Who is Amy Klobuchar?
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — The scene in many ways resembled a surprise party for an older relative. Outside the otherwise nondescript home, cars lined the street, some going back so far that it made people walk quite a bit, testing their loyalty. Inside, the energy was one of a quiet fervor. Huddled in a warm room adjacent to the door, lined with benches and whatever chairs could be found, family and friends alike conversed in innocuous, if banal, pleasantries. The furniture had been pushed to the side, but what remained in full view were the pictures of kids and parents that lined the wall, reminding us, despite the gentle hum of energy only the midwest could muster, that this was still someone’s home.
When the guest of honor arrived, she did so in equally midwest fashion, her cynical sense of self-deprecating humor betrayed by an easy laugh and surprised smile. Her entrance was met by a cheer and rush to the front to share greetings, ask questions, and simply say hello. She, despite her understated demeanor, was undeniably the center of attention, the one in question to celebrate.
Amy Klobuchar, according to anywhere between 3-5 percent of Iowans, is in the running to be president. And like many, she has the background on paper. A well-liked senator from an anodyne state, Klobuchar’s strong legislative background, which has seen her lead the senate in bills passed, has made her a popular name among moderate democrats. Despite initial questions over staff treatment and turnover, her “Minnesota Nice” rallying cry seems to have proven an effective vessel by which to communicate and strike a chord with voters just sick of all the noise. including the nearly 50 attendees (not including three wandering dogs), packed shoulder to shoulder to hear her case.
And what is her case, exactly? It’s all still a little unclear. Klobuchar is a self-described moderate, and as a result, her tempered, cautious decisions on policy bleed into her ambition. Her intentions are clear: to restore dignity to the office and use it to work for the middle-class American worker she argues Donald Trump lied to and betrayed. But how she will actually go about achieving these goals is much foggier. In listening to her describe how many laws she’s passed and sponsored, how many compromises she’s made, one can’t help but wonder why she would abandon her talent for legislative dealmaking to chase an office notorious for its ability to achieve only the opposite. Her positions, like her history with legislation, are safe, risky-averse, and unexceptionable. As others have pointed out, they have advanced in the Senate the same way she has, by not bothering anyone or inviting controversy over specific viewpoints.
That’s not to say her candidacy is to be entirely undersold. In fact, perhaps what’s most interesting about the Senator is how she commands a room without dominating it. Requesting someone’s living room for the evening to share why you should be the leader of the country is a big ask, but also one Klobuchar seemed keenly aware of, and as such, delivered her message in an understated and respectful way. A far cry from the rallies and loud, theatrical performances in arenas, Klobuchar seemed to be most at home in someone else’s, answering questions and addressing people as if they were family.
Taking questions and covering topics on everything from healthcare to oil subsidies, the question quickly revealed itself to be not whether Amy Klobuchar has the capability, but whether she will finally use that which she has spent a lifetime honing and decide to set herself apart.