The Next American Outsider

In the past three years, voters in the United States, France, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, and Pakistan have swept aside familiar candidates to elevate outsiders who promise to upend their countries' politics. As more and more Democrats announce plans to take on Donald Trump in 2020, who might fit the bill as the next American outsider?

Meet Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Given the difficulties many have in pronouncing his family name—Buttigieg says it's pronounced Boot-edge-edge—supporters have taken to calling him "Mayor Pete."

Can he emerge from an increasingly crowded field of Democratic candidates? Both his poll numbers and the number of people donating to his campaign are on the rise. Last week, CNN called him the "hottest candidate in the 2020 race right now." This week, veteran election analyst Nate Silver profiled what he calls the "Buttigieg bump."

Who is this guy?

Buttigieg holds some positions considered standard for Democrats: He's one of more than 400 US mayors who signed a pact pledging to abide by the rules of the Paris climate accord after Trump pulled the US out of the agreement in 2017. He supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the US illegally as children. He proposes a health care system based on expansion of Medicare—though without eliminating private insurance companies.

He shares a few opinions with Donald Trump: He blames the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for job losses in midwestern states and says the US should withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

But they also have important differences: A former Rhodes Scholar who speaks multiple languages, he's as cerebral as Trump is anti-intellectual and as soft-spoken and outwardly modest as Trump is brash and aggressive.

Another difference: He has served in the military. His opinion of the war in Afghanistan is based on seven-months service there as a naval intelligence officer. If elected, he'd be the first US president to have served in any foreign war that began after World War II and the first veteran in the White House since George H. W. Bush left office in January 1993.

But there are also factors that make Mayor Pete a highly unusual presidential candidate:

  • He's 37 years old. If he won in 2020, he'd become the youngest person ever to serve as US president.
  • His political experience is limited to two terms as mayor of a town of 102,000 people.
  • He would be the first openly gay US president.

It'll be months before we learn whether Mayor Pete has staying power, but the attention he's now getting reminds us yet again that voters are drawn to candidates who appear to represent ground-breaking change.

We're used to seeing electric, gas and wood-burning ovens, but can you imagine baking pizza in a solar-powered oven? That technology was invented in the latest episode of Funny Applications, where Eni's budding researchers imagine new uses for technology.

Watch now.

It looks like China's leadership has finally had enough of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.

In a speech on Thursday to the national people's congress, a symbolic confab of the country's ruling elite, Premier Li Keqiang announced a new national security law that would outlaw secessionist activity and criminalize foreign influence in Hong Kong. The measure, an explicit response to recent pro-democracy protests there, would also permit mainland China's security agencies to operate openly in the city.

More Show less

Indonesia becomes an epicenter: Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, is now considered an epicenter of the pandemic, after it suffered its biggest daily surge in cases Thursday with over 900 new infections. The country of 260 million has the largest outbreak in Southeast Asia, recording about 20,000 cases and 1,300 deaths, though a recent study suggested that as few as 2 percent of the country's coronavirus infections may have been reported. When pressed on why Indonesia is experiencing a surge in cases while the curve appears to be flattening in neighboring countries, Indonesian health authorities blamed the public's flouting of social distancing guidelines. But critics say the government has sent wishy-washy messages on how to stop the disease's spread, as demonstrated by the fact that only four of Indonesia's 34 provinces have applied widespread social-distancing restrictions. Meanwhile, as the country's 225 million Muslims prepare to celebrate the end of Ramadan this weekend, popular markets have been overwhelmed by shoppers buying food and clothing, with little guidance or enforcement of large-scale social distancing measures. Indonesia's public health system is grossly underfunded, and experts warn that given the shortage of hospital beds, medical equipment and staff, the situation could deteriorate fast in the coming weeks.

More Show less

This is not the 2020 that Vladimir Putin had in mind.

As the year started, Russia's president was crafting plans for changes to the constitution that would permit him to stay in power for (at least) another 16 years. A rubber stamp public referendum was to be held in April. Then, in May, he was to welcome foreign leaders to Moscow for a grand celebration (parades, concerts, fireworks, and a reviewing stand atop Lenin's Mausoleum) marking the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union's triumph over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War.

More Show less

Have you ever read a major op-ed and thought to yourself, "no! no! no! That's just not right!" Us too. This week, Ian Bremmer is joined by analysts Kelsey Broderick and Jeffrey Wright to take the Red Pen to former World Bank president Robert B. Zoellick's Wall Street Journal op-ed.

More Show less