By Ti-Hua Chang, AsAmNews Staff Writer
When Andrew Yang ran for President of the United States, the former start-up entrepreneur surprised every political pundit with how long his campaign lasted. Yang, called a “longer than long-shot candidate,” campaigning for Universal Basic Income to deal with jobs lost by automation, outlasted a dozen better-known politicians including governors, former governors and members of Congress.
Yang, now 48, is hoping to surprise pundits again by creating a third American political party. While third parties have failed repeatedly in America; he told AsAmNews that this time the political conditions have changed, “… right now we are more and more polarized where almost half of Democrats consider Republicans as corrupt and a threat to the country and Republicans feel the same way about Democrats. …Faith in our democratic institutions is disintegrating very, very quickly, in large part because we have an unrepresentative system where in most of the country you don’t have a two-party system, you have a one-party system.”
YANG SAYS ASIAN AMERICANS MUST STEP UP
Yang argues that many states are overwhelmingly dominated by one party. In essence, it’s a one-party rule, which he says is not conducive to democracy. Yang believes a third party would offer an alternative to the roughly half of Americans who consider themselves independent voters. Presently the right wing and left wing of the two parties vote in separate party primaries. Yang spoke directly to the AAPI community saying, “ My message to Asian Americans is that the shoe is now on the other foot, where this country needs us and our energy and our leadership and our participation…if this country does continue to downslide Asian Americans will be among the first groups that get thrown under the bus.”
US CHINA RELATIONS
When asked about U.S. and China relations, Yang noted they, “are going to be the two most important countries in the world moving forward and it’s vital that they remain cooperative on as many fronts as possible including Climate Change, AI…unfortunately, one of the only things that the two major parties can agree on right now is to try and compete on who can be more belligerent and quote, unquote tough on China. Some of the larger local issues will never be resolved if we are in a cold war with China or worse.”
YANG IS BUSY WITH FIVE PROJECTS
Yang still sports the dark suit, open-neck-shirt and no-tie look of a corporate Gen X’er. He still lives in New York City with his wife Evelyn and two young sons. He says he is keeping busy with many projects in addition to the Forward Party. Yang says he just co-wrote a novel, is an executive producer of a TV series, a regular contributor to CNN and has a podcast. But he noted, “…most of my energy is on trying to make American democracy stand the test of time.” Andrew Yang emphasizes that he is on a quest to save America, which afforded his immigrant family a new home and opportunity. He believes a party embracing a wide spectrum of politics with a limited platform is the answer.
YANG JOINED FORCES WITH MODERATE AND CONSERVATIVE TO FORM FORWARD PARTY
July 28th of last year, former Democrat Yang joined forces with former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and former Republican Congressman from Florida David Jolly to form the new Forward Party. Each brought a number of supporters. Jolly is the executive chairman of the Serve America Movement. Whitman is co-founder of the Renew America Movement. They espouse a “moderate platform.” They want to limit guns, but not ban them. They want to allow abortion but not late term.
They wrote in the Washington Post last year, “Accordingly, we will passionately advocate electoral changes such as ranked-choice voting and open primaries; for the end of gerrymandering; and for the nationwide protection of voting rights and a push to make voting remarkably easy for anyone and incredibly secure for everyone.”
Yang says the Forward Party, which uses his campaign slogan of “not left, not right, forward,” has “tens of thousands of members.”
PUNDITS STILL DOUBT YANG CAN WIN
Many pundits question how successful Yang’s forward Party will be based on his run for Mayor of New York City in 2020. It began with him ahead by 20% in the polls and ended with him losing a rank choice voting placing him fourth. He lost to the then Brooklyn Borough President and former police Captain Eric Adams.
Two prominent New York City political analysts think Yang and his Forward Party have no chance at all.
Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf told AsAmNews, “His politics don’t fit the moment. They fit in a small window of time when people sought someone like him then they changed their minds…his polling numbers were in the toilet, he did not create excitement.”
Baruch political Science Professor Thomas Halper similarly believes, “At least in the short and near term, I think he has no political future. It’s conceivable years down the road he might make a comeback, he’s articulate and he has money, but so far it hasn’t worked out for him at all. His ideas have not gone anywhere.”
MAJOR NY ASIAN AMERICAN UMBRELLA GROUP VALUES YANG
But the executive director of the large New York umbrella organization, Asian American Federation, says Yang’s candidacies helped Asian Americans. Jo-Ann Yoo notes, “…his biggest impact was that the American public saw an American of Asian descent running for president, and that -hopefully- reset a lot of minds that while we may come from various Asian heritages, we are Americans and have the capacity to fully participate in the political process, including as candidates. Yang seemed to have drawn a lot of young people into his campaign…Seeing our young people get excited about a candidate because they can relate to his message and experience is a good thing.
FORWARD PARTY USING RIGHT WING AND LEFT WING TACTICS
The Forward Party has taken playbook pages from both the right and left. From the right-wing Tea Party’s playbook, the forward Party, says Yang, is aiming for low level state offices to build up a national base. The Forward Party is also learning from progressive former Delaware Lt. Governor. S.B. Wu. He promoted an 80/20 rule. 80% of donations go to the candidate who backs what we like, and only 20% to those who don’t.
Yang believes open primaries will help make the AAPI community feel more a part of the political process noting, “Many Asian Americans register as Democrats or Republicans not necessarily because they have a deep affinity for one party or the other. But it’s necessary for them to be able to meaningfully vote or participate. And we don’t think that should be necessary.
FORMER SUPPORTER STILL WOULD VOTE FOR YANG
Esther Yang, who is no relation, supported Yang’s presidential run. She still wants Andrew Yang to run for any number of elected offices from President to Mayor. As the executive director of the non-profit children’s group Super, Happy, Healthy Kids, Ms. Yang says she judges people by how they treat their family. She says Andrew Yang, “adores his wife ( Evelyn ) and his two boys… He’s is so loving.” She adds, “ He will be good for the country. I will support him because he is a good person… he is not the greatest at this moment, but he has such a fast learning curve he can learn it. He’ll surround himself with smart people and ask the right questions.”
Even Andrew Yang’s detractors, like Consultant Sheinkopf and Professor Halper, say in American politics, you can never count out someone who is young, smart and has money.
Yang himself says he may run for President again and any other elected office he feels could benefit the country. He says he had expected to be invited to join the Biden administration and was surprised when he was not asked.
This story is funded by a grant from the California State Library in partnership with the National Association of Asian Pacifics in Politics and Public Affairs.
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I hope his party takes flight and that he gains a strong momentum of success leading to a political/government office. This country, we Asian Americans need him!