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South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg Will Help Shape Future Of DNC

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg made national headlines when he made a bid for Democratic National Committee chair earlier this year. Party members ultimately selected former Labor Secretary Tom Perez for the post. While Buttigieg will continue to serve as mayor of his hometown, he'll likely have an impact on the direction the party takes after its devastating loss in November.

Q: You've been really busy. You threw your name in the ring for DNC chair. You didn't get that position, but you're on the advisory committee. How do you anticipate playing a role in shaping the future of the Democratic Party?

Buttigieg : My goal will be to make sure the Democratic party is focusing on red and purple states, to make sure we're paying attention to a new generation. And to make sure that it's an organization that's ready to innovate. And I think the new chairman has signaled a desire to include everybody as part of the process. I appreciate being included on the advisory committee and we're actually going to have our first meeting next week and a good opportunity to begin fleshing out some of these ideas.

Q: What are you hearing from folks in South Bend, Democrats in South Bend, about the direction they want to see the party take?

Buttigieg: Well, there's never been this much interest, there's never been this much concern. I think the real key for the party right now is to position the party in a broader texture of the different kinds of organizations that care about these issues. And, we see a lot of grassroots, organic things coming together. A lot of people who may or may not consider themselves political in the traditional sense, but they care about the issues. The job of the party will be to make sure they get involved in elections, as well.

Q: There's been this overwhelming focus on national politics, but you talk about politics on the local level. Do you see politics at the level of South Bend, other small communities throughout Indiana, becoming more important because of the national discourse?

Buttigieg: I do. I think every national problem is at its most real at the local level. And, so, I think the local level can also deliver a lot of the solutions that we need. It's at the local level that you can get past a lot of the partisanship, you can get past a lot of the boxes and the baggage of some of the old ways of solving problems. I also think we're nicer people at the local level because we actually know each other. And, I think even in the biggest city, you're better off when you're able to personally interact with those different kinds of people. If we can get that mentality to penetrate to the national level of politics and government, I think we'll all be a lot better off.

Q: You mentioned the grassroots movement, are you seeing more activism in South Bend? 

Buttigieg: Yeah, it began right after the inauguration with the Women's March. And, I've got to say I've never seen this many people willing and ready to step up and get involved. The question is what exactly is the form of that involvement going to be, what shape is it going to take? And, I think it's very important to have not only social activism, but also to be involved in politics, to be involved in the public process. And, when these issues, when these values are at stake, to actually get on the ground, knock on doors, support candidates, run for office. We're seeing more people than ever being interested in the idea of running for something. And, that's great news. We've got to make sure that energy is sustained as we go into election years.

Q: Are there any Trump policies that have resonated with or surprised the South Bend community? You've been quite outspoken on Twitter, I've noticed. 

Buttigieg: We've been affected in a very direct and immediate way by some of the changes in immigration policies. Which, unfortunately, has had the consequence of tearing some families apart. And, you see a lot of community members, including, by the way, very politically conservative community members, saying, 'Wait a minute, this is not what we meant when we voted conservative. We believe in keeping families together and we want to see reform.' So, that's just one example of an issue where it might look one way on the national scale, but when you actually take it to individual people and how specific families are being personally affected, it begins to look a little different. And, I think we become a little more humane when we look at those on-the-ground impacts, compared to when we're dealing with people in terms of categories, identities and those bigger, kind of talk show soundbite ways of thinking about other people.

Q: A lot of people have called you the rising star of the Democratic Party. Do you think someday down the road you might pursue higher office outside of South Bend?

Buttigieg: I've got a job to do right at home in South Bend. And one thing I've learned during my short career in elected politics is, if you do a good job at the job in front of you, future opportunities are going to take care of themselves. And if you can't do a good job at the job you've actually got, then nothing else matters.

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