Congrats on leading in the polls in New Hampshire and Iowa. But back here in Indiana, I would like you to do us a favor though: Stop referring to this state as “Mike Pence’s Indiana.”
You did that again in last night’s debate, just as you have on the campaign trail. But there’s no such place. Never was. Never will be. While Indiana is not a reliably blue state or even a swing state, it’s not one of extremes. We are both literally and figuratively Middle America.
This state roundly rejected Pence’s vision for Indiana, including the former governor’s disastrous Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That was a financial blunder and morality swindle opposed by 70 percent of Hoosiers. We were also hostile to his attempt at a state-run media agency and infuriated with his shameful response to one of the nation’s largest HIV outbreaks.
In fact, Hoosiers were well on our way to making Pence a one-term governor until—depending on one’s version of conservatism—God or Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort intervened. Shortly before that in May 2016, as Pence sought reelection, he was in a virtual dead heat with his Democratic challenger, a guy who looked like he pitched for Quaker Oats on TV and had the charisma to match. Even joining the national ticket didn’t help with his popularity here; when he did, Pence’s job approval was a Trump-y 45 percent.
Look—over the last year I have commissioned and edited three significant features on you for my magazine, and, on a personal level, I’m enough of a Hoosier that I want to see the “local guy” do well. But enough is enough. Stop making us your gap-toothed straw men.
Your origin story works without the pretense. When you punch down like this at a nonexistent target, you come off like every intolerable schmuck who lived on one of the coasts for five minutes before coming back home to tell us all about it, or the dude who studied abroad for a semester and returned with an accent.
None of us live in caves (or wine caves). Some believe in a variety of religions, including high school, college, and professional basketball. Most of us have indoor plumbing. This isn’t Alabama. Nor is it Mike Pence’s Indiana.
If you don’t understand that, no one will ever see Pete Buttigieg’s America.