In a Bloomberg News article analyzing why the Russia probe has largely been “Left Unspoken in 2018 Congressional Races,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar demonstrated exactly why 59 percent of voters have no idea the Russia probe is producing results.
Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said at a May 16 gathering of progressives in Washington that voters are “not asking me about Russian bots; they’re asking me about soybean exports.”
Klobuchar, who is up for reelection this year, clearly wants to stick with the pocketbook issues on the minds of her constituents. That’s fair, soybeans are a hot topic, particularly for many of Klobuchar’s voters since Minnesota is the third highest soybean producing state in the nation.
But her comment highlights how Democrats are undermining Robert Mueller’s probe and missing opportunities to draw attention to Trump’s broader “culture of corruption” in the process.
First of all, why trivialize the fact that Russia—at the public invitation of Trump—launched a massive attack on our elections in 2016? The issue wasn’t just about “Russian bots,” as Klobuchar put it, it was about American voters being disenfranchised by a hostile foreign power.
Dismissing Russia’s extensive multimillion-dollar effort to help elect Trump as simply being a matter of some “Russian bots” totally undercuts the fact that the Russian-financed Internet Research Agency (IRA) was the subject of fully 16 of the 22 indictments issued thus far by Mueller’s team.
Klobuchar’s framing of “Russian bots” as irrelevant to her voters gives every one of them a pass to look the other way after a foreign actor may have stolen our election out from under us. In essence, meh.
Worse yet, while Klobuchar downplayed the Russia probe on one hand, she appears to have entirely missed the chance to point out Trump’s hypocrisy on soybeans. At the same time that Trump is escalating a trade war with China that’s potentially disastrous for soybean farmers, he’s also mysteriously showing great concern for saving jobs at the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE. In fact, Klobuchar’s comment came just three days after Trump tweeted that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping were “working together” to keep ZTE running. “Too many jobs in China lost,” he wrote on May 13, stoking the urgency.
Why didn’t Klobuchar say something like, “Voters are understandably concerned about soybean exports and why Trump is suddenly so focused on saving jobs at a Chinese telecommunications company when his tariffs are inflicting pain on Minnesota farmers right here at home.”
That’s a direct appeal to pocketbook issues that also invites legitimate questions about Trump’s motivations and gives Democrats an opening to address the broader culture of corruption in the Trump administration. Perhaps Klobuchar took the opportunity to make that connection but a quick google search didn’t turn up any obvious mentions of her discussing ZTE (though she has signed on to a letter urging Trump to prioritize American jobs and national security over China).
But bottom line, Democrats have got to start finding opportunities to talk about Trump’s corruption even if it’s not the theme they lead with. Our democracy is under attack and Democrats must make it clear to voters that they are fighting to save it and make it work for all Americans.