Eleven months later, Buttigieg looks more like a traditional centrist than a leftist force. Instead of Medicare-for-all, he favors a more limited public option. Environmentalists complain his climate plan is less sweeping than his early rhetoric suggested it might be. After raising his hand at a debate to show support for decriminalizing border crossings, he clarified that he doesn’t actually hold that position.
The shifts reflect in part the broader trajectory of the Democratic primary, which initially appeared to herald a dramatic leftward surge. The center of gravity is settling in a less revolutionary place. Many liberals — at first excited by Buttigieg and the change he promised — now see him as embodying a dynamic they find deeply frustrating.
The evolution is arguably working for Buttigieg, who regularly polls in the top tier of the Democratic candidates. But it has also given rise to complaints that the mayor of South Bend, Ind., is carefully calculating his positions rather than passionately expressing his principles.