White supremacy is the biggest threat to the “American experiment” of pluralistic democracy, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg said Thursday.
“White supremacy is the force that has come nearest to ending the American project,” Buttigieg told the Globe’s editorial board. “If you look at the Civil War, the thing that came nearest to just ending all of this was white supremacy. I think we might live to see what wins: America or white supremacy. And that is at stake in everything from our education to our homeland security policies to just the things that the American president says and doesn’t say.”
The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., also said that current levels of income inequality in the nation aren’t sustainable.
“We’re up to about 140 million Americans were either low asset, low wealth, or poor. That can’t continue. Morally, of course, it can’t continue, but also literally can’t continue in that it’s unstable,” said Buttigieg.
In a 90-minute conversation with the editorial board, Buttigieg was asked frequently about his views on racism in America, what he would do about it, and why his surging campaign has so little support from people of color.
He is the current front-runner in Iowa, where white people have made up over 90 percent of the caucus vote. But polls in South Carolina, another early voting state, have found his support among African-Americans is somewhere between zero and 2 percent. Given that they make up over half of the Democratic primary vote there, this is a problem for the 37-year-old’s campaign.
Asked whether he could be the Democratic nominee without the support of voters of color, Buttigieg didn’t directly answer, but said he hopes to eventually earn their support.
“No one should want to win the nomination without voters of color, and I certainly don’t,” said Buttigieg. “And what we’ve seen is that the voters of color who know me best are the most likely to support me.”
One way he tried to address this political problem over the summer was by announcing a “Douglass Plan” aimed at rooting out structural racism by making changes to criminal justice, health care, and housing.
Another idea he brought up with the editorial board came from his education plan. Instead of just focusing on racial inequities within current school districts, he also wants the federal government to look at the demarcation lines of school districts, particularly “breakaway districts” where increasingly affluent, white neighborhoods create their own new districts.
Buttigieg said he would like to require all applications for new school districts to receive pre-approval from the federal government to make sure they aren’t racially motivated. This would be similar to the pre-approval many Southern states had to receive on voting changes from the US Department of Justice following the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Buttigieg also said Thursday that the level of racial and economic inequality were both rising “to the level of a national security vulnerability.”
During the course of the conversation, the Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar also said:
■ The current level of national debt is “touching” a point that is too large, but he is open to increasing government spending to spur economic growth in a recession;
■ Non-four-year forms of higher education like community college should be encouraged more;
■ He backs efforts to protect consumer data online;
■ He would like to limit price increases on prescription drugs to inflation;
■ On foreign policy, he favors “maintaining” the American military presence in South Korea, Germany, and other allied countries, but noted the situation is different for Afghanistan.
After visiting the Globe, Buttigieg headed to campaign events in New Hampshire through Saturday.
James Pindell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics:http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp