic anxiety” than racism. Rep. Ro Khanna, a prominent progressive Democrat from California, criticized Buttigieg’s equating Bernie to Trump in a tweet Sunday night and specifically called out Buttigieg’s refusal to back tuition-free public college.
“It is intellectually dishonest to compare Bernie to Trump,” Khanna tweeted. “Bernie is for giving people healthcare, education, childcare, & more pay. He wants to blow up credentialed elitism — those who reject tuition-free college for all.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the most famous new Democrats in Congress, retweeted one of Bernie’s surrogates, Nina Turner, who defended the senator from Buttigieg’s remarks.
In the crowded and growing field of 202 Democrats, Buttigieg has surprised with his ascendance in recent polling. He has also outdone some of his more famous opponents in fundraising, although he hasn’t sworn off donor bundlers and private fundraising events like Elizabeth Warren, for example.
Cover: Pete Buttigieg announces that he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination during a rally in South Bend, Ind., Sunday, April 14, 2019. Buttigieg, 37, is serving his second term as the mayor of South Bend. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)