Why the Coronavirus matters... and why Pete Buttigieg is out – for now

Pete Buttigieg is out of the Democratic Primaries. Was it surprising? Yes and no

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg

Globalisation has had a lot of benefits. It has lifted millions out of poverty, created a middle class in third world countries, and allowed Western consumers to enjoy products at a lower price than the items would have been had they been produced in their own countries.

There are drawbacks, which we have learned all too well in recent years, and I won’t go in them here. But one of them is the ability of disease outbreaks to spread much faster and further than ever before.

The Coronavirus, which has scared individuals, businesses and markets alike has often been compared to the outbreak of SARS in China in 2002-2003.

I am not a doctor, so I cannot compare the virus itself with any certainty. However, we can compare numbers and China’s importance in the global economy.

The outbreak of SARS led to 8,098 cases and 774 deaths in 17 countries. At that time, China’s share of global GDP was just over 4%, today that number is around 15%. In 2003, China’s exports were around 4.9% of the global total. In 2017, that number shot up to just under 11%, and is probably a little higher today. In 2003, China had 86 million passengers using domestic airlines - in 2018, it shot up to 611 million. What does this all mean? That China is far more important and connected to the world today than it was when SARS broke out 17 years ago. Any virus will spread far more easily.

There is a lot of information out there about the Coronavirus, most of it good, some of it potentially dubious. Any outbreak of a disease is more prone to spread today than it ever was in recent years, so the fact that there are over 93,000 cases at the time of writing should not come as a surprise. But what is important to remember is that the lethality of the Coronavirus is nothing to panic about - it hovers around 2.5 - 3.5% of all those infected. Whilst all deaths from it are unfortunate, it does not represent some cataclysmic event, as some may have you believe.

The best piece of advice that the CDC & WHO have issued over and over again has been: wash your hands, and wash them regularly. Practicing good hygiene should keep you relatively safe.

As the globe continues to warm up, there are a lot of viruses and bacteria that had been frozen in the permafrost in the polar ice caps, which are now coming out to play, so to speak. These are the type of bacteria and viruses that we, as the human race, have never encountered before. Doctors, scientists and immunologists will have their hands in the years ahead. Does this mean we should panic? No. It just means we should look after our personal hygiene, and let the scientists do their job.

Pete Buttigieg is out of the Democratic Primaries. Was it surprising? Yes and no. Yes, because I expected him to last a few more weeks. No, because Pete probably ran the numbers, and realised that having a poor showing on Super Tuesday would affect his brand and standing amongst Democratic voters and the party alike.

Back in May 2019, I wrote:

“Does Buttigieg have a chance? Yes, but so far it would be unrealistic to expect him to win the nomination. There has been much fanfare in the American media and amongst local commentators that Buttigieg could go all the way, but although I am hopeful to see him do well, I am also aware of just how steep the hill ahead of him actually is.”

I liked Pete. The fact that he was able to build an entire campaign within a year that got him name recognition, popularity, and a pretty decent base of support. His support ranged from 6-15% at any given time in state and national polls, which is quite good considering he was up against political giants like Biden, Sanders and Warren. These three are, in theory, approaching the twilight of their political careers, so the field will clear up in the next few years for another run at the Democratic leadership in 2024 or beyond. Pete was always a long shot, and once it became clear that he could not garner African-American support, or much enthusiasm amongst more left-leaning voters, he was on borrowed time.

One independent political analyst that I follow closely, Peter Zeihan, remarked that Pete Buttigieg’s best chance to do well is in 2032 and beyond. His evaluation was that Pete was young & inexperienced, and not radical enough to attract the kind of voters who actually vote during primaries. Not to mention US politics is highly tribal at the moment. Initially, I disagreed with his evaluation, and thought that Pete could mount a successful run in 2024 or 2028. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised he was right - Pete Buttigieg will be a good politician, but the environment is not conducive to him doing well right now. His time will come.

What he does between now and then will be interesting to watch.

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