Mayor Pete, whisperer to the blow up the system constituency.
Mayor Pete, whisperer to the "blow up the system" constituency. Scott Eisen / Getty Images

The New York Post has a headline today that suggests there's something shocking about Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg noting similarities between Bernie Sanders voters and Trump voters. Drudge then takes it a half step further, telling his massive audience that Buttigieg "compares Bernie fans to MAGA supporters."

Conservative outlets may find this storyline interesting because it has the potential to spin up some intra-party feuding on the left, with Bernie backers getting pissed at Buttigieg for saying they're just like Trump fanatics.

But one, that's not exactly what Buttigieg is saying, and two, the results of the 2016 presidential election show there was a large—and potentially decisive—group of voters who backed Bernie and then, when he didn't win the Democratic nomination, backed Trump.

So Buttigieg is not wrong to be thinking about who these people are, and what he's actually saying about them is pretty standard:

I think the sense of anger and disaffection that comes from seeing that the numbers are fine, like unemployment’s low, like all that, like you said GDP is growing and yet a lot of neighborhoods and families are living like this recovery never even happened. They’re stuck... 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, 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.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz put the source of this frustration more succinctly in a recent New York Times op-ed:

Despite the lowest unemployment rates since the late 1960s, the American economy is failing its citizens.

So Buttigieg has a not-very-unique theory about why so many Americans are pissed and want to blow up the system, and the data backs up Buttigieg's claim that Bernie and Trump both appealed to some of the same change-demanding voters in 2016.

Support The Stranger

You can certainly argue with Buttigieg's theory for the Bernie-Trump crossover appeal. While Buttigieg focuses on economic motivations, others have pointed out that a lot of those Bernie-Trump voters shared rather Trumpian views on race.

But if a key part of the Democratic game is to stop swingable voters from swinging toward Trump, and if in 2016 all those Bernie-Trump voters might have actually determined the outcome of the presidential election, then what Buttigieg is doing is just common sense: trying to make his candidacy an alternative landing place for the "blow up the system" constituency.

(To the extent this constituency cares about policy ideas, Buttigieg may also, at some point, want to join Warren in offering actual policy ideas that address the broken system.)