The Senator Next Door is finally getting some momentum. Granted, it’s not the “Big Mo” that candidates dream will propel them to the top and secure their spot there. But it is, appropriately enough, moderate mo’ for U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose case for the presidency rests on an unflinching commitment to pragmatic ideas with bipartisan appeal.
In the face of a Democratic lineup where all the energy seems to be on the leftward end of the spectrum, Klobuchar has had difficulty getting a purchase. Ideas that would have seemed progressive a few years ago — a public option on health care, universal background checks and “red flag” laws to curb gun violence, refinancing of student loan debt — have been overtaken by Medicare for All, by gun control proposals ranging up to outright confiscation, and by free college.
Champions of such supersized ideas may yet win the day among Democratic primary voters. But Klobuchar is a serious candidate and a solid Democrat whose more measured — and perhaps more doable — policy approaches deserve stronger consideration than they’ve received to date.
The Star Tribune Editorial Board is far from making an endorsement in the Democratic contest. But as we join voters in taking the measure of candidates, we would like to see a more thorough airing of ideas that at least have a chance of winning over disaffected independents and Republicans searching desperately for an alternative to a second term for a president who may well be heading into a re-election bid marred by House impeachment.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who entered the race just a couple of months after Klobuchar, carried the moderate banner for a time as front-runner. But as firebrand progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren has gained ground, Biden has been faltering.
Not until last week’s debate did moderates come punching back, led by Klobuchar and, curiously, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who appears to have ascertained that there is more room in the moderate “lane” and is pivoting accordingly. The two pushed on the practicality of Warren-endorsed proposals such as Medicare for All, including the potential price tags. That kind of pressure-testing is vital to ensuring that the ultimate nominee is ready for what is bound to be one of the roughest presidential races in modern history.
In contrast to Buttigieg, Klobuchar has firsthand experience navigating Washington’s resistance to change. “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something you can actually get done,” Klobuchar said during the give-and-take over health care. “And we can get this public option done.”
This election cycle’s debate qualification thresholds are particularly unforgiving, with strict benchmarks for number of donors and poll standings that candidates must meet to get on stage. Klobuchar has not yet qualified for the Nov. 20 debate, even though businessmen Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer have, despite never having held elective office.
We hope the rest of the country will get a chance to see the candidate Minnesotans have sent to the Senate three times by overwhelming margins. A genial pragmatist, Klobuchar works with all sides. But as her colleagues know, the hardened prosecutor with blade-sharp questions and logic can emerge at a moment’s notice.
A testament to her bipartisan ties was in evidence on Friday, when she was joined in Iowa by Andy McKean, who until recently had been that state’s longest-serving Republican legislator. McKean walked away from 40 years in the Republican Party, citing President Donald Trump as the primary reason. As part of Klobuchar’s “For All of America” bus tour, McKean told a crowd in Cedar Rapids that she offered “common-sense solutions to our problems that bring people together and not divide them.”
It may not be the flashiest message on the trail, but it is one that deserves to be heard and carefully weighed at a time when polarization threatens to crack this country apart.