No one would plan a presidential kickoff in a snowstorm, but in the case of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who will run as a politician with “grit” as she described herself from the heartland of America, the grace with which she and other Minnesota politicians handled the infamous Minnesota winter conditions could not have been more helpful to her presidential chances.
The contrast with a deceitful president, a man who inherited wealth and avoids physical challenges (whether it was the war in Vietnam or a rainy day at a World War I cemetery), could not have been more stark. Klobuchar stood without a tent, an umbrella — or even a hat. “I don’t come from money” was the perfect line for someone running as a proudly middle-class American — with just the right amount of pride and defiance. (“I have family. I have friends. I have neighbors,” she continued. “I have all of you who are willing to come out in the middle of the winter, all of you who took the time to watch us today, all of you who are willing to stand up and say people matter.”) She vowed, “I promise you this: As your president, I will look you in the eye. I will tell you what I think. I will focus on getting things done. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. And no matter what, I’ll lead from the heart.” It evoked Jimmy Carter’s promise after Watergate that he would never lie to the American people.
The weather certainly helped drive home the impression that she is the grounded-in-reality, hardworking gal who sees challenges as opportunities. “Let’s stop seeing those obstacles e.g., technological change as obstacles on our path. Let’s see those obstacles as our path,” she said, pointing out that the weather was just such an example.
She also effectively drove home a theme of “community” — sprinkling the speech with rather compelling anecdotes, the most compelling being the Interstate 35W bridge collapse that riveted the country in 2007:
“They saw it in the off-duty firefighter who dove into the murky water, over and over again, looking for survivors among dozens of trucks and cars.
“They saw it in the story of Paul Eickstadt, the semi-truck driver, who sacrificed his own life by veering off the road to save a school bus full of kids.
“They saw it in the school staff member, Jeremy Hernandez, who rescued each and every kid on that miracle school bus as it hung precariously next to a guardrail after plummeting 30 feet.
“Later, we worked across the aisle to get the federal funding and we rebuilt that I-35W bridge — in just over a year.
“That’s community. That’s a shared story. That’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”
She accomplished three other critical tasks on her announcement day.
First, she made online privacy a top issue — something no other candidate has yet done and that is the kind of real-life concern voters have. And she made it sound as if she knew what she was talking about. (“We need to put some digital rules of the road into law when it comes to privacy. For too long the big tech companies have been telling you ‘Don’t worry! We’ve got your back!’ while your identities are being stolen and your data is mined.”)
Second, she elevated a health care issue for which she can claim ownership and that sidesteps the tiresome (already) semantics of Medicare-for-all. “We are teaming up to pass meaningful legislation to bring in competitive safe drugs from other countries to stop Big Pharma’s practice of paying off generic companies to keep their products off the market,” she said. “We’re going to harness the negotiating power of 43 million seniors — that’s a lot of negotiating power — and lift the ban on negotiating cheaper drug prices under Medicare.”
Third, with a pitch-perfect answer, she brushed aside news reports painting her as the boss from hell. “Yes, I can be tough, and yes, I can push people,” Klobuchar told the press. “I have high expectations for myself, I have high expectations for the people that work for me, but I have high expectations for this country.” She continued: “In the end, there are so many great stories of our staff that have been with me for years.” That’s what Klobuchar would call treating an obstacle as her path.
Klobuchar enters a crowded field with many better-known and better-funded candidates. However, she showed the kind of tenacity and you-see-what-you-get quality an underdog candidate needs to win over Iowa residents one living room at a time and win New Hampshire voters one Granite State town hall at a time.
If nothing else, she proved Sunday not to underestimate her toughness.