As presidential hopeful and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) greeted a packed house at the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Huddleston Hall on Saturday, Feb. 8, she began her Durham pitch with a promise to “barnstorm your state,” one driven by her passion to prevail in 2020’s “first-in-the-nation” contest.
“We have been on a journey, and I had an opportunity last night [at the debate] to address the people of New Hampshire; I think I was the one who mentioned New Hampshire the most,” she told attendees. “Maybe that is because I realize there’s a primary coming up, and I also think it is a part of being a good president and being a good elected official that you represent the people that see, and you get to know the issues and what matters to them. That is what [has] driven me so much in my work in public service.”
A major aspect driving her campaign and Saturday’s rally: her desire to shape the upcoming 2020 election as a series of “decency” and “patriotism” checks on the current administration. Throughout the event, the senator criticized the absence of economic “shared prosperity” nationwide despite a growing post-recession economy. She also highlighted the struggles of college students fighting growing university expenses, student loans, rising pharmaceutical prices and climate change, areas she said Trump has failed to act on.
Klobuchar also blasted the president’s actions internationally, recalling the latest G20 summit in which Trump, when asked by reporters, reportedly “made a joke” about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election in front of Vladimir Putin, who she labelled a “ruthless dictator.”
“So many of our great moments in our country – and our worst moments – have been about democracy, have been about our Constitution, and this guy makes a joke about it,” she said. “That’s what that impeachment hearing was about, and it didn’t end the way as many of us wanted [it] to end; but it is still going to be part of what we talk about going forward. Why? Because it is the same conduct that we see over and over again, where we have a president that’s trying to put his private interests in front of our country’s interests.”
Klobuchar also attacked Trump’s failure to showcase himself as a relatable leader who blames others in his administration for problems plaguing his administration, from staff like Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and the military, to former President Barack Obama and the Kingdom of Denmark, among others.
“So, when you put yourself in those people’s [shoes]…dairy farmers in Wisconsin, small business owners in New Hampshire [and] craft workers in Michigan, they just look at this guy and they think, ‘you know what, he has the best job in the world; he lives in the nicest house in the world, he got $413 million over the course of his career from his dad.’ And you contrast that with my story with my grandfather saving money in that coffee can, you cannot fit $413 million in a coffee can in the basement of a house,” she said.
One of the senator’s major talking points centered around college affordability, where she promised to fire current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the “first 100 seconds.” She also pledged to “connect” universities to the economy and improve access to four-year degrees by expanding co-grants from a maximum of $6,000 a year to $12,000 a year, a potential maximum financial package reaching $48,000 over four years. Klobuchar claimed that, unlike loans, students are not required to pay back co-grants to the bank that lent them out.
In addition, the candidate vowed to double the maximum income limit required to qualify for co-grants from $50,000 to $100,000; she said this would help improve the loan payment process, which she called a “mess.”
“…if millionaires can refinance their yacht, students should be able to refinance their student loan,” she said.
Klobuchar also extensively called for improved mental health and healthcare services, declaring herself to be the first candidate to publicly advocate for extensive plans dealing with treating mental health patients and those affected by the opioid crisis.
Klobuchar also called for strengthening Social Security, keeping Medicaid and making it easier for people to afford “long-term care insurance;” however, she refused to back the “Medicare-for-all,” a plan made popular by competitors like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), nor a plan that would “blow up” the existing Affordable Care Act, which the senator claimed is 10 percent more popular than Trump himself.
The candidate also emphasized her willingness to take on pharmaceutical companies by “unleashing the power of 45 million seniors so that they can negotiate better prices under Medicare.” She also vowed to pass an amendment if elected that would permit the U.S. to import more affordable drugs from other countries.
The senator explained she committed herself to “doing something serious” about healthcare after past experiences with her father who suffered from alcoholism until the 1990s. She said treatments changed his life for the better and was inspired by its success to make the topic a major pillar of her platform.
Returning to the present day, Klobuchar said the story of her family’s rise from nothing serves as a core foundation of her vision of the United States as a land of “shared dreams.”
“…no matter where you come from or who you know or the color of the skin or where you worship or who you love, that you can make it in the United States of America; and that is what bothers me so much about this president, because he tears down those dreams every day,” the senator said.
While she has voted in line with Trump’s positions 26.6 percent of the time in the past, Klobuchar warned that a second term of the Trump administration would severely damage legal and societal groundworks in Washington and beyond.
“The rule of law can’t withstand four more years of a president that thinks he’s above it,” she said. “Our democracy and our Constitution can’t handle four more years of a president that is willing to bulldoze through it. Our collective sense of decency can’t handle four more years of a president that thinks it doesn’t matter. And our American dream can’t handle four more years of a president who thinks he can choose who lives it.”
Klobuchar stressed to the crowd that in addition to a “fired-up Democratic base,” willing Independent and “moderate Republican” votes are crucial toward forming a coalition strong and diverse enough to beat the incumbent in November despite potentially strong political contrasts and disagreements. In an attempt to relate to the crowd, she admitted that she does not agree with everything the Democratic field has to offer in the presidential contest thus far.
“But what they do agree on is this: all of us, no matter where we’re from politically, we agree that the heart of America is bigger than the heart of this guy in the White House,” Klobuchar said.
Attendees like Roman Westdijk, a 21-year-old history student visiting from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, agreed with this sentiment, who told The New Hampshire that “every Democrat has a better plan for America than the current president.”
Westdijk, a first-time visitor to UNH who is hearing any many 2020 candidates speak as possible, expressed interest in Klobuchar’s candidacy despite not being very political himself.
One of Westdijk’s takeaways from 2016 was the divided state of the Democratic party, referencing the “Bernie or Bust” movement from within the left as a factor that led to the party’s defeat four years ago. He stressed that party unity is essential to beating Trump in November, regardless of who walks away from Minneapolis with the coveted nomination starting with Tuesday’s highly anticipated primary.
“I like the system as a whole, like the rallies and town halls, it’s really great,” Westdijk said. “I see that Americans take their vote as a responsibility, especially in New Hampshire and Iowa; they know they’re the first in the nation, so they weigh their votes well…what is really important is that for the Democrats, they come together to their candidate, whoever wins…no matter who it is.”