Pete Buttigieg, a one-time frontrunner to represent the Democratic Party in the next US election and the first openly gay candidate to successfully launch a major presidential campaign, today dropped out of the race.

It’s big news, and his campaign was notable for a slew of reasons, but this particular article is going to focus on one particular aspect: his embrace of that one Panic! At The Disco song, and they way it’s been repurposed after his decision to step down.

We’ll get to High Hopes in a moment, but first, you should know what powered those hopes. Compared to the campaigns of former Vice President Joe Biden or billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Buttigieg appealed to voters as a fresh face in a crowded field. At just 38 years old, Buttigieg was the first millennial to ever lead a major challenge for the top gig.

His youth came with relative inexperience, too. While former competitors Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders have been significant figures in US politics for decades, Buttigieg counts a stint as mayor of the small Indiana city of South Bend as the pinnacle of his life in public office.

Buttigieg not only proved that a gay candidate could stage a campaign, but could make a serious run to be picked by one of the major parties. In a potential ‘Mayor Pete’ presidency, supporters saw the opportunity for major cultural change.

The tense and hotly-contested Iowa caucus, the first real test of any major campaign’s staying power, ultimately went to Buttigieg – but only just. For a while, it looked like Buttigieg would become the de facto candidate for moderate liberals to support, as opposed to the left-leaning Sanders, who went on to claim New Hampshire and Nevada.

But Sanders’ continual momentum, and Biden’s recent resurgence in South Carolina, pushed Buttigieg to call time on his campaign.

Oh, his campaign also introduced a choreographed dance to Panic! At The Disco’s 2018 hit for supporters to bust out at rallies. It was mocked. Heavily. Now, in the fading light of the Buttigieg campaign, that song has been co-opted by voters who never had high hopes for him in the first place.

If you’re thinking that’s a lot of negativity to hurl at a young candidate whose lived experience is conspicuously absent from US electoral politics, well, you’re not wrong.

While Sanders has gained support with calls to crack down on the excesses of the wealthiest 1% of society, Buttigieg was notable for soliciting donations from billionaires and holding a pricey fundraiser in a so-called “wine cave”. He also drew ire for his past work for consulting firm McKinsey, an organisation known for cost-cutting at large companies. “Cost-cutting” is, of course, a very generous euphemism for lay-offs.

Plus, there was this exchange with the editorial board of the New York Times, where he was directly accused of being involved in the fixing of bread prices across Canada. A niche accusation? For sure, but it was one which stuck.

Some critics believe that kind of sanitised, corporate ethos osmosed into other elements of his campaign, turning off voters looking for a candidate with more progressive credentials.

That tight Iowa caucus we mentioned earlier? Well, he also called that contest for himself, well before it was clear who actually won (and there’s still debate over how that count was handled). There’s more to it than we can fit here, but Buttigieg’s campaign and professional persona was not immediately reconcilable with that bloody dance.

After his decision to drop out of the race, punters have criticised the way he hedged his folksy, mayoral image against his extremely sharp corporate history, and have highlighted his on-stage debates with fellow contender Senator Amy Klobuchar – who, it just so happens, appeared to dislike Buttigieg with more intensity than anyone else on the roster.

So, that’s that. Unless it isn’t, and Buttigieg manages to broker some kind of vice presidential deal with one of the remaining candidates. Someone, somewhere, is high hoping for that.

Image: George Frey / Getty Images