Juan Williams: Buttigieg already making history

Juan Williams: Buttigieg already making history
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Is Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights Harris seeks Iowa edge with army of volunteers 2020 Democratic presidential candidates rally in support of abortion rights MORE the Jesse Jackson of his time?

Or is Buttigieg the Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHarris seeks Iowa edge with army of volunteers North Korean media rips Biden: a 'fool of low IQ' Lessons from Australia: Voters put pocketbooks over climate change, again MORE of his time?

Jackson took the black rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s “from the streets to the suites” when he campaigned to be the Democratic party's presidential nominee in the 1980s.

Twenty years later, Obama blasted his way into the stratosphere of American and global political power when he won the presidency and sealed the reality of black people as full participants in American politics.

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In the last 25 years, public acceptance of gay people has changed so much that Buttigieg is on track to skip the Jackson-like struggle and go straight to Obama’s winner’s circle.

He currently trails only former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Democrats sense new momentum in Trump tax return fight Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie becomes first African to deliver Yale graduation speech MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge MORE (I-Vt.) among Iowa Democratic primary voters in a Monmouth poll.

And Buttigieg claims to have more than 65,000 donors to his campaign. That number qualifies him to be on the stage for the first Democratic primary debate.

Keep in mind that Buttigieg is not hiding his homosexuality as he rises in the polls.

He is openly gay and married to his husband. 

What is really incredible about his political rise is that he already has people who condemn homosexuality on the defensive.

That includes Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceDozens of graduates walk out in protest of Pence address Trudeau on tariff deal: Canadian and US businesses can get back to 'working constructively together' Congress has a duty to go through with the impeachment and public trial of President Trump MORE who opposes gay sex in the name of religious principle. As governor of Indiana, Pence backed a law to allow merchants to refuse to serve gays if they felt doing so violated the teachings of their faith.

Pence contends Buttigieg is trying to silence Christians who oppose homosexuality as a matter of their faith.

The vice president told a reporter that Buttigieg needs to “offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith... I think Pete’s quarrel is with the First Amendment. All of us in this country have the right to our religious beliefs. I’m a Bible-believing Christian.”

Buttigieg’s answer is that he is a Christian, too, and a man who finds that his gay marriage “has moved me closer to God.”

Pence’s response is limited to saying he and his family "have a view of marriage that’s informed by our faith,” as the vice president recently told CNBC. “But that doesn’t mean that we’re critical of anyone else who has a different point of view.”

Note that Pence is not damning homosexuality as Christian evangelicals once did freely.

Pence’s political supporters are also moving away from direct debate about homosexuality in the face of polls that show strong public support for gay rights, same-sex marriage and even a gay president.

A May 2018 Gallup poll found that 67 percent of Americans now support legal marriage among people of the same sex. That is a 40-point increase since Gallup first asked the question, just over 20 years ago, in 1996.

And an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from March found 54 percent of Americans would be comfortable with a gay or lesbian presidential candidate. An added 14 percent said they would be “enthusiastic” about a gay candidate.

As a result of the rapid gain in public acceptance of gay life, Pence’s supporters are now arguing that the real issue is that Buttigieg “would be O.K. with using the government to persecute Christians,” for their beliefs, in the words of Erick Erickson, a conservative writer.

This is the current core of opposition to gay rights and Buttigieg is happily exposing it.

It will be four years next week since the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the landmark Obergefell vs. Hodges case where the justices found a constitutional right to gay marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy was the decisive swing vote in that 5-4 decision. Kennedy has been replaced by the more conservative Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael Kavanaugh2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Maker of 'F*ck Trump' lipstick vows to donate proceeds to reproductive rights groups Women's civil rights are not a state issue MORE.

Recently, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE said he is saving Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a virulent opponent of gay marriage, to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg should she leave the Court. 

That means the future of gay marriage is still very much in danger. 

The current debate reminds me of a joke.

“What’s the difference between being black and gay?

If you are black you don’t have to tell your mom.”

That joke was told to me in 1994 by a well-known Republican. President Clinton was about to sign “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy allowing gays to serve in the military as long as they kept their homosexuality a secret.

My conservative political friend opposed having gays in the military.

He said it could divide the troops and distract them from fighting America’s enemies.

And he really resented hearing gay people claim that their movement for equal rights in the military was the same as the mid-20th Century fight for blacks to be treated as equals to whites in the military.

But Clinton signed the 1994 bill. And in 2011 gay people made more progress, gaining protection under law to be openly gay and free of discrimination in the military.

The times have changed.

Buttigieg officially launched his campaign only a week ago, but he is already a historic candidate.

Now, even if Buttigieg doesn’t win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, the mayor has already won the future of Democratic politics – Obama-style.