What I like About That Asian Math Guy Running For President
The nuanced campaign of Andrew Yang.
Just about every Democrat still running for president is critical of Donald Trump. They seem to think that if they throw out a statement like, “Donald Trump is a pathological liar” or, “Donald Trump is the most dangerous president in American history”, they will get the votes they will need for the nomination. I think they must do something more, and Andrew Yang appears to be doing just that.
One thing I like about Andrew Yang is his approach to Trump. He doesn’t criticize Trump so directly, nor does he inflate the dangers that Trump presents to democracy. Yang seems to understand that if he calls Trump a liar, he’s calling Trump’s supporters liars, too. He understands that if he calls Trump a racist, that he’s calling Trump’s supporters racist. He seems informed enough to know that if you call Trump a misogynist, that you’re saying that Trump supporters hate women. I think we could safely say that Trump is counting on this dynamic to energize his base and win re-election. Trump is a master of the negative campaign. It would seem then, that Yang is sidestepping those dynamics.
Rather than attack Trump directly, Yang identifies Trump as a symptom of frustration with traditional politicians. He correctly sees that Trump was not elected on the merits, he was elected to break Washington, he was elected as a shot across the bow of the aristocracy. It truly is a shame that Trump is not really living up to his campaign promises, for if he were, then his election would not be in vain. Rather, Trump is giving people a few good reasons to vote for someone like Yang.
Remember that guy who was fired from Saturday Night Live for making racist jokes in his comedy acts? His name was Shane Gillis and he even made a racist slur against Yang a part of his stand up comedy set. Did Yang blast him back with a sarcastic response (haha!) about being fired by SNL? No. According to Politico:
Yang said quickly he disagreed with the decision [to fire Gillis]. “As a society, we have become unduly punitive and vindictive about people making statements that some find offensive or distasteful,” he said outside a campaign rally as news of Gillis’ firing started to spread. (emphasis mine)
I like that Yang has taken note of how punitive people can be. I like that he can see how vindictive people can be just because someone isn’t politically correct. I like that Yang can consider the source, and he did consider Gillis carefully before responding to the news of Gillis's past comedy and of his firing by SNL. Yang didn’t see the need to punish Gillis and could see that Gillis had made some mistakes. And Yang reached out to Gillis to have a sit down with him. Yang seems to be avoiding the toxic callout culture of modern American politics.
There is something else that I like about Yang. I really do like his emphasis on Universal Basic Income. I’ve written a few articles on that topic long ago, back when I used to follow basic income advocate Scott Santens on Medium. One of my most popular articles ever is on that very subject and you can find it here. I think that UBI is a great idea, but not for the same reasons that Yang does. I like that he’s talking about it because that is a very uncomfortable expansion of the scope of debate for the American Aristocracy.
Another thing I like about Yang is his emphasis on math and data. It’s rather difficult to argue with data. They’re like facts. We can look at them objectively and take note of facts. With data, we can see the trends, we can see the results, and we can create policy objectives based on the data. I like his objective view of the data and his desire to use that data to support policy objectives for a more humane approach to running an economy. His approach is similar to using health care outcomes to shape health care policy rather than relying upon marketing to shape health care policy.
Oh yeah, marketing. Yang has observed that just about everything in American culture is market-driven. It’s as if the only value to be had in anything is if it makes money. According to Yang, news coverage of Trump is almost completely driven by the market. Yang had this to say in an interview with The Hill:
“If you look at our country at this point, market incentives have dominated just about every aspect of American life. It’s why our drug prices only go up. It’s why college has gotten so expensive. It’s why there’s so many problems,” he said.
The Hill also embedded one of Yang’s tweets in their interview article:
Here, Yang is not directly criticizing the President, he’s criticizing the way the press feeds off of the president at the expense of other news. I like the way Yang frames the unrelenting coverage of Trump as a reality TV show, too.
I see much to like about Yang. I like his demeanor, I like his manners, and I like his policy proposals. I also want to point out that when a candidate makes a policy proposal, I don’t see that as a promise. I see policy proposals like wish lists. Policy proposals serve one basic purpose: to expand the scope of debate. That’s all they are for, regardless of the source.
With his policy proposals, Andrew Yang is seriously expanding the scope of debate, and that is one nuance that I like about his campaign.