With the 2019 Virginia elections in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2020, including the Democratic campaigns for president. So far, Cindy and I have looked at Michael Bloomberg and Kamala Harris. Today, we’ll focus on the pros and cons of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s campaign.
Before we get to a more detailed discussion of Klobuchar’s background, positions on the issues, let’s start with the core argument for Klobuchar, as laid out in this recent NY Times article, which says that Klobuchar’s “plain-spoken politics is drawing greater attention” as “the moderate wing of the party reasserts itself in the primary campaign.” In sum, the article boils down the argument for Klobuchar being the 2020 Democratic nominee as follows:
She’s a Midwestern woman from a liberal state, allowing her to argue that she can both win in a battleground region and champion progressive values. She touts her long legislative record in the Senate, casting herself as a can-do, results-driven legislator. And, he noted, she’s only 59.
Ms. Klobuchar attributes her new momentum to frugality, consistency and a move by voters toward more moderate candidates. She points to her fluency in policy issues and her early and vocal opposition to proposals like free college and Medicare for all.
But the core of her argument remains her contention that she is the most equipped to defeat President Trump, as a Midwestern senator who won counties that supported him. On the campaign trail, she cites recent Democratic victories in Kentucky and Louisiana as signs that the party can win in red states with the right message — and messenger.
So basically, the case for Klobuchar, in addition to her experience, comes down to general election electability to a significant degree – the “progressive who can win,” as the slogan goes. Which is important, obviously, as defeating Trump is basically existential for our democracy, for the future of a livable planet, etc. It’s also, as it turns out, what the majority of voters want: 60% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents prefer “a candidate who has the best chance of beating Donald Trump, but who does not agree with you on almost all of the issues you care about” vs. 36% prefer someone “who agrees with you on almost all of the issues you care about but does not have the best chance of beating Donald Trump.”
With that intro, see below the video for some background on Klobuchar, her positions on the issues, and some pros and cons for her candidacy.
First off, since this is a Virginia-focused blog, it’s worth noting that Klobuchar spoke – along with Mayor Pete Buttigieg – at the Democratic Party of Virginia’s 2019 Blue Commonwealth Gala. At that dinner, Sen. Tim Kaine said of his colleague, Sen. Klobuchar:
“[She] is one of my best friends in the Senate. She’s got just about the highest IQ of anybody on the Democratic side, which means she’s got just about the highest IQ of anybody in the Senate. She is hard working and fearless and she’s very, very funny. We got a lot of people in the Senate who act funny, and only a few people who really are funny, and Amy Klobuchar is really funny.”
Also worth noting is that Klobuchar campaigned for Virginia Democrats in the days leading up to the 11/5 elections, as did numerous other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, and we appreciate it!
With that, here are some “pros,” “cons” and “mixed” for Klobuchar’s 2020 candidacy – starting with the positive stuff.
- According to Sen. Kaine, as noted above, Klobuchar’s super smart and has a great sense of humor. Both of which are good things to have in politics, and certainly in a presidential campaign or the White House.
- She’s relatively young, at 59 years old, with her “first foray into politics c[oming] after she gave birth and was forced to leave the hospital 24 hours later, a situation exacerbated by the fact that Klobuchar’s daughter, Abigail, was born with a disorder that prevented her from swallowing. The experience led Klobuchar to appear before the Minnesota State Legislature, advocating for a bill that would guarantee new mothers a 48-hour hospital stay. Minnesota passed the bill, and President Clinton later made the policy federal law.“
- Klobuchar has never lost an election: “elected Hennepin County attorney in 1998 and reelected in 2002 with no opposition,” then trounced Republican Mark Kennedy by 20 points (58%-38%) to become the first woman elected U.S. Senator from Minnesota. Sen. Klobuchar was overwhelmingly reelected in 2012 (65.2%-30.6%) and in 2018 (60.3%-36.2%), easily keeping her undefeated streak going. Klobuchar’s electoral success in Minnesota, which Hillary Clinton won by just 1.5 points over Donald Trump in 2016, is very impressive, and a major argument for Klobuchar’s “electability” in 2020.
- Regarding the alleged mistreatment of her staff (see below in the “negatives”), “more than 60 former staffers have come to her defense,” writing that “Klobuchar [was] a boss who was ‘there for [staffers] after a loss in the family,’ and someone who ‘pushed [them] to be better professionals and public servants’.”
- Klobuchar has certainly been productive in the U.S. Senate: According to GovTrack, Klobuchar passed more legislation than any other senator by the end of the 114th Congress in late 2016. According to Congress.gov, as of December 16, 2018, she had sponsored or co-sponsored 111 pieces of legislation that became law.”
- Klobuchar gets a “B” grade from “Progressive Punch” in terms of her voting record (“Progressive Score”) vs. her “State Tilt.” Klobuchar has voted with Trump just 4.5% of the time in this Congress, which is far less than predicted by her state’s political tilt.
- On the issues, Klobuchar’s “political positions have generally been in line with modern American liberalism. She is pro-choice on abortion, supports LGBT rights and Obamacare, and was critical of the Iraq War.” And, according to Project Vote Smart, Klobuchar has mostly strong progressive scores on a wide variety of issue areas.
OK, now how about some negatives?
- On the climate crisis, Klobuchar would obviously be a huge improvement over Trump, but compared to her fellow Democratic 2020 candidates, she’s…”meh,” with a C+ grade, putting her below several of her main rivals – and tied with Andrew Yang. According to Greenpeace: “Sen. Klobuchar’s climate plan sets a goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, but lacks the necessary level of detail and ambition to show she would be a real champion for transformative climate action. She has committed to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and end drilling on public lands. She supports protecting workers and communities in the transition away from fossil fuels, and has a strong plan to secure resiliency for communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. She co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution — but has called it ‘aspirational’ — and has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge.”
- Probably the most negative stories about Klobuchar have revolved around how she’s treated her staff. For instance, see Amy Klobuchar defends her staff treatment, says toughness needed when dealing with Putin and Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s Mistreatment Of Staff Scared Off Candidates To Manage Her Presidential Bid (which writes, “some former Klobuchar staffers, all of whom spoke to HuffPost on condition of anonymity, describe Klobuchar as habitually demeaning and prone to bursts of cruelty that make it difficult to work in her office for long”). Not good, but also see above for some positive comments from 60 former staffers.
Finally, here are a few items that are kind of “mixed” – not definitively positive or negative.
- If you are a fan of “Medicare for All” (and personally, I lean heavily towards building on “Obamacare” by adding a robust public option, such as Sen. Tim Kaine’s “Medicare X” plan), you probably won’t be happy with Klobuchar’s support for a public option and for “build[ing] on Obamacare.” On the other hand, if you agree with the public option approach, then Klobuchar’s position on this issue should be a positive for you.
- More broadly, Klobuchar is considered a relative “moderate” Democrat. On this one, it really comes down to your political ideology, as well as you “theory of the case” regarding whether a more “moderate” Democrat might be better in the general election against Trump, or whether you prefer a full-blooded progressive.
- Klobuchar has raised enough money and done well enough in the polling to make the Democratic debates, but she hasn’t yet been able to break out of the low single digits…
So what do you think of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s candidacy for President in 2020?
- Infrastructure: Introduced a $1 trillion policy rollout in March that would use federal funds and tax subsidies to update U.S. infrastructure…
- Mental health: Released a $100 billion plan to combat mental health problems and substance abuse over the next decade, focused on prevention, treatment and recovery. She wants a chunk of the money to come from opioid manufacturers for their role in the national epidemic…
- Criminal justice: Supported the bipartisan First Step Act, a reform of the federal prison system, in the Senate.
- Drug pricing: Urged the FTC to crack down on “pay-for-delay” pharmaceutical deals.
- Sexual harassment: Successfully pushed for legislation mandating sexual harassment training in the Senate.
- Data privacy: Sponsored a bill that proposed regulations for Facebook’s data practices. She was the lead sponsor of legislation that would regulate online political ads.
- Opioids: Co-sponsored a bill that would impose a one-cent tax for each milligram of opioids in a pain pill. The funds for the tax would be used for substance abuse treatment.
- Immigration: Wants legislative reform to protect DACA and TPS recipients.
- Gun control: Wants universal background checks, to close gun show loopholes and to ban assault weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.
- Education: Released a plan to increase federal funding for public schools if a school’s state:
- Increases teacher pay.
- Recommends how to improve school services for working families.
- Prioritizes “workforce readiness” in high school curriculums.
- Creates a way for federal funds to be used for construction and repairs in school buildings.
Agriculture: Wants to raise the debt cap on farm bankruptcies and increase access to federal loan programs.