Klobuchar On Buttigieg

Was Senator Klobuchar leveraging structural homophobia?

Amy Klobuchar at campaign rally on front lawn of a residence.
Amy Klobuchar at campaign rally on front lawn of a residence.
“Amy Klobuchar” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I agree with my senator, Amy Klobuchar, that it is her job as a candidate to argue why she is the best choice in the field. Yet in an effort to highlight her achievements, as well as gender bias in the media, she problematically invoked Midwestern swing voters while throwing a bit of shade at the qualifications of South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Sen. Klobuchar commented during her November 10 appearance on CNN’s State of the Union program (transcript):

I’m the one from the Midwest that’s actually won in a statewide race over and over again, including bringing in those voters that just voted in Kentucky, those kind of voters, just voted in Virginia, brought them over the edge, so that we had strong leaders that were able to win those elections.

Those are the kind of voters I have won. And that’s not true of Mayor Pete. That’s just a fact.

In coupling those two ideas, she endorsed an implicit argument that has followed Buttigieg: that he will not be able to win over Midwestern swing voters as a gay man. This leveraging of homophobia by Klobuchar, while likely not a conscious tactic, is a continuation of her long indifference to LGBT rights, as she failed to acknowledge the anti-LGBT administrative and rhetorical violence of Mike Pence and his Indiana, from which Buttigieg hails. A sample from Pence’s 2000 campaign website:

Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.

Given Senator Klobuchar’s tremendous political acumen, it is inconceivable that she did not understand this context and how to navigate it more deftly.

But an arguable gaffe aside, what of her point? Isn’t her appeal to her own electoral qualification important on its own? Yes, but the comparison does not stand.

In 2010, Pete Buttigieg ran for Indiana State Treasurer and lost. He was not yet out as a gay man, but he was running as a Democrat for a statewide Indiana office that had been held by a Republican since 1979 (before Buttigieg was born). His loss was likely inevitable. Still, is Klobuchar winning a US Senate seat in Minnesota a useful comparison when considering Buttigieg?

Look to the Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI). Indiana scored an R+9 (preferred Republicans 9% beyond the nationwide average) on the 2017 Cook PVI, while Minnesota scored a D+1 (preferred Democrats 1% beyond the nationwide average). At the time of Klobuchar’s first election to the Senate, the PVI was even more in her favor as a Democrat. This isn’t to suggest that she’s had a cake-walk in her electoral history, but her comparison isn’t particularly cogent. General info on the Cook PVI on Medium.

I read in Klobuchar’s comments a wish that she was afforded at least as much credit for having won elections in the Midwest. That’s fair. But her making direct comparisons to Buttigieg, especially when failing to right some of her past indifference for LGBT lives? On that, the Senator and I disagree: it is not a cogent argument. It is an argument that, at best, does nothing to strengthen her candidacy.

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