Some of us Midwesterners think maybe Amy Klobuchar would do OK as president

Some of us Midwesterners think maybe Amy Klobuchar would do OK as president
© Pool

At the Minnesota State Fair, it’s pretty easy to meet our elected officials and candidates for office. Instead of giving auditorium speeches, they tend to stand around talking to small groups of fairgoers or wandering the streets between the food stands. It’s not hard to catch up with several in one afternoon. At the fair, Senator Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Pollster says current 2020 surveys like picking best picture Oscar before movies come out O’Rourke heading to Wisconsin amid 2020 speculation MORE can regularly be found at her own little venue: a miniature blue house with an open porch located just in front of Bob’s Snake Zoo. People stop by and say hello or pose for a picture. There’s no helicopter with her name on it, no grandiosity; it just seems so normal. And many of us are longing for that right now.

Amy Klobuchar should run for president.

It may not be what she wants to do — who wants to spend months being subjected to vile insults? — but it is what our nation needs. Within a party that fell to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE because it lost its sense of what works in the swath of territory between Pennsylvania and the Dakotas, she is the best hope. In the midterms she not only won in urban areas but in many rural parts of Minnesota.

Klobuchar is strong, she’s smart, and she’s experienced, but the same can be said of many other potential candidates. What distinguishes her from Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union Former Virginia Gov McAuliffe writes book about confronting white nationalism MORE, Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment MORE, and most of her other potential primary opponents is almost ineffable, but it comes down to this: she is not enveloped in a shining cloak of ambition.

And that may be the greatest qualification of all in the face of an incumbent who is little more than that cloak.


Many of her potential opponents certainly boast a harder edge and more direct rebukes to the Trump agenda. Among the women, Harris and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Trump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union Omar: Next president should declare national emergency on climate change ‘on day 1’ MORE are running well to Klobuchar’s left. But like Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Sarah Sanders says she was interviewed by Mueller's office Trump: I believe Obama would have gone to war with North Korea MORE before them, they are prone to drop too easily into the “coastal elite” category in the minds of too many voters.

Klobuchar’s personality and positions line up more directly with the last president who won as a Democrat, Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaIntelligence for the days after President Trump leaves office Barack Obama sends Valentine's message to Michelle: 'She does get down to Motown' For 2020, Democrats are lookin’ for somebody to love MORE. Like Klobuchar, he came across as a reasonable Midwesterner, calm in the face of crossfire and quick to talk about solving problems rather than the demons on the other side of the political line. While Republicans and Fox News were quick to describe him as an extremist, the description never really fit. Even his hallmark achievement, the Affordable Care Act, was a moderate reform whose structure was defined within the Heritage Foundation and test-run by Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump tweets video mocking Dems not cheering during State of the Union For 2020, Democrats are lookin’ for somebody to love Trump religious adviser calls anti-Trump evangelicals 'spineless morons' MORE as governor of Massachusetts.

That kind of low-drama reasonableness is back in style, a backlash to the backlash. A key lesson of the midterm elections is that most of the Democrats who succeeded won through pragmatic discussion of issues like health care rather than promises of broad systemic change. 2016 was a “change” election; the next one will be about a return to normalcy after the exhausting roller-coaster ride that has been the Trump era, leaving us longing for competence and civility. Democrats failed in 2016 because they fought the last war. They should not make that mistake again.

The image many Americans have of Klobuchar is an emblematic one: they recall her exchange with Justice Brett Kavanaugh at the dramatic second phase of his confirmation hearing. Kavanaugh approached the exchange in full Trump mode. When Klobuchar asked him if he ever drank so much that he “didn't remember what happened the night before or part of what happened." Kavanaugh responded by belligerently throwing the question back at her: “I don't know, have you?"

America cringed, but Klobuchar did not. Like the prosecutor she once was, she simply restated the question and forged on. After a break, Kavanaugh apologized, which is a rare event with Trump and his followers.

While in that moment Kavanaugh was really only a Junior Varsity Trump, it was a window into how Klobuchar would react to the flurry of bravado and put-downs the Democratic challenger will inevitably face. And for those of us who are looking for hope, it was thrilling. Not just for the steely determination, but for the restraint; Senator Klobuchar maintained her dignity, won the exchange, but did not respond in kind.

If nothing else, a Klobuchar presidency would bring us four to eight years of Rachel Dratch playing her on Saturday Night Live. And if Americans can forge a bipartisan consensus on the value of anything, it should be that.

Mark Osler is the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, Minn.