There are many metrics for what makes a good president, but being able to deliver a speech in falling snow and mid-teen temperatures without hat or gloves for nearly a half hour isn’t one of them.
Fortunately for Americans, there’s more to Amy Klobuchar’s candidacy than Sunday’s wintry scene on the shore of the Mississippi River. The Minnesota Democrat is the real deal.
Entering a crowded field of presidential aspirants, Sen. Klobuchar is not yet a front-runner. Much will transpire over the next 600 days in what is likely to be the most brutally fought and tediously analyzed presidential election since - what? - 2016.
Back in November I suggested that two Democrats have the best shot at winning the presidency: California’s freshman Sen. Kamala Harris, and Minnesota’s three-term veteran Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Both women have since formally declared their candidacies and each has gotten off to a smooth start. I’m most impressed by Klobuchar.
Face it, the process of picking a president drags on for too long. Incessant polling is pointless. Cable-TV’s obsession with daily minutiae is boring. And, yes, early analysis by thumb-sucking opinion writers is often underwhelming.
But, and it’s a big but, this campaign is different. Donald Trump rewrote the rules in 2016 and his victory shocked the nation. The Trump presidency is an embarrassment; worse, it is dangerous. To say that 2020 might be the most important election of our lives is not an exaggeration.
So, it’s vital that politicians, pundits and the public engage right now.
Amy Klobuchar is a progressive, but drifts closer to the center of liberal politics than, say, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and, to a slightly lesser degree, Kamala Harris. For example, Klobuchar favors repairing the Affordable Care Act and lowering the prices of prescription drugs, but stops short of “Medicare for all.” She acknowledges the need for immigration reform, but doesn’t advocate abolishing I.C.E. as some progressives have.
Klobuchar seeks to aggressively combat climate change, favors automatic voter registration when people turn 18, and demands mandatory background checks and other measures for tighter gun control.
Candidates with more extreme positions tend to be effective in primaries but not so much in the general election. Democrats would have to go back to 1972, when George McGovern was the nominee, to find a candidate with positions significantly left of center. McGovern won only Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., and lost in the Electoral College 520-17.
If ever there was an election in which Democrats need to rally, early, around a somewhat more centrist candidate, this is it. The singular goal should be retaking the White House.
One negative that has already surfaced in Klobuchar’s campaign is the senator’s demanding, at times harsh, treatment of her staff. This troubles me, as it should all voters.
Klobuchar concedes that she has been tough. Several reporters, including CNN’s Dana Bash, who is well connected on Capitol Hill, note that women in elected office often feel the need to push their employees - and themselves - harder than their male counterparts do. Bash also asks, as many observers have, if a male candidate would be subjected to the same type of scrutiny that Sen. Klobuchar has.
I don’t think this will ultimately be a barrier for Klobuchar. She’s positioning herself as a Midwesterner with “grit.” I like grit, but I don’t like a public persona that is contradicted by behavior in private - so I hope we’ve already heard all there is to hear about Klobuchar’s “baggage.”
The perfect Democrat to defeat Donald Trump is a center-left, middle-aged, limited-baggage, experienced woman from Mid-America. Like it or not, age and sex are important this time around. The nation needs a somewhat younger president and it needs to break the glass ceiling once and for all.
Lou Grant, the fictional news director, once said to Minnesota up-and-comer Mary Richards: “Mary, you’ve got spunk.”
Then, he added, “And I hate spunk.”
Well, Minnesotan Amy Klobuchar has spunk. And it says here that Americans are going to like it.
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker.