South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-Ind.) unveiled several of his policy goals, but it seems like redefining the word “freedom” is his number one objective.
The 37-year-old midwest mayor surprised many when he first announced his long-shot presidential bid, but since then, he has rocketed up the polls, consistently ranking in the top five of the 23 Democrats in the race.
He chalked up his meteoric rise to his ability to communicate with voters. One key way he’s been doing this is by reclaiming typically-conservative talking points for his own messaging. Redefining the word “freedom” to fit his liberal policymaking has been one of his go-to stump speeches on the campaign trail.
Watch Buttigieg’s speech on reclaiming the word “freedom”:
“And so it’s very important to me to make sure we’re winning a values argument too. It’s why I talk about things like freedom, and why freedom can’t just be a property of the conservative movement to the Republicans, but that means constructive freedom.” pic.twitter.com/fDJ89EEm8W
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) April 16, 2019
“One thing conservatives did very effectively was they sort of claimed the idea space. They talked a lot about values and kind of won a lot of the arguments — or at least a lot of the media space — for their values, beginning with the Reagan administration in such a way that even Democrats were compelled to do, what I would consider, largely conservative things when they took office, really at any time in my lifetime. And so it’s very important to me to make sure we’re winning a values argument too. It’s why I talk about things like freedom, and why freedom can’t just be a property of the conservative movement to the Republicans, but that means constructive freedom.”
Google defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” In his attempts to reclaim the word “freedom,” Buttigieg has redefined what it means to be restrained and who is doing the restraining.
The mayor accurately claimed that Republicans tend to believe only the government can limit freedom, but Buttigieg wants to expand that to include businesses and individuals with different ideas, saying on his website, “Threats to freedom come not just from government, but also from corporations with too much power, and economic and social conditions that undermine the freedom of individuals and communities.”
Don’t let anybody tell you that the other side is the side that’s got a handle on freedom. We are the party of freedom and we shouldn’t be afraid to go out there and say it. pic.twitter.com/2lTcEtoaah
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) March 24, 2019
“We’ve allowed our conservative friends to get a monopoly on the idea of freedom. Now they care about freedom, but they care about a very specific kind of freedom: freedom from. Freedom from regulation, as though government is the only thing that could make us unfree. But that’s not true, is it? We know that your neighbor can make you unfree, your cable company can make you unfree.”
To Buttigieg, a limit on freedom is any restriction on things he feels Americans need.
Buttigieg dove home this message on his newly unveiled policy page on his website. An entire category of his policy prescriptions for his potential presidency is categorized under the word “freedom,” including his plans to push many left-wing policies:
- Medicare-for-all: “Freedom means not having to choose between health care and financial survival.”
- Debt-free college: “Freedom means access to affordable higher education.”
- Infrastructure: “Freedom means building 21st century infrastructure, because you’re not free to pursue happiness if you don’t have access to safe roads or clean water.”
- Racial Justice: “Freedom means racial justice, and reversing the damage of past and present racism to our communities, policies, and politics.”
- Organized labor: “Freedom means the ability to organize in order to hold employers accountable and advocate for fair pay.”
One problem with Buttigieg’s redefinition of freedom is that health care bills don’t limit one’s rights. Neither do student loans, right to work laws, or potholes. Those are inconveniences, not infringements. Buttigieg’s vision of freedom can only happen if the government first takes more from Americans in taxes.
Today, Americans can choose to take on student debt, work for a unionized company, or switch their health insurance provider. No company has the force of law to make them do otherwise. Only the government can take away those freedoms.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.