LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at the start of the Democrat debate Wednesday night, causing the furious “democratic socialist” to turn a bright shade of red.
Though the debate kicked off with jabs at billionaire oligarch Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who appeared onstage for the first time, Buttigieg aimed his fire at the frontrunner as well: “Let’s put forward somebody who is actually a Democrat.”
Their exchange was as follows:
Buttigieg: Yes, we have got to wake up as a party. We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing figures on this stage. And most Americans don’t see where they fit if they have got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil, and a billionaire that thinks that money ought to be the root of all power. Let’s put forward somebody who actually lives and works in a middle-class neighborhood in an industrial Midwestern city. Let’s put forward somebody who’s actually a Democrat.
[Crowd gasps, cheers]
Buttigieg: Look — we shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out. We can do better.
Q: Senator sanders, are you polarizing?
Sanders: If speaking to the needs and the pain of a long-neglected working class is “polarizing” — I think you have got the wrong word. What we are trying, finally, to do is to give a voice to people who after 45 years of work are not making a nickel more than they did 45 years ago. We are giving a voice to people who are saying, we are sick and tired of billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg, seeing huge expansions of their wealth while a half a million people sleep out on the street tonight. And that’s all what we are saying, Pete, is maybe it’s time for the working class for this country to have a little bit of power in Washington, rather than your billionaire campaign contributors.
Buttigieg: First of all, look — my campaign is fueled by hundreds of thousands of contributors.
Sanders: Including 46 billionaires.
Buttigieg: Among the hundreds of thousands of contributors. And look, we’ve got to unite this country to deal with these issues. You’re not the only one who cares about the working class. Most Americans believe we need to empower workers. As a matter of fact, you’re the one who is at war with the culinary union right here in Las Vegas.
Sanders: We have more union support than you’ve ever dreamed of. We have the support of unions all across this country.
Buttigieg: Yeah, but the vision I’m putting forward has the support of the American people.
Buttigieg: We can actually deliver health care without taking it away from anyone. We can actually empower workers and lift wages without further polarizing this country. And we can build a movement without having legions of our supporters online and in person attacking Democratic figures and union leaders alike.
Later, Buttigieg targeted Sanders over allegations that his supporters have behaved aggressively, especially using sexism. “What is it about your campaign in particular that seems to be motivating this behavior more than others?”
Sen. Amy Klobucher (D-MN) suggested a solution: “We could nominate a woman.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.