Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Amy Klobuchar Problem

We have an Amy Klobuchar problem. And the worst thing we could do about it would be to just support her re-election campaign 110%.

The latest is this, via "Debt-limit defiance crosses the aisle" from Friday's Post:
Even Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), generally a stalwart White House ally, is undecided on the issue and is “hopeful” that a debt-ceiling bill can be attached to a measure to cut the federal deficit, said her spokesman, Linden Zakula.
Remember, during the Bush Administration, huge Congressional majorities -- that's including both parties -- voted numerous times to raise the debt ceiling, with no strings attached. So Klobuchar is taking a position to the right of where dozens of Republicans were a few years ago.

And then there's this: last month, Klobuchar voted for the "Stabenow-Brown" amendment, which would have blocked the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases for 2 years. That's not so good by itself, but the bigger problem is that once you block it for 2 years, it would become extremely politically difficult to un-block it. Radical stuff.

Of course, the amendment didn't have a chance of passing that day (though something similar could perhaps pass in the future). The defense of Klobuchar and Stabenow would be this: they voted for it, knowing it wasn't going anywhere, and now they can tell some moderates somewhere "hey we voted to weaken EPA!" There's an argument there, sure, but I don't think it has much merit; them being on record for this stuff is not helpful. This adopting the other side's position and rhetoric isn't something you see Republicans do quite like this.

What are we to make of Klobuchar, who's up for re-election in 2012? Matt Yglesias put the debt-limit part in some perspective:
This is all totally nuts, but it is what it is. Congressional Republicans generally manifest more unit cohesion and seem to operate on the assumption that insofar as they all stick together, that they’ll tend to benefit on average. Congressional Democrats don’t have that mentality and it complicates everything. It’s one thing to say what’s the smart posture for “Democrats” and another thing entirely to say what’s smart for Amy Klobuchar or Joe Manchin.
My question: is this even what's politically advantageous for Amy Klobuchar? There are some voters in Minnesota, like any state, who will vote based in some part on deficit issues or deficit rhetoric. Not many, but some. But are these people folks who would be potential Klobuchar voters anyway? Probably not that many. And even if they are, they are hardly votes Klobuchar needs.

It's certainly what you'd expect that Klobuchar (and others) would be cautious as they approach re-election. But this goes beyond that. If Klobuchar just stayed quiet on the issue, that would be fine. Remember, she is quite popular in Minnesota.

Look, I understand Klobuchar is not a progressive hero, and may never be. That's probably OK. She's voted the right way on the vast majority of things. It's a problem, though, when a Minnesota Democrat starts doing stuff like playing with the debt ceiling and taking up right-wing rhetoric.

I predict this: Klobuchar will tack further to the right if consequences aren't put on her doing so. Jumping on board her re-election bandwagon is the worst thing progressives could do. She needs to be shown that enthusiasm from her base will suffer if she continues to move right.


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