The last time we looked at the race for mayor of NYC it was still 2020 and my biggest worry was that reactionary ex-Congressman Max Rose had jumped in. In a crowded race, anything can happen and Rose, a really awful Blue Dog, would make an even more horrendous mayor than he did a one-term right-of-center congressman. Andrew Yang wasn't a candidate at the time. Who even knew he was a New Yorker?
A poll that came out recently by Emerson shows him leading the huge pack of candidates. The front-runners:
Andrew Yang- 32%
Brooklyn Borough Pres. Eric Adams- 19%
former counsel to Mayor de Blasio Maya Wiley- 9%
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer- 6%
former Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia- 5%
Ever hear of anyone besides Yang on that list? He has, by far, the highest name recognition of any of the candidates. Thing is, I was never all that impressed with him as a presidential candidate and the people who became part of the Yang Gang seemed like a bunch of idiots, albeit idiots who could raise some dough. Yang has raked in $2.1 million from over 15,000 individual donors already-- after just 2 months as a candidate. Matching donations will turn that into $6.5 million. Adams and Wiley have also raised big grassroots money.
Yang on two somewhat-related issues-- a universal basic income plan to give people $12,000 a year and warnings about automation. Writing for FiveThirtyEight a couple of days ago, Alex Samuels noted that "Yang came out of the gate with a series of gaffes, too. For example, he fumbled when asked why he fled the city for his second home upstate at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when travel was discouraged, and he proposed opening a casino on Governors Island, now the site of a large park and national monument. It’s also been reported that he hasn’t voted in the past four New York City mayoral elections. Additionally, in a criticism he faced when running for president, Yang has been called out for his lack of governing experience, which could be a real issue in the mayoral race as 'responding to the coronavirus' and 'improving wages and creating more jobs' were voters’ top two issues in choosing a candidate, according to a December Public Policy Polling survey. It’s also likely that other candidates’ name recognition will increase as we get closer to June, which means Yang might lose his edge. But his second run for political office does test a somewhat novel proposition: Can someone with limited institutional knowledge and no real governing experience become the next mayor of New York City? 'He’s certainly done nothing that I’ve seen that demonstrates a command for city issues or the kind of really difficult decision-making that’s involved in managing 325,000 people and $90 billion,' Eric Phillips, a former de Blasio spokesperson, said of Yang in the New York Times. 'He hasn’t been involved in the civic fabric of the city.'"
Samuels asked who progressives with coalesce around and guessed that progressives will divide between Wiley and Stringer. Some progressives too dumb to know any better may think Yang is somehow a progressive, although there is no reason to. In fact, reporting for Politico on Monday, Tina Nguyen and Sally Goldenberg wrote at length about Yang's flirtation with the right, noting that "Before he joined the New York City mayor’s race in January or even appeared on a presidential debate stage during the Democratic primary, Yang reached an audience of millions through an unconventional venue: shows that promoted a strongly anti-progressive point of view." His warnings about automation not withstanding, he was on a right-wing podcast where he suggested automating the jobs of fast-food workers.
Yang told Dave Rubin-- whose podcast The Rubin Report has interviewed white nationalists, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, anti-Islamic activists and anti-feminist media personalities-- that he “came of age during the first Clinton term” and considered himself a Democrat.
“I wasn't actively involved in local politics and I was living in New York, and as you know, New York is so blue that there isn’t that much to be engaged with, politically,” Yang said.
Yang also made appearances on The Ben Shapiro Show, The Joe Rogan Experience, and Tucker Carlson Tonight to promote his candidacy. By then these shows had built a reputation as highly critical of progressive policies and “woke” culture-- a viewpoint that had built them a collective, nationwide audience of millions.
His appearances were the most high-profile examples of a history on the campaign trail espousing views that were antithetical to today’s current Democratic party-- part of a strategy to win back white, working-class workers who swung for Trump in 2016. At that time his views weren’t too distant from other centrist candidates, who shied away from embracing progressive issues, particularly those related to “culture war” topics.
...Yang’s political leanings in this field are as unorthodox as his candidacy itself-- a novice to local politics who vaulted to frontrunner status even as news coverage focused on his escape from the city during the height of the pandemic, his spotty voting record and staff complaints about a hostile work culture in his presidential campaign.