This week, Defector has chosen to curate a collection of writing inspired by two entities that have had an indelible effect on North America: the upper house of the United States Congress and Eugene Melnyk’s pro hockey team. This is Senators Week.
On Aug. 22, 2019, Senator Amy Klobuchar, born and raised in Minnesota, made her annual pilgrimage to the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair. This time, for the first time, she was visiting as a Democratic presidential candidate.
Broadly, the ideal presidential candidate is someone who stands up for what is right, who is brave enough to confront fiction with reality. She is someone who will put the truth above ambition. On that day, Klobuchar proved once and for all that she was not such a person.
Minnesota politicians usually grew up attending the “Great Minnesota Get Together.” Minnesota politicians are everywhere at the State Fair. Every statewide elected official has a booth. Members of Congress have booths. Presidential candidates have booths. Senator Tina Smith enjoyed the giant slide. Her predecessor, Al Franken, spent an entire segment on the Today Show going to town on an ear of corn. The state auditor is a talented crop artist who enters the annual competition (my tribute to the 30th anniversary of the Game Boy justifiably lost to her piece commemorating the engagement of the lieutenant governor.)
I was also at the Minnesota State Fair the day that Klobuchar attended, but I wasn’t there just to look at cute baby animals and eat various foods on sticks. I was there to get Klobuchar to admit the truth: that Minnesota’s state fair is the best state fair.
Why would such a question even need to be posed to Klobuchar, someone who, as a Minnesota native, was surely aware of the Minnesota State Fair’s superiority? Because 12 days prior, while glad handing at the Iowa State Fair, Klobuchar played politics. Star Tribune political reporter Patrick Condon tweeted from Klobuchar’s speech:
Absurd. False. Unacceptable.
Walking by the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, Minnesota’s Democratic Party) pavilion, I heard Klobuchar’s trademark booming voice. “The Wild Card has won the Super Bowl six times!” she said, using a “relatable” sports analogy to instill hope in her campaign. “The Vikings lost the Super Bowl four times,” I thought to myself as I made my way toward the senator as she concluded her speech. As she started walking to her next stop at the fair, I introduced myself. “Hi Senator, I met you at the 2018 DFL convention (I did) where I was a delegate (I was).”
I omitted that when we met at the convention, my friends and I were walking into a party and found her on the dance floor, rocking out to a Prince cover band while wearing her usual skirt suit, enjoying a Miller Genuine Draft. We even took a photo with her during this moment of extreme Minnesotaness.
I continued: “I have a fun, easy question for you.” She stopped walking and a small crowd formed around us.
“Which state fair is better?” I asked.
She loudly repeated my question for everyone to hear. I’ve been in her presence many times and, to this day, I am not certain she has an indoor voice.
She launched into a speech about how it’s important to bring people together (NB: the Minnesota State Fair is better at this). She pointed out that Iowa has a butter cow (NB: built on a frame), but we have butter princesses (NB: carved freehand into large blocks of butter). I pressed her several times before she gave me a condescending shoulder pat and went on her way.
I knew our Democratic senator was a moderate, but I was stunned to discover that she could remain so mushy on state fairs.
All Senator Klobuchar had to do was say, in her folksy outdoor voice, “You know, the Iowa State Fair is a wonderful place, but I must say that the Minnesota State Fair, the fair of my home state, the fair I grew up attending and would take my family to, is always going to be the No. 1 fair to me.” She could’ve even given this response at the Iowa State Fair.
For me, even this hypothetical position would still have been a conservative one. I would like a candidate from Minnesota to say, “The Iowa State Fair is, at best, the third-best fair after Minnesota and Texas (I refuse to compare those two differently structured fairs). Also, presidential caucuses, which Minnesota axed after 2016, are bad, and Iowa should feel bad about subjecting its voters to them.”
But still, one cannot expect miracles.
It turns out I wasn’t even the first person that day to watch Amy Klobuchar strike out on this softball. Approximately eight hours earlier, before the fairgrounds opened, WCCO anchor Jason DeRusha asked Amy Klobuchar the same question.
She gave a familiar response: “…What I can say Jason is what unites us is more important than what divides us. We have good things about both fairs. They do have a finely sculpted butter cow…”
An incredulous DeRusha interjected, “Fine fairs on both sides, you’re saying?”
Klobuchar ignored him and continued, “But having met our new princess, I do challenge them to have a butter sculpting princess display like we have, there’s nothing like it in the country.”
Chuckling, DeRusha concluded the interview with, “Senator Amy Klobuchar, a very gifted politician.”
Is she? Or is she just a traitor who would throw our beloved state fair under the bus for personal gain?
DeRusha wasn’t the only TV personality not having Klobuchar’s centrist state fair bullshit.
On the evening of her Aug. 10 speech, the senator was hanging out at the Iowa State Fair with Minnesota chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern:
Ma’am. It’s only a tough one if you are a coward afraid of a nonexistent Iowa State Fair Mafia coming for you and everything you love (your own ambition; your outdoor voice).
Zimmern responded to his friend making clear where his allegiances lie:
Not only did Zimmern speak truth to power, he took the Iowa State Fair slogan, “Nothing compares,” and made it Minnesota’s.
Look, I’m not going to say the Minnesota State Fair is the greatest cultural event in the world (or even the United States), but it is objectively a better state fair than Iowa’s. Without most presidential candidates dropping by the fair in 2019, Minnesota’s Fair, also located in a metropolitan area, had almost twice Iowa’s 1,170,375 visitors. Minnesota’s fair is a day longer and has at least 100 more concessionaires than Iowa. And, most relevant to Klobuchar’s interests, 2,118 people voted for Democrats in the 2019 Iowa State Fair straw poll. Meanwhile, 15,000 people voted in 2019 Minnesota State Fair DFL soybean poll. Minnesota’s senior senator, the politician who got the most votes in the 2018 Minnesota election, was more scared of 2,000 Iowans than 15,000 Minnesotans. Not only was she scared to “tell it like it is” to the people of Iowa, she was scared to admit that her own constituents, the people of Minnesota, are correct. I was sick over it. Or maybe I was sick over that fourth Pronto Pup I ate.
Amy Klobuchar went on to have a rough time at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair. She came in second in the DFL soybean poll, receiving 16 percent of the vote to Elizabeth Warren’s 38 precent. This is still better than her earlier showing in Iowa, where she received 3.45 percent of those straw poll votes. Her campaign had to board up the windows of her booth, built to look like a tiny house, because of its unfortunate placement near a poster at the MyPillow stand (a photo of Mike Lindell, emblazoned with: “from Crack Addict to CEO”).
Sure, Midwesterners are territorial, but should anyone really care if a local politician is unwilling to stick up for the state fair? I say yes. If Klobuchar was allowed to get away with selling out our state fair to pander to Iowans, where would she stop? Would she be revealed to be a Great Lakes centrist, declining to upset the Lake Michigan voting bloc of voters by gassing up Lake Superior? Would lifelong Vikings fan Amy Klobuchar uphold the sanctity of Minnesota’s biggest actual rivalry: Vikings versus Packers?
My answer arrived in Dec. 2019, after a loss to the Packers:
Did Klobuchar’s limp endorsement of the Minnesota Vikings change my belief that she won’t ever place her constituents over personal ambition? Nope! Neither Wild Card made the Big Game. The Vikings never met the Packers in the playoffs, and Klobuchar dropped out a month before Wisconsin’s primary (April 7), a day before Minnesota’s primary (March 3) and a month after Iowa’s caucus (February 3). Although she did see Packers fans in the election playoffs, when she was in Wisconsin campaigning for eventual president Joe Biden, who actually did put his foot in his mouth at the 2019 Iowa State Fair (and it wasn’t even the first time he screwed up there).
I’m not afraid of Iowa, their inferior-to-Minnesota state fair, or their messy caucuses. I said caucuses should be abolished before Minnesota abolished ours in 2016. I’m honest enough to admit I want Wisconsin’s primary to go first in the Midwest. Not because I think it is the most representative of the larger electorate, but because I want Amy Klobuchar to be pushed to the left (of Wisconsin) and forced to choose between supporting our state’s miserable professional football team and her personal ambition. I’m brave enough to tell Amy Klobuchar to stop being such a coward but, I will admit, am not brave enough to work for her.
Because, apparently, she’s a nightmare boss who unapologetically prosecuted a lot of low-level crime and helped send a likely innocent teen to prison for life (his sentence was commuted). Anyway, congrats on selling out the Minnesota State Fair for one (1) Iowa Caucus delegate! We’ll see you in August at the 2021 Great Minnesota Get Together. And, Iowa, we’re coming to your state fair, too.