Opinion editor's note: The Star Tribune Editorial Board operates separately from the newsroom, and no news editors or reporters were involved in the endorsement process. To learn more about the board, go to startribune.com/opinion.
Minnesotans take voting seriously. Even a hometown candidate should not take for granted their support in a national contest. That said, polls show that U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has strong backing among Minnesotans in her uphill battle to become the Democratic nominee for president.
Klobuchar has earned it. She’s also the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s choice in a crowded field of candidates who hold strong appeal for varying parts of the electorate. In such situations, it’s wise to be guided by values and track record rather than chase some elusive formula for “electability.”
America needs a president who will turn down the temperature on the hatefest that has marked the last few years. Someone who has shown a willingness to work with and listen to all sides; who is tough, pragmatic, compassionate, dogged and who has a clear vision on complex issues. A candidate old enough to have attained the judgment and experience that should be the hallmark of a good president, but young enough to withstand the substantial rigors of the office and still run for a second term.
The Editorial Board has found things to admire about several of the more moderate Democratic candidates. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s deep experience, especially in foreign policy, stands out. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg exhibited strong leadership in a time of crisis in New York and management expertise in building his business. And former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, like Klobuchar, has sometimes been a voice of reason on debate stages.
But Klobuchar is the candidate we know best and trust the most.
Most Minnesotans recognize that she has been there on the issues that matter to them — not just when it’s politically expedient, but day after day, year after year.
In the Senate, she has worked to combat climate change and been part of a bipartisan group that attempted to overcome polarization on comprehensive immigration reform. She has carried bills on gun safety when others shied away. Even as a member of the minority, Klobuchar in 2016 had more bills enacted than any other senator. Being able to work with the other side, to find a middle ground, is going to be critical to winning independents in November and to successfully governing afterward.
The easy path for Klobuchar in this election would have been to emulate Democratic rivals offering free college, Medicare for All, student loan debt forgiveness and other measures with well-hidden but massive price tags.
Klobuchar, to her credit, has resolutely pitched more modest — but infinitely more achievable — proposals. She would build on the now decade-old Affordable Care Act by expanding a public option. That would move this country inexorably to universal health care, but without ending all private insurance and sending shock waves through the $3.6 trillion health care industry.
Klobuchar wouldn’t make four-year colleges free, but would create a federal program to help states eliminate community college tuition. That would provide stable funding that would bolster those colleges and make them more competitive. She would add new funding for historically black colleges and universities and other measures to help low-income students. She won’t promise to wipe out all student loan debt, but she would push for low-cost refinancing that would give relief to many. We hope she’ll eventually recognize that the federal regulatory process is broken and oppose mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
This nation badly needs to end gridlock if it is to make progress on common goals and maintain its leadership role in the world. America has lost ground in the last few years, and other nations increasingly are finding workarounds to the absence of U.S. leadership. Everyone in the Democratic field wants to pursue a more sustainable climate, improve the environment, and provide better health care and education. All of the candidates want a fairer economy that rewards work. But Klobuchar has shown she has the temperament and tenacity needed to realize those goals, even if progress comes over time.
She does it in a way that some Democrats hardly seem to remember — by talking pocketbook issues and avoiding the bitter, cultural disputes that have driven the two parties to extremes. Klobuchar has risen from chief prosecutor for the state’s largest county to a three-term senator by connecting with miners in northern Minnesota, farmers in southern Minnesota, and suburbanites and city dwellers. To win in November, she told the Editorial Board, “we need to build as big a tent and as wide a coalition as possible. That means bringing in the kind of voters I’ve always brought in.”
Klobuchar doesn’t have the personal fortune to do wall-to-wall TV ads and blanket social media. She doesn’t have flashy slogans that promise a utopian future at no cost. What she does have is a solid message and sensible plans that make smart use of taxpayer funds.
Minnesotans, she said, “know me best. They know I’m someone who will bring decency back, work hard, and do it for the right reasons.”
After the last few years, we’d be quite satisfied with that.