After the sixth Democratic Debate last night, the talk of the town is the heated moments between Pete Buttigieg and just about everyone else. Among these moments, Amy Klobuchar and Buttigieg sparred over whether his political experience gap and age makes him as qualified as the others on stage.
But, the real heated spar that kept the fires burning for the rest of the debate came from Elizabeth Warren, who seized a moment made just for her: the millionaire debate. When Warren began going off on campaign fundraising transparency and millionaires, Buttigieg became her unwitting target. Warren, whose campaign is run on grassroots donations and not taking big corporate money, took out the elusive Wine Cave Card.
“The mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave full of crystals and served $900-a-bottle wine,” Senator Warren said, referring to the lavish events that Buttigieg hosts for his very rich supporters. “He had promised that every fundraiser he did would be open door and this one would be closed door.”
And, sealing the nail in the, well, wine cave, Warren came for Buttigieg by saying that “billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.” That’s likely the moment when we all started scouring the internet to find out what the hell a wine cave is (and how we build one?).
Warren’s reference, of course, was to a fundraiser that Buttigieg held in Napa Valley in December at the Hall Rutherford wine caves. According to the Associated Press, the wine cave is owned by a billionaire couple and boasts a “chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals, an onyx banquet table to reflect its luminescence and bottles of cabernet sauvignon that sell for as much as $900.” Truly, we must be living in a bizarre simulation, no? Needless to say, the stand-out moment between Warren and Buttigieg had everyone up in arms.
Even offstage, candidates who were not present like Cory Booker got in the ring to make jokes about Buttigieg and the wine cave. “If I had a cave in my house, I’d fill it with something better than wine,” Booker said, affirming his nerd status by adding that he’d likely make it into a sci-fi cave for Star Trek marathons. (Why not both wine and Star Trek? But definitely no billionaires.)
After the commentary from Warren, the billionaire-befriending candidate tried to steer the conversation away from his wealthy donors and back to discussions of personal wealth. Bringing out the big guns of the night, Buttigieg clapped back saying, “You know, according to Forbes magazine, I’m literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire.”
While he may have been trying to reference the net worths of other candidates including Warren, the argument didn’t quite stick. As the child of two professors, Buttigieg actually grew up with more money than most of the other candidates on stage — and will likely amass the same if not more wealth by their ages.
Either way, by the end of the night, the debate stage felt more like a whine cave. Still, the conversation about who gets to have political access is an important one, and was a key moment for Warren to champion the heart of her campaign and set herself apart.
Now, the discourse is dripping on social media, with wine cave memes popping up left and right — and Buttigieg seems so embarrassed following the debate he may just want to hide out in it for a while.