By Jordan Nugent – Contributor
Throughout Andrew Yang’s spirited, energetic run in the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential Primaries, he was essentially invisible to much of the mainstream media. A glaring example of this was during the Democratic Debate on 20th November 2019, where he had to wait until 32 minutes into the debate to be asked a question and thus be offered a chance to speak. Large swathes of Yang’s committed and youthful following, the so-called ‘Yang gang’, alleged that their hero was being intentionally ignored by moderators. Yet, when Yang was given the opportunity to speak, he raised valuable and insightful contributions that justified more airtime- with journalist Glenn Greenwald being impressed by Yang’s response to the first question he received, tweeting: “Andrew Yang’s answer about the actual threats of the 21st century was way too smart, thoughtful and substantive for cable news and presidential political generally. Few things will affect humanity more than Artificial Intelligence in this century- almost never discussed.”.
Of course, the reason why Yang was effectively silenced by much of the mainstream media was never due to him lacking innovative ideas and credible policy solutions. After all, his flagship policy proposal: the ‘Freedom Dividend’ (a Universal Basic Income policy that proposed giving $1,000 a month to every American adult) was one of many potential UBI plans that over 700 academics and public and political figures -globally- called for as an emergency measure in the wake of the current Coronavirus pandemic, and that many Silicon Valley tech CEOs see as an inevitable “social vaccine for the 21st century” in the face of ever-increasing automation. He could have been ignored due to him being Asian-American, as Asian-Americans are often invisible in American culture- and even more so in politics. There is the notorious ‘bamboo ceiling’- which is a term used in academic spheres to describe disadvantages in the labour market where highly qualified Asian Americans “haven’t been able to climb up the professional ladder”, and they are often viewed as ‘lacking communication skills’ and not being ‘strong enough to lead’.
However, he was also silenced for something arguably more surreptitious and devious: for being anti-establishment. ‘Andrew Yang ran a principled anti-establishment campaign that highlighted the deep crises afflicting US society’, opined Eric Blanc of Jacobin. Yang ran a refreshingly honest and policy-driven campaign that highlighted truths about our corrupt political system and called attention to the deepening crisis facing working people. In this way he was very similar to fellow contender Bernie Sanders of the populist Left. ‘The reason both candidates were subjected to months of media blackouts is not simply that they lacked personal connections to the high priests of the mainstream media. Media marginalization is the inevitable price to be paid for any candidate willing to go up against, and tell the truth about, the Democratic Party establishment’.
Like Sanders, Yang was unafraid of calling out the party’s culpability in the deterioration of working-class living conditions across the country, and the election of Trump. Indeed, Yang eloquently told The Intercept in June 2019: “When I travel to the Midwest, you know, I was with a truck driver in Iowa, and he said to me. He said I don’t think the Democrats care about people like me. And I was shocked by that because growing up, the Democrats to me were the party of the working class. And so, if there are people that think that their problems have gone unaddressed and unacknowledged by our government, by the Democratic Party in particular, they’ve been casting about for some sort of real response. They landed on Donald Trump. Some of them regret it. They’re looking around for real solutions.”
Sadly, it appears history is repeating itself. Amidst the seismic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the world, devastating local economies and overwhelming public health systems, in no where has this been more apparent than in New York City. The City has been a hotspot during the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the early stages, with a higher death rate than the rest of the U.S. The actual disparity has been shocking: as of 2 June 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that, as a proportion of population, the number of excess deaths in NYC during the epidemic has been 16 times as high as in the rest of America.
Meanwhile, the previously strong hospitality, tourism and retail industries that employed a fifth of the workforce in the City have been gutted by the pandemic-enforced lockdowns. As many as a third of the City’s small businesses may not survive the pandemic, according to the Partnership for New York City; most companies in the City’s downtown do not expect staff to return to the office in full force, and some firms have already left. Unemployment in NYC rose to 12% as of January this year- almost double the national average- the City’s already-high homeless population increased and, since March, at least 300,000 people have left the City as property firms and moving companies have reported a surge in demand of people rushing to leave NYC.
Against this shocking backdrop, Andrew Yang decided to seek the Democratic Party nomination to replace incumbent Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio- who is barred from seeking a third term by term limits. While NYC’s vulnerability to Coronavirus can partly be explained by the densely populated locales, impoverished minority communities and grotesque inequality that plague the City, a more wholesome explanation must include the incompetency of state and local governments. Bill de Blasio, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the City Health Department were reportedly at loggerheads as the crisis unfolded as their shutdown orders came too late after critical weeks when the virus was being transmitted exponentially. Moreover, the NY State Department of Health shockingly ordered the transfer of some 4,300 Covid-19 patients from hospitals to nursing homes which exposed the oldest, frailest and most vulnerable to the virus. Gov. Cuomo, alongside the numerous sexual assault allegations against him, was caught up in another scandal as the Washington Post reported that ‘New accounts detail how New York health officials were told to prioritize coronavirus testing of people connected to Andrew Cuomo’- like his brother Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor.
In sum, New York politics is broken, and the corrupt, cronyistic and sleazy Democratic Party elite that control it, need shaking up. ‘Outsider’ Andrew Yang is incredibly well-placed to do just that, and is very popular within the City- that is what the mainstream media cannot stand. They lavished praise on Gov. Cuomo throughout the early stages of the pandemic for his ‘strong’ leadership and ‘clear’ communication in his press briefings to rival the vacuum of leadership from the White House, with TV hosts like Ellen DeGeneres declaring themselves ‘Cuomosexuals’ (*yuck*) to express their admiration for Gov. Cuomo and his brother Chris after their ‘soft-ball’ interviews on CNN. Yet, the mainstream media failed to report on the Nursing home scandal or testing scandal aforementioned for months, and NY Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim had to take his papers, evidencing the depth of the nursing home scandal, to the United Nations as no mainstream media outlet would listen to him. Kim also alleges that Gov. Cuomo threatened to ‘destroy’ him unless he stopped criticising the administration’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.
The mainstream media, and the power brokers in NYC didn’t know what hit them what Yang declared his candidacy. After all, gatekeepers don’t like it when people circumvent the gate. They have tried to ignore Yang, silence him, and smear him, just as happened when he ran for President. For example, the New York Times claiming that Yang’s mantra describing himself as ‘an Asian guy who likes math’ can feed racial stereotypes, and that Yang was not the first candidatein the race to condemn the recent shootings of 8 people in Georgia, 6 of whom were Asian-American, suggesting it was racially motivated. This NYT columnist who questions his representation of Asian-Americans and suggests that his Twitter actions were ‘tone deaf’, is the one who is really ‘tone deaf’.
Yang holds a commanding lead currently among Asian-Americans in NYC, and he is particularly connecting with younger Asian-American voters. Moreover, after initially dismissing Yang, many business executives within the City are now more at ease with him given he recognises the business class’ centrality to the City. Recent survey polling by Data for Progress puts Yang on 26% based on first place votes, far clear of his nearest rival Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough President and darling of the NY Democratic establishment, on 13%. Interestingly, this same poll also had Yang leading among black voters, and another poll from NY1 and Ipsos Mori yielded a similar result: Yang on 22%, Adams at 13% and Scott Stringer, the city comptroller, at 11%. Yang consistently leads in polling even when considering the new ranked-choice, instant runoff voting method used for this upcoming election. Ignore him at your peril, it would seem.
Whether you like Andrew Yang or not, whether you agree or disagree with his politics and policy solutions like the ‘Freedom Dividend’, it is clear to see there is a pattern going on here. Mainstream media elites and political elites in the establishment want to persistently shut down, smear, ignore, silence and emasculate any ‘outsider’ who comes in and wants to shake up their cosy little club of corruption, cronyism and sleaze. Whether it be left-wing/liberal populists like Andrew Yang and Bernie Sanders, or Jeremy Corbyn here in the UK, or even right-wing populists like Donald Trump who the media tried, to no avail, to censor and mutilate for so long, the media and political elite will do all they can to protect their power and authority. Yet, what they cannot control is public opinion. They can try and influence it, sometimes they will be successful as they were with anointing Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee in 2020, and sometimes they won’t- as was demonstrated by Trump’s stunning victory in 2016.
While the NYC Mayoral race is far from over, it looks increasingly likely that they may be unsuccessful again. Andrew Yang is strong favourite to win the Democratic Party nomination for NYC Mayor, and, given the futile Republican opposition in NYC, is likely to be elected the 110th Mayor of New York City in June.
Mainstream media- you cannot ignore him anymore.