Over the course of the 2020 Democratic primary debates, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has built a brand for herself as a tough talker and realistic policymaker.
You want to do Medicare for All? “It’s not real,” she says ― the Senate votes don’t exist to get it passed.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)’s universal child care program? Klobuchar says we can’t afford it. If you have a big, bold progressive idea, Klobuchar has a bucket of ice water waiting for you. Be real, it isn’t happening. She regularly derides progressive candidates for endorsing ideas “because it’s popular or makes you look cool.”
This routine was a hit with TV pundits during Friday night’s Democratic debate. ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl declared it a “breakthrough night for Klobuchar,” while MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said, “She seemed like a president tonight.”
But Klobuchar’s promises weren’t any more realistic than Medicare for All or universal child care or anything Sanders and Warren put forward. Again and again, Klobuchar vowed to do things that Democrats like, but that — barring a miracle — face insurmountable political barriers.
On Friday night, she suggested raising taxes on hedge funds by $18 billion to fund opioid treatment. Fine. But why didn’t Obama do that? Because Republicans don’t want to raise taxes on hedge funds.
Klobuchar said she would pass a Voting Rights Act to automatically register voters. That’s a great idea. It’s a scandal that so many Americans are disenfranchised by virtue of the color of their skin. But it’s not an accident that this happens. It happens because Republican politicians think people of color will vote for Democrats, and so Republicans do everything they can to keep people of color from voting.
Why would Republicans let President Amy Klobuchar pass a new Voting Rights Act when the GOP has been devoting tremendous energy to voter suppression for more than half a century? They wouldn’t. The GOP would do everything it could to stop that kind of legislation. If they have 40 voters in the Senate ― and they will come 2021, if not an outright majority ― they will filibuster the bill to death. Even if Klobuchar could get her voting rights bill through Congress, she’d need it to survive a Supreme Court where right-wing ideologues control a majority of the votes.
Unless Klobuchar pledges herself to a set of lefty reforms ― abolishing the filibuster and packing the court, for starters ― her voting rights bill is a total pipe dream. When Democrats took control of the House after the 2018 election, one of their first orders of business was passing a set of voting rights reforms. They died in the Senate.
The same is true for Klobuchar’s point about ending big money in politics. She said last night that she would pass a constitutional amendment to end the Supreme Court’s awful 2010 Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to corporate money in national politics.
Again ― very nice. But why didn’t former President Barack Obama do that?
Because it’s next to impossible. Even proposing a constitutional amendment requires either a two-thirds majority vote from both chambers of Congress or support from two-thirds of state legislatures. Well, 29 out of the 50 state legislatures are controlled by Republicans. The idea that Democrats would have a two-thirds majority in the House and 67 Senate seats ready for President Klobuchar is straight looney toons.
It’s not just voting rights and money in politics. Republicans called Obama a socialist, blocked a Nobel laureate economist from a top job at the Federal Reserve and barred Merrick Garland from a seat on the Supreme Court. Going moderate doesn’t win votes in Congress. The sooner Klobuchar ― along with Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg ― stop peddling this nonsense, the better.