HomeBad Ass AsiansOpinion: Andrew Yang ran an unlikely historic campaign

Opinion: Andrew Yang ran an unlikely historic campaign

By Ed Diokno, Views from the Edge

It was clear from the start of Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign that it would be an uphill battle because, one, he has never held an elected office; and two, he’s Asian American. 

His biggest hurdle would be to overcome the strongly entrenched popular perception of Asian Americans as not being aggressive, outgoing and not capable of being a leader.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang ended his presidential campaign Tuesday night as the votes came rolling in during the New Hampshire Primary.

“You know I am the math guy — it is clear tonight from the numbers that we are not going to win this race,” Yang told a room full of his supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“I am so incredibly proud of this campaign and what we’ve accomplished together,” Yang said to his supporters in his campaign-ending speech. “We have touched and improved millions of lives and moved this country we love so much in the right direction.”

Despite the long-shot tag mainstream media gave to him, Yang’s surprising run for the presidency outlasted the campaigns of some better-known and better-financed experienced politicians.

Mainstream media had difficulty taking Yang seriously. Networks left him off graphics, misidentified him or used photos of other Asian men.When the debates began, moderators ignored him by asking him fewer questions than other candidates or failed to call on him when he indicated he had something to add to a discussion.

Yang’s major proposal of giving every adult $1000 a month was viewed as just another outlandish factor that cemented the preposterousness of his campaign.

Even the Asian American community found it hard to embrace him. Yang refused to engage in “identity politics,” much to the chagrin of progressive AAPI organizations who wanted to back him heart and soul simply because of the historical nature of his candidacy.

However, he used self-deprecating humor playing off the model minority stereotype of Asian Americans to put non-Asians at ease and he was hesitant to fully acknowledge the impact of institutional and cultural racism that impedes the progress of people of color made it difficult for most AAPI to fully support his campaign.

But the way he was initially treated by mainstream media angered the AAPI community which flew to his side when it became apparent he was being marginalized.

In the end, though, the two predominantly White states of Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which are over 90% White, proved to be too big a hurdle for a candidate of color.

It is too bad Yang could not hold out for Nevada and California voters, both of which have substantial number of AAPI voters and are more receptive to candidates of color.

When the Democrats began jockeying for the POTUS nomination, three AAPI candidates threw their hats in the ring. It was thought California Sen. Kamala Harris would be the most viable candidate, but it turns out she was the first to drop out. 

With Yang’s withdrawal, only Hawaii’s Rep. Tulsi Gabbard remains as the only AAPI candidate. She barely campaigned in Iowa and concentrated her efforts in New Hampshire. Her poor performance, failing to win any delegates, puts the future of her campaign in doubt although her last tweet for the day from South Carolina did not look like a concession:

Endings are hard, New Hampshire, but this is not an ending, this is a beginning,” as Yang continued to encourage and thank his followers. “This is just the starting line. This campaign has awakened something fundamental in this country, and in ourselves. The Yang Gang has fundamentally shifted the direction of this country and transformed our politics, and we are only continuing to grow.”

After his farewell speech, Yang left this tweet:

What the hell does that mean? Is he considering a presidential run in 2024 or 2028?

More than likely, he means he won’t disappear from the public scene. He’ll probably be given a chance to speak at the Democratic convention and he might make a dramatic announcement there. He said that he would seriously consider being a running mate for whoever wins the Democratic nomination; or a post in his or her administration. 

The question now is who will the Yang Gang flock vote for? The fear is his loyal army of energetic youthful followers might stay at home next November like what Bernie Sanders’ backers did when their candidate failed to get the Democratic nomination in 2016. When the Democrats need to get out the vote and every vote counts in order to defeat Donald Trump, the worst outcome would be for Yang Gang to end their involvement and not vote.

More than anything else, Andrew Yang and the way he conducted himself proved that Asian Americans can be leaders and go toe-to-toe against anybody.

Perhaps the biggest legacy of Yang’s groundbreaking campaign won’t be seen right away. Somewhere out there, there is a young man or woman, or a young boy or girl, who watched an Asian American man make a serious bid for president. The idea of running for president won’t be so far-fetched.

“It gives me a lot of pride and joy because I vividly remember what it was like growing up a young Asian boy very rarely seeing someone who looked like me on TV at all, unless it was in the context of a kung fu movie,” Yang said. “It makes me very happy and proud to help others see that there are no limitations on the way you can contribute and lead in this country.”

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