A photo of Amy Klobuchar

Gage Skidmore/ CC 2.0


Gage Skidmore/ CC 2.0

Amy Klobuchar Is the Centrist Ideal. So Why Is Biden In the Lead?

Joe Biden is a gaffe machine. Pete Buttigieg lacks experience. But the veteran Minnesota senator has a proven track record. Guess why she’s lagging behind them.

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If Amy Klobuchar had a penis, she would be a frontrunner.

One of the most common hot takes this primary season, particularly among my fellow feminists, has been the whole “Back in 2016, Bernie Sanders voters told us they would vote for a woman if that woman was Elizabeth Warren, or someone like her. But lo and behold! Now that she is running, they’re sticking with Bernie!” spiel.

Many see this as “proof” that Sanders voters never intended to pull the lever for a woman. I do not. I think it is entirely possible for someone to feel that their views are more aligned with Warren’s than Clinton’s, but still prefer Sanders’s platform. It is entirely plausible to me that one might prefer one or the other for reasons other than their respective genders.

Also, I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but there are a number of other penises running for office.

Where I do, however, see sexism is among the moderate candidates.

In this still very crowded primary, you’ve got your progressive/socialists, i.e., Warren and Sanders; the more liberal Democratic like Cory Booker, Julian Castro, and Kamala Harris before she dropped out; your … not especially classifiable candidates, such as Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, and Marianne Williamson. And then you’ve got what I like to call the “Make Brunch Great Again” candidates: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, the billionaire twins, and whichever errant Tim Ryans are still in the running. You know, the centristy ones who hope to appeal to Republicans, the ones who promise to return everything to normal so people can get back to ignoring politics and enjoying brunch.

If any of these groupings has a sexism problem, it’s the latter. There is significantly less daylight among the platforms of Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar than there is between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Yet Klobuchar has yet to gain any kind of foothold. Gee, why is that?

Back in October, Joe Biden was slipping a little due to a few “gaffes” here and there. Elizabeth Warren was starting to beat him in more than a few polls, making more than a few pundits more than a little anxious. Thus, the October debates became both an opportunity for the other candidates to go after her and a search for “America’s Next Top Joe Biden” among Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, and Amy Klobuchar.

Wow, I thought to myself during the debates and in the post-debate interviews, they are really trying hard to make Amy Klobuchar happen.

Alas, it did not work. The clear winner of that contest, the one who ended up catching on, was Buttigieg, who swiftly became a frontrunner, dazzling all of America with his jaunty coordinated dances. Meanwhile, Klobuchar has barely been able to rustle up a 5,000-word “She’s good, but is she likable?” meditation in Politico.

Amy Klobuchar is not my candidate. I want health care and I don’t have the same trust that it’s strategically better to punch left and bow right in the hopes of reeling in a bunch of Republicans. As a rule, I tend not to trust Republicans to do anything that is not terrible.

But if I were a moderate, or if I were someone who truly believed that the only chance we had at beating Trump was by nominating a generally inoffensive centrist who could appeal to the “reasonable” Republicans, she would be. Not because she’s a woman and I’m a feminist, but because she actually is the ideal candidate for that.

Klobuchar has essentially the same platform and pitch as both Buttigieg and Biden. But, bonus: She comes without their drawbacks.

For people concerned about the age of either of those candidates, at 59, Klobuchar is smack dab in the middle. She has vastly more experience than Buttigieg, and yet doesn’t have Biden’s baggage concerning things like bussing, lunches with segregationists, Anita Hill, and votes for NAFTA and the Iraq War. She also doesn’t have his propensity for gaffes and outbursts. There are no uncomfortable videos of her getting all “fine, don’t vote for me then!” at people questioning her platform.

Moreover, she has an actual documented history of winning in red districts—including in Michele Bachmann’s district. That’s what they say they want, right? If the whole point of nominating a centrist is to appeal to Republicans, why would you not go with the person who has actually done that?

As far as “personality” goes, when she does get a chance to speak, she’s quick-witted and could thus make for many gently enjoyable presidential memes. Stick some sunglasses on her or give her a cup of tea (or a “salad comb”) and she’s ready to go!

Admittedly, her biggest weakness is her reputation for being terrible to her employees, but I fail to see how that would be a serious issue for the targeted demographic of centrists, Republicans, and people who love insurance companies.

As far as the metrics for what moderates say they want go, Klobuchar is as close to ideal as it gets. On paper, she is simply a better candidate in this respect than either Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg.

I can see, logistically, why a progressive voter would pick either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders for reasons other than their respective genders. But the only thing that really explains why Amy Klobuchar is not kicking ass among moderates is—surprise!—because she’s a woman.

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