It has been one of the biggest challenges for Pete Buttigieg since he began his improbable presidential campaign in January: Could the Harvard-educated mayor of South Bend, who often comes across like the brainy technocrat he once was as a McKinsey & Company consultant, build a following among black voters, one of the Democratic Party’s most vital constituencies?
Early signs were worrisome. Few African-Americans showed up at his campaign events, even in predominantly black areas of key primary states like South Carolina. His poll numbers among black voters were low to nonexistent. And he was shadowed by criticism from some black residents of South Bend about his firing of the city’s first black police chief and his handling of economic and housing issues.
But Mr. Buttigieg’s troubles intensified into a crisis on Sunday as he faced pointed questions and angry jeers from some African-American residents of South Bend at a packed town-hall-style meeting that he held in his latest attempt to respond to the fatal police shooting last week of Eric J. Logan, a 54-year-old black man.
Though many in the crowd clapped politely for Mr. Buttigieg, the meeting was dominated by members of the audience who loudly yelled their objections to the event’s format and to the mayor’s answers. When Mr. Buttigieg talked about the city’s requirement that officers use their body cameras, someone called out, “Why haven’t you been enforcing it, then?” When the mayor defended his record of engaging residents on policing issues, another person shouted, “We don’t trust you.”
At a few points Mr. Buttigieg asked the audience for quiet and to stop interrupting him. He listened to complaints about a pattern of police mistreatment of black people. He admitted failures. He promised to do better. But at the same time, there was little of the soothing emotional empathy that politicians strive to deliver in such moments. [Continue reading…]