Midwest Dispatch: The Future of Amy Klobuchar

It is always interesting to see how life goes on—and issues don’t die—in the wake of an election, even if it’s only a preliminary one.

On March 3, Minnesota participated in the Super Tuesday round of primaries, where Democrats in fourteen states voted for their choice to be the party’s nominee. Joe Biden won the most delegates that night, riding high on a wave of last-minute endorsements from Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota’s own Amy Klobuchar, not to mention the vote of confidence Biden received from the mostly African American voters in South Carolina last month.

Regarding Klobuchar, some people surmised that she suddenly dropped out and threw her support to Biden because she is angling for the Vice President spot. 

In my left-leaning corner of Minneapolis, my neighbors and I vote at a public park named after Martin Luther King Jr. Election days, even the minor ones, are cause for celebration where I live, and March 3 was no different. 

Volunteers from our neighborhood association staffed a pop-up tent outside the polling place, offering free coffee and treats as voters shuffled past. At the end of the night, someone posted the results of our local voting efforts on the neighborhood Facebook group. 

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren ran away with the night, as expected. Sanders won overall in Minneapolis but fell to Joe Biden beyond the city limits, where suburban voters appeared to toe a more cautious line.

Because Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out so late in the race, their names—along with seemingly everyone who ever said they wanted to run for President—still appeared on the primary ballots. Plenty of Minnesotans had already voted, too, thanks to the early voting provisions allowed by state law.

This means that those who cast a ballot before Super Tuesday, for a candidate who later dropped out, ended up voting for someone who could never be the Democratic nominee. Across the state, close to 20,000 people voted for Klobuchar on March 3 anyway, perhaps not realizing that she had dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden the day before.


Regarding Klobuchar, some people surmised that she suddenly dropped out and threw her support to Biden because she is angling for the Vice President spot. 

Of course, if Biden becomes the party’s nominee, with Klobuchar on the ticket, and they beat Trump in November, she would become the first woman in the United States to be just a heartbeat away from the presidency. 

Yes, that is noteworthy, given the cascading disappointment that came for many last week, when Elizabeth Warren conceded that she could no longer continue her campaign. On March 3, I had the pleasure of voting for the first time alongside my own daughter, who is eighteen and excited about the election.

It matters to me that a woman be taken seriously here. But is Klobuchar the right woman?

Just two days before the March 3 primary, protestors from the local NAACP and Black Lives Matter movement shut down a Klobuchar campaign rally in suburban Minneapolis. The optics, as political observers like to say, were terrible.

Headlines exploded with the bad news for Klobuchar. Her hometown rally, amid a last grasp for her campaign, was run off the rails by a past she hasn’t been able to escape. In the early 2000s, while Klobuchar was serving as the lead attorney for Hennepin County—Minnesota’s largest—she prosecuted a sixteen-year-old, Myon Burrell, for the murder of a young girl.

I previously wrote about that case for this column, in connection to Klobuchar’s candidacy. It has also received a great deal of national coverage in recent months, and deservedly so. To make a painful story short, many believe that Burrell, an African American, was wrongfully convicted of murder and sent to jail for life while still a teenager. 

Wrapped up in this case are important concerns about race, gun violence, and the fallout from the tough-on-crime era that both Republicans and Democrats—including Joe Biden—famously supported.  

I don’t think the protestors who took over Klobuchar’s March 1 campaign event forced her to drop out of the race and endorse Biden. But I do think their activism—along with the bad press she has received over the Burrell case—has propelled Klobuchar to reexamine her feel-good, folksy approach to politics.

And, perhaps because she is hoping to be considered for Vice President, Klobuchar just called for an independent review of Burrell’s case, something she did not do while actively vying to become the Democratic presidential nominee. (The current Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman, has repeatedly said there isn’t enough new evidence to reopen the case).


Time magazine carried a story about Klobuchar’s announcement, featuring an image of an assertive and determined looking Burrell sitting cross-legged in his prison cell. The narrow walls surrounding him are white, and small glimmers of sunlight are captured in neat, rectangular shadows that echo bars on a window.

Is Klobuchar suddenly more sympathetic to Burrell’s plight? Is she simply bowing to “increased community pressure,” as the Time article states? Or is she hoping to clean up her record in a ploy to appear more worthy of a VP slot?

We don’t know yet. An op-ed from The Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen pushed for Klobuchar as a great choice for Biden, claiming that it would be “wrong” for Biden to tap a more progressive running mate, should he become the nominee. 

Even a person of color would be the wrong choice, Olsen asserts. Instead, Klobuchar would help Biden bring back the Midwest, where hometown values and blue collar workers are still prized. 

But maybe Olsen doesn’t realize that the Midwest of 2020 is different. Myon Burrell’s case, and the activism surrounding it, prove that.

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» Midwest Dispatch: The Future of Amy Klobuchar | Sarah Lahm | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2020/03/10/midwest-dispatch-the-future-of-amy-klobuchar/ | 2021-09-25T09:45:12+00:00
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