Andrew Yang’s front part is directionless

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang on Tuesday announced his new effort to help Americans break free from a stagnant bipartisan “duopoly”: a new political party he calls the Forward Party.

The name of the third of Yang is typically sunny. But unfortunately, we don’t really know where this party is going or what problem it would solve.

In his announcement video, Yang spoke out against the scourge of polarization, which he described as the product of incentives in our media and political systems – particularly gerrymandering and the way primaries encourage politicians to please their base rather than voters. center – and suggested that a new party is needed to disrupt a political order that stifles competition. He also cited unsourced poll statistics on how dissatisfied most Americans are with Congress and want a third party.

Yang’s rise as an American political celebrity has been swift and surprising.

Yang is right that there is widespread disillusionment with Congress and our major political institutions. Self-confidence has been declining for many years. But his diagnosis of the problems that plague us all is superficial: our crisis of polarization is driven by much more than partisanship induced by primaries and uncompetitive districts. And there is little reason to believe that the solution he proposes – a third with no clear political vision other than universal basic income and a purse of mostly progressive democratic reforms – has a market or could inspire the type of mass movement that a third would need. to become viable.

Yang’s rise as an American political celebrity has been swift and surprising. A former entrepreneur and political neophyte, he led a surprisingly popular campaign in 2019 during the Democratic presidential primary. He has found success by leveraging his foreign status and pushing for a Universal Basic Income: $ 1,000 a month for every American, no strings attached. This launched a substantial political debate and won him goodwill; Yang was never a candidate with any real prospect of winning a state, but his focus on UBI was respected by the electorate and won him an online cult.

But when he turned that surge in popularity into a New York mayoral race earlier this year, Yang looked less impressive. Although he had shocking results in the polls for a while, when he was under intense scrutiny, he also revealed that he did not have a cohesive worldview. Annie Lowrey of the Atlantic summed up her odd run on a New Republic podcast this way:

He’s pushing all of this new spending and unconditional spending, but then he has a very corporate streak, and he basically said he wanted to cut taxes, had all of that like pro-business, anti-regulatory policies, and so on. is kind of an unusual and quite unpopular kind of politics that you kind of only see coming from Silicon Valley, like. I keep coming and going, thinking, “Is he really far to the left or really, really stuck in the middle?” And I think the answer is “Yes”. Like, I don’t know if you can actually square the circle.

The ambiguity of Yang’s candidacy and his lack of political connections with key constituencies ultimately sank his candidacy. And Yang’s new political project seems to fit more into the kind of confused ideological sensibility and inattention to the political pulse that we’ve seen during this run.

First, Yang’s diagnosis of the polarization problem is simplistic. While he shines a light on primaries and uncompetitive districts, he makes no mention of the fact that political scientists and journalists have consistently documented just how asymmetric the polarization in Washington is. Specifically, the Republican Party has radicalized, more resistant to good faith government, and has unilaterally or disproportionately defected from majority governance through practices such as abuse of Senate obstruction and nomination. to the Supreme Court standards. This is not, as Yang suggested, an issue where the two sides are simply forced to hate each other because of the way we call politicians, but the result of the emergence of a movement. radical right wing and a party hostile to governance.

Yang also fell prey to a common analytical mistake about the nature of polarization when he pointed out in his video that more people identify as independent than as Democrats or Republicans – and suggested that was a sign that there was a hunger for an alternative party. The problem with this line of thinking is that the overwhelming majority of independents systematically lean towards one party, and “true independents” hover around 10% of the electorate. Even among this set, there is little sign that they are ready to flee the two-party system. Consider that in 2016, a race between the two most unpopular leading presidential candidates of the modern political era only resulted in 6% of voters voting for long-established third parties.

Yang also seems indifferent to engaging in the broader ideological clashes that underlie the rift between Democrats and Republicans today. Both parties can be made to behave badly by certain electoral cues, but they are also locked into existential battles over the nature of our republic, with basic disagreements over the country’s degree of democracy, multiculturalism, and wealth. the people and the government owe every citizen.

Yang’s Forward Party offers no serious consideration of these major issues of the American social contract or of the issues between Red America and Blue America. In fact, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of ideas at all. In his main points on his party platform, Yang listed:

  • Open primary and preferential ballots
  • Universal Basic Income
  • Human-centered economy
  • Evidence-based governance
  • Modern and efficient government
  • Grace and tolerance

Open primaries and UBI aside, these are meaningless buzzwords. The intention is to appear non-ideological and solution-oriented, but the reality is that this suggests that Yang has no discernible theory about how society works and what needs to be done to change it.

The new Forward Party website doesn’t shed much more light. Yang’s vision remains surprisingly vague, and most of the additional policies listed are experimental but markedly small-scale democratic reform goals such as limiting lobbying and convening “civic juries” to influence policy makers. Little of what Yang is proposing sounds unreasonable, but little seems in any way proportionate to the crises facing our nation, from global warming to white nationalist politics to soaring inequality.

And it’s worth noting that a party platform meant to disrupt our political system and make it more democratic has nothing to say about the anti-majority characteristics of our democracy, including obstruction and the Electoral College. . Many of Yang’s proposed reforms would be trivial for a Democratic candidate to pass in a local race or in Congress.

Ultimately, if Yang has a few causes he wants to focus on – say UBI and Democracy Reform – history suggests he’d better try to build a movement within the Democratic Party than to go it alone. A third candidate was never elected president, and third parties tend to perform poorly at the national and local levels around this time as well. There are structural reasons for this, including our first past the post and unrepresentative system, the extreme administrative barriers to third party access to ballots, and the fact that many US voters view third parties as spoilers. . But movements such as the Tea Party and the Democratic Socialists of America and anti-establishment candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have shown that it is possible to disrupt the party system of in much more easily than from the outside.

Yang’s size of online subscribers and his membership in UBI, which has always had appeal across the ideological spectrum, means that we cannot rule out the possibility that the Forward Party may amass a sizeable number of supporters. But it’s safe to predict that most voters will understand that Yang offers no serious way out of our political woes.

Yang deserves credit for pushing a serious conversation about UBI into the mainstream in 2020. He should think more carefully about who is served by a party that no one seems to be asking for.

About Natalee Broderick

Natalee Broderick

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