Sen. Amy Klobuchar did the most Minnesota thing ever when she announced her presidential run Feb. 10, 2019, in the midst of a snowstorm. Comically enduring the elements, Klobuchar explained in her presidential bid announcement that she chose to make her bold appeal to the American people alongside the Mississippi River because the rivers in America connect different states, representing the linkage of American stories and values. That was fitting, as part of Klobuchar’s appeal was that she was not a particularly divisive candidate. She was able to make those inroads, piquing the interests of both Democrats and Republicans alike.
Frankly, Klobuchar may have been the Democrats’ best hope, as she was neither polarizing or weighed down by excessive baggage. Klobuchar, who dropped out of the presidential race March 2, was an option for anyone who did not want a democratic socialist who has previously displayed admiration for leftist dictators. For me, Klobuchar had the fewest recognized faults as a candidate.
Baggage, or the lack thereof, should have been our foremost consideration when assessing who would have had the best chance in the 2020 U.S. presidential election against President Donald Trump. In the 2016 election cycle, Trump capitalized on intraparty criticisms of the former Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Trump strategically used Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, her sickness during her campaign trail and her ties to Wall Street to taint her image. Klobuchar was perhaps the Democrat’s most electable nominee choice. Despite a lengthy record in the Senate, the main attack against her was that she held high expectations of her staff: she once scolded a staff member for misplacing a fork.
Campaign trail outbursts are weak dirt in the grand scheme of politics, especially compared to detrimental smears Trump can, and already has, launched against other Democrats. The monikers “Crazy Bernie,” dismissing Sen. Bernie Sanders as a crazed socialist, or “Pocahontas,” belittling Sen. Elizabeth Warren for misleadingly claiming minority status, should not be considered inconsequential to Democrats. Disparaging nicknames can have a significant impact because their associations stick: the nickname “Crooked Hillary” certainly helped alter voters’ perceptions. Pushing forward a less controversial Democratic nominee would have been, and still remains, most favorable.
Moreover, staff treatment is not exactly something Trump could have pretended to assume superiority on, and some conservatives have actually praised Klobuchar for having the steely touch an effective leader may need. Having a future Democratic president with bipartisan appeal could have helped in the effort to enact progressive change while still working within the framework of a Republican majority Senate. Come election time, Republicans unsupportive of Trump may have been more likely to support a candidate perceived as moderate than, say, a Sanders type.
Unfortunately, despite her less controversial history and her consistently strong performances in debates, Klobuchar’s downfall was ultimately her lack of youth support. Generally, young people are not enthused by perceived moderates, and young people have been singled out as the reason Sanders is the current frontrunner. So it makes sense that Klobuchar was polling lowest with the under 30 age demographic — she was viewed as less exciting.
That’s obviously frustrating to hear as a first-year in college that found the prospect of her presidency exciting. I think she’s a badass — and an exceedingly accomplished senator. Despite the fact that Warren is known for being a policy guru, Klobuchar was the candidate that had the most bills of any current senator become laws. Klobuchar also successfully introduced bills that combat human trafficking and safeguard the environment. It is not so far-fetched to think that the most productive Democratic senator might have made for the most effective president.
Klobuchar also has an impressive electoral history, and a history of winning over swing voters that Democrats will ultimately need after the primaries, according to analysts. In Minnesota, she has claimed victory in her last three Senate races by over 20 percentage points. Klobuchar has proved she can win in a purple state if given the chance.
Besides her electability, she is also very progressive: she’s pro-choice and in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15. Her health care plan included first expanding Medicaid and Medicare so more Americans are covered; that realistic aim would have been more plausible to pass in Congress than Medicare-for-all. Sanders (who largely runs on Medicare-for-all) has been criticized as having a fuzzy funding strategy. The realities of that financing may not be so popular to campaign on.
While Klobuchar may not have lavished those kinds of promises — free health care and free college — she still had exceedingly liberal ideals. It is commendable that she remained firm in her honest realism. Promising to cancel all student loan debt and enact universal health care within the next presidential term is not realistic, especially within a Republican-majority Senate. Klobuchar did not ignore those realities. At the moment, former Vice President Joe Biden, I would argue, represents the best remaining candidate for realism and moderation.
Maybe if young people had allowed themselves to feel a little more Klo-mentum, there would have been hope for Klobuchar’s presidency. The Minnesota senator who gets the job done without worrying large segments of the American population was a missed opportunity for Democrats.
Angela Guglielmino is an undeclared first year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.