“My best judgment of America’s need is to steady down, to get squarely on our feet, to make sure of the right path. ... Let us stop to consider that tranquility at home is more precious than peace abroad, and that both our good fortune and our eminence are dependent on the normal forward stride of all the American people.”
— Warren G. Harding, 1920
In the presidential election that took place 100 years ago, the winning candidate ran on a slogan that might have been soporific: “Return to normalcy.” But for a country that had just endured the traumas of World War I, labor strife, a Red Scare and race riots, it promised a welcome respite. Harding got 60% of the popular vote.
Americans often gravitate to the opposite of what they have. Harding was nothing like his predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, whose visionary ambitions included remaking the entire world order. George W. Bush promised to “restore honor and dignity to the White House,” an allusion to Bill Clinton’s lechery.
Barack Obama, a former law school professor with a gift for inspiring oratory, was a departure from the folksy, inarticulate scion of a famous Texas political family.
Donald Trump, a thin-skinned narcissist with the vocabulary and impulse control of a 10-year-old, could hardly be more different from Obama. If Americans are weary of the turmoil that Trump has made the organizing principle of his presidency, they may be looking for a president they can occasionally forget about.
In that case, Democratic voters would do well to take a long look at Amy Klobuchar, whose restrained policies and unflappable manner are dull only in the best sense of the word. The qualities that make it hard for her to stand out in a crowded debate might endear her to anyone suffering from a four-year spell of jangled nerves.
Klobuchar is in her third term as a senator, and as Democratic members go, she leans toward the center. The website GovTrack reported that in 2018, 33 of the 47 Democratic senators were more liberal than she is.
She favors expansion of health insurance coverage but opposes Medicare for All. She has proposed to make community college tuition-free but says bluntly, “I am not for free four-year college for all.”
Klobuchar is a former county prosecutor who had the support of the police union but also won praise from the Innocence Project for pushing to videotape interrogations and reform eyewitness identification procedures. Her views on military action abroad — for leaving Afghanistan, but also for creating a no-fly zone in Syria — are down the middle.
In her 2018 race, she carried 42 counties that had gone for Trump. She’s well-positioned to appeal to the 35% of Americans who call themselves moderates.
The same can’t be said of her chief rivals. Bernie Sanders is at the far the left edge of the Democratic Party, proudly identifying himself as a socialist — a label that is a deal-breaker for many Americans.
Elizabeth Warren insists she is “a capitalist to my bones,” but the website Progressive Punch gives her a lifetime score higher than Sanders’. Her spending plans, PolitiFact reports, would cost $7 trillion over a decade — not counting Medicare for All, which would probably exceed $30 trillion.
Like Sanders, Warren promises major changes, and she uses the word “fight” in every other sentence. But drastic measures and militant rhetoric are not the ideal prescription for an electorate depleted by the incumbent’s extreme policies and nasty tweets.
Joe Biden is the most popular centrist so far, but he’s dangerously prone to verbal gaffes. More worrisome is that come Inauguration Day, he’ll be 78 years old. Trump, the oldest person ever to become president, was a mere 70.
One rival for the middle Democratic lane is Pete Buttigieg, 37, who would be the youngest president ever — and one of the least experienced. Then there is his sexual orientation. A Morning Consult/Politico poll found that only 26% of Americans think their neighbors are ready for a gay president.
Klobuchar would be the first female president, but Hillary Clinton already proved that a woman can win the popular vote. Klobuchar’s virtues are precisely the ones that Trump utterly lacks.
Anyone who wants four more years of needless bedlam in the White House will vote to keep the clown car. Klobuchar is the Honda Accord of the field: reliable, practical, affordable — and unlikely to drive you into a ditch.