Andrew Yang New York Mayor

"Times Square," said Andrew Yang in a recent interview with Ziwe. "What's not to like?"

As a New Yorker who once walked through the hellscape that is the Times Square subway station twice a day, I find that question not only abhorrent but stunningly tone deaf. Sure, Times Square has its own kitschy appeal and the subway station is still part of the city I love so much, but also… it's Times Square. Real New Yorkers know that Times Square is a distorted tourist trap, and the subway station bears none of the charm and beauty that so many of the city's other subway stations do.

Take, for example, the Coney Island Stillwell Avenue station, my favorite subway station. Rising out of the ground to the sight of the ocean is an experience I'll never be over. There's Brooklyn's Prospect Avenue station, with its tangles of vines and its mournful yellow lamplight. There's 28th Street Station, with its cherry blossom mosaics… I could go on.

I could possibly forgive Yang's comment if I felt it came from a place of love — perhaps the man has a special adoration for chaos, souvenirs, the smell of things burning, and stations that allow transfers to almost every other part of the city.

But Andrew Yang has been making out-of-touch comments since the beginning of his mayoral candidacy. He confessed that he'd spent most of the pandemic out of the city, saying, "We've spent more time upstate than in the city over the last number of months." He misidentified a food market as a bodega. He complained about life in his two-bedroom Hell's Kitchen apartment, stating, "Can you imagine trying to have two kids in virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?" Why yes, Andrew Yang. (Why yes, many thousands of the New Yorkers you hope to represent have been doing exactly that for over a year now.)

Yang was also criticized for name-dropping LGBTQ+ spots like a tourist looking to explore the gay side of Greenwich Village for the first time. "Well, first, let me say that if I go to Cubbyhole, I think I'm going to be accompanied by at least one of my two campaign managers who are both gay," he said. "So there's like a lot of, you know, familiarity with, with the community, at the head of my campaign leading it." Later on in the same speech, he told a mostly LGBTQ+ audience that their community is "so human and beautiful."

His tweets are a mess as well. He later apologized for a tweet reading, "You know what I hear over and over again - that NYC is not enforcing rules against unlicensed street vendors. I'm for increasing licenses but we should do more for the retailers who are paying rent and trying to survive." But the damage was done. New York City's vibrance comes in large part from its street vendors, many of whom make their living selling food on the sidewalks. Many saw Yang's comments as further evidence that he had no connection to everyday New Yorkers.

He also recently apologized for a blatantly pro-Israel and anti-Arab tweet, which garnered praise from none other than Donald Trump Jr. The tweet read, "The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere." Yang also said, in a Forward op-ed, that the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement was the result of "anti-semitic thought and history."

In another interview, Yang confessed that he has never voted in a single mayoral election in NYC. In a recent press conference, he stated, "One thing that I think would be extraordinarily helpful is to have specific shelters for victims of domestic violence, who are often fleeing from an abusive partner," Yang said during the forum. "It's a distinct population with distinct needs, and they should have separate [facilities]." Others were quick to point out that New York City does, in fact, have these types of shelters, and Yang tried to walk back his claim, but the damage was done.

In yet another fumbled press conference, Yang was asked, "Do you agree with the repeal of 50-a?" He replied, "The repeal of 50-a," prompting the interviewer to ask, "Do you know what 50-a is?" Yang fumbled the reply further by saying, "This is not the — it's not the mandatory interview of the—" prompting another candidate to clarify that 50-a is actually a bill that hides police officers' disciplinary actions from the public. The bill received widespread attention during the George Floyd protests this year.

Later on, Yang was asked about the MTA's debt, and he responded, "The MTA doesn't break its numbers out that cleanly, but you're looking at revenues around eight or nine million dollars and an operating deficit of around three-and-a-half." The MTA's debt is actually in the billions of dollars, which Yang likely meant to say, but he further flubbed the response by mentioning MTA bridges that go out of the city, which there are none of (the Port Authority controls outer-city transit).

Each one of these foibles reveals a candidate who is blatantly out of touch with the extremely complicated everyday realities of New York City. All these little mishaps are arguably easy to forgive on their own — but look at them together and it becomes easier to piece together who Andrew Yang is (and who he is not).

Look deeper at his policies and the practices he hopes to implement as the mayor of the Big Apple — a position he may very well win — and a more ominous picture starts to take shape.

Policy Flaws and a Poor Track Record

For example, Yang — who grew famous during the 2020 election cycle thanks to his promises of Universal Basic Income — has since walked back his promises and has failed to garner critical union and progressive support. He pledged, for example, to offer $1,000 to $2,000 per year to "each family of a student whose family income puts them at the poverty threshold," as well as English language learners and special education students. $1,000 or $2,000, essentially a one-time stimulus check, would, of course, not lift any student or their family out of poverty, especially in a place like New York City, nor would it be anything close to a universal basic income.

Even Yang's original Universal Basic Income proposal, the "Freedom Dividend," would have required families to choose between receiving some public benefits such as Medicare and $1,000 per month.

If you weren't already aware at this point, Yang, though allegedly a Democrat, with wide residual progressive appeal from 2020, has conservative-leaning policies. That's part of what makes him so insidious and competitive as a candidate: He can appeal to progressives who don't do their research, to Democrats looking for an acceptably centrist candidate, to independents looking for a non-establishment politician, and to Republicans who know Yang is probably the closest thing to a conservative mayor they'll find right now.

Rightly so, Yang is facing vehement opposition from many groups, particularly among the powerful coalition of progressive organizations in NYC. "Andrew Yang's pro-cop, anti-public education, anti-union, big business-centric platform is not what New Yorkers need," Senti Sojwal, cofounder of the Asian American Feminist Collective, told Teen Vogue. Sojwal, along with 790 grassroots AAPI organizers and leaders, recently signed a letter opposing Yang's mayoral bid.

Yang is apparently "in talks with Tusk Strategies, the consulting firm that worked on Mike Bloomberg's 2009 mayoral campaign." The CEO of Tusk Strategies is Bradley Tusk, a former consultant for the city's largest police union.

Yang also advocated for putting more police in subway stations and has been a vocal critic of the defund the police movements.

In general, Yang seems to glorify a capitalist free market that many fear would be damaging to NYC's already fragile housing situation. Back in 2019, Yang proclaimed his distaste for zoning laws and seemed to advocate for a kind of wild free-for-all situation based on the premise that the market would work its magic. However, New York City is in the midst of a housing crisis that free market development will certainly not help solve.

A look at Yang's record reveals that he has long been oscillating between progressivism and conservatism.

After working as a test-prep executive, he started a nonprofit called Venture for America, which promised to create 100,000 jobs. It only created around 4,000.

Running New York City is far, far more complicated than running a single nonprofit, and Yang's record is not promising. His policies are chaotic at best; he has promised to bring cryptocurrency to New York despite the potentially devastating environmental impact. He confessed to having never visited one of New York City's public housing developments prior to the mayoral race, and after living in Hell's Kitchen for 25 years, he seemed surprised after visiting Brownsville, Brooklyn, saying, "You saw things that were very, very dark and bleak." Talk about out of touch.

In general, critics say Yang lacks the expertise to address NYC's most pressing problems, including its failing subway systems, its housing crisis, and impending environmental crises such as future hurricanes.

So Why is He a Frontrunner?

In spite of all this, Yang is polling strongly. There are several reasons for this. Yang has the name-factor recognition, and he has leveraged his celebrity status to the max, promising to be a "cheerleader" for a post-COVID New York. Like Trump, his controversial tweets and gaffes tend to bring more attention to him. As The New York Times writes, "Andrew Yang Believes in New York and Himself. Is That Enough?" It may well be, though it seems strange that in a city that prides itself on its no-nonsense, no bullshit ethic, wild optimism could be a winning campaign.

Yang has amassed a coalition that includes Orthodox Jews (Yang promised to take a hands-off approach to yeshivas), some Asian American voters, and some young people still riding the high of the Yang Gang.

In addition, none of his competitors have managed to overtake him in popularity or notoriety. His opponent Scott Stringer, the current comptroller, was recently accused of sexual assault, causing key groups to withdraw their support. Candidate Dianne Morales is a strong progressive champion running on a promise to bring social housing to NYC, but she lacks the name recognition of Yang, and the same goes for fellow candidate Maya Wiley. The fact that Yang seems to be running on a platform based on unearned confidence that is eclipsing the campaigns of two qualified Black women is reason for pause in and of itself.

As of now, Yang's primary opponent seems to be Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president who is a former cop who promised to carry a gun if elected. Another major opponent is Kathryn Garcia, the former New York City sanitation commissioner, who came out on top in a recent poll.

So, in spite of all this, it seems that New Yorkers may be stuck with Andrew Yang. Of course, he's probably not the worst man for the job. Yang has big, optimistic visions: invest in the city's failing infrastructure and affordable housing, reinvigorate the city's arts and culture sector, develop education, a People's Bank for the city, address the homelessness crisis and more. After Bloomberg, almost any new energy will feel welcome.

Whether Yang can achieve any of his visions is to be seen. But with New York City on the brink of rebirth, change is coming fast — and it's up to voters to decide what kind of change they ultimately want to see.

Culture Feature

12 of the Best Political Voices in Hip-Hop

There's a potent strain of leftist politics woven into the history of rap and hip hop, and these artists have been pushing it harder than ever in recent years.

With all the negative attention that Kanye West has been earning for himself in recent days...and months...and years, it's important to remember that he is a political outlier.

The vast majority of the time when rappers involve themselves in politics, they do not align themselves with figures like Donald Trump. There is a long tradition of hip hop artists using their platforms to call attention to important social movements and endorse liberatory left-wing politics.

These 12 artists are some of the most significant voices in hip hop and politics who have made serious efforts to spread important messages, and in some cases have done a lot more than that.

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MUSIC

Donald Glover Shared Surprise New Album–Then It Disappeared

The artist best known as Childish Gambino shared a new album online...for a few hours.

Now that his former client, Andrew Yang, is out of the presidential race, how has Donald Glover been spending his time?

Making new music...kind of. Over the weekend, the polymathic artist best known as Childish Gambino uploaded a collection of music to a website called DonaldGloverPresents.com, including his 2018 track "Feels Like Summer" in addition to a plethora of new tunes (with features from Ariana Grande and 21 Savage). But now, a few hours later, the music has disappeared.

Glover's last album was 2016's Awaken, My Love!, which received an Album of the Year Grammy nomination. He signed with RCA back in 2018, just before releasing his Internet-breaking hit "This Is America," which won both Song and Record of the Year at the Grammys. He's long maintained that he'd retire the Childish Gambino moniker, but it's not apparent which name he's using for his music going forward.

In dire times like these, he really couldn't have let us just have this one nice thing?

CULTURE

Amy Klobuchar's Entire Subreddit Is an Ironic Joke–and So Is She

Amy Klobuchar ate salad with her comb and then made her aide clean it.

Prior to their official half-endorsement of Amy Klobuchar as the "Democrats' Best Choice For President," The New York Times covered another side of the Minnesota senator.

"Senator Amy Klobuchar was hungry, forkless and losing patience," wrote political reporters Matt Flefenheimer and Sydney Ember.

"An aide, joining her on a trip to South Carolina in 2008, had procured a salad for his boss while hauling their bags through an airport terminal. But once onboard, he delivered the grim news: He had fumbled the plastic eating utensils before reaching the gate, and the crew did not have any forks on such a short flight.

What happened next was typical: Ms. Klobuchar berated her aide instantly for the slip-up. What happened after that was not: She pulled a comb from her bag and began eating the salad with it, according to four people familiar with the episode.

Then she handed the comb to her staff member with a directive: Clean it."

Amy Klobuchar Salad

Flefenheimer and Ember's deep dive into Klobuchar's campaign team reads more like a copypasta than an account of real events; but alas, Klobuchar herself even seemed to lowkey brag about her history of mistreating her staff. "Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes," Klobuchar said during a CNN Town Hall in February 2019. "Have I pushed people too hard? Yes. But I have kept expectations for myself that are very high. I've asked my staff to meet those same expectations. The big point for me is that I want the country to meet high expectations."

The CNN Town Hall audience may have cheered for that line, but voters don't seem to be "eating the salad," proverbially speaking. Klobuchar has consistently polled near the very bottom of people's choices for Democratic primary candidate, with recent polls placing her just over 3%. In other words, The New York Times' endorsement of Amy Klobuchar is strange considering the fact that she's basically unelectable.

But while, statistically speaking, pretty much nobody actually likes Amy Klobuchar, her behavior has struck a chord with a specific demographic on Reddit.

For context, while the overall Reddit community leans white, male, and liberal, many political figures' most ardent supporters use Reddit as a gathering space for promoting their candidate of choice. From the quarantined r/The_Donald with its 785k members (Russian bots included) to r/SandersForPresident with 380k, almost anyone can find their favorite presidential pick on Reddit. Even r/Tulsi has over 17k people who want Tulsi Gabbard to be president for some reason.

And then we have r/AmyKlobuchar. With 147 total members, roughly seven of whom seem to be online at any given time, the truly incredible thing about Amy Klobuchar's subreddit isn't its minimal user base. It's the fact that pretty much everything posted there is ironic.

r/AmyKlobuchar

The most upvoted post on the entire sub is titled "Amy Klobberchar" and contains a meme recounting a fictional incident wherein Amy Klobuchar threw a stapler at a staffer. In fact, many of the posts in r/AmyKlobuchar hone in on Klobuchar's history of staffer abuse, depicting Klobuchar firing unpaid interns and stepping on people's necks.

Amy Klobberchar

In another top post on the sub titled "Why I am voting for Amy," a user lists off reasons including, "She is abusive towards her staff. We need a fighter, not a wimp," and, "I like the taste of boot."

The same New York Times article that covered the salad incident included a leaked email that Klobuchar has sent to her staffers regarding the things people said about her on Twitter: "We are becoming a joke and it is making me a joke."

As it turns out, Klobuchar's prophecy was self-fulfilling. By continually treating her staff like garbage, Klobuchar invoked the attention of a small but vocal demographic of roughly 147 people who don't like seeing low-paid interns treated like garbage.

Perhaps much more importantly, though, to most of the American electorate, Amy Klobuchar still doesn't matter.

Yusaku Maezawa founded the fashion retail website Zozotown in 2004.

It has since grown to be the largest of its type in Japan, and in November Maezawa sold a controlling stake of Zozo Inc to SoftBank for $900 million. Now he's decided to give a small piece of that money away to 1,000, randomly selected strangers. All they had to do for a chance to win was to retweet the announcement.

Maezawa moon

Maezawa is an interesting figure with a history as a musician and plans to fly around the moon with SpaceX in the first-of-its-kind commercial flight. But while he remains here on Earth, he's been devoting himself to "social experiments" on the connection between money and happiness. His announcement of a smaller scale experiment last January broke records with nearly five million retweets. His plan was to give 100 people each a million yen (around $9,000). Now he's giving the same amount to 1,000 people who will then answer a series of surveys in an effort to see how that money affects their happiness.

Maezawa wants to encourage Japanese society to look into the concept of a Universal Basic Income—similar to presidential candidate Andrew Yang's proposed $12,000 a year—and he's hoping that his experiment will lead to more serious consideration. It's an admirable goal, and the $9 million he's giving away isn't exactly chump change…unless you're a billionaire like Yusaku Maezawa. In 2017 he broke another record by spending more than 12 times that amount on a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Good taste aside, he clearly doesn't worry much about throwing his financial weight around.

Yusaku Maezawa Basquiat

It can be hard for people who work for a living to really wrap our heads around the immense wealth that the most powerful members of our society wield, but experiments like this can help put things in perspective. The results of Maezawa's generosity remain to be seen, but it's hard to imagine that the recipients' happiness wouldn't be improved by an extra $9,000 in their pockets.

Meanwhile, Maezawa's total fortune is estimated to be around $2 billion, which means that he could give away another $9,000 every hour for 20 years…and still have hundreds of millions of dollars left over for himself. In other words, he could substantially improve the lives of 175,000 people without experiencing even a negligible decline in his quality of life—though he might have to trim his fine-art budget.

Billion

Last year the world's wealthiest 500 people saw their wealth grow by 25%, adding $1.2 trillion to their collective net worth. You could fit those 500 people in one large room—Maezawa would be about $1.5 billion short of making the cut—and they made enough money in one year to give $9,000 to everyone in the country of Mexico. If they dipped into their total wealth, they could easily expand that to include everyone in the US—again, without substantially impacting their quality of life. Dropping from billionaires to people with only hundreds of millions of dollars would not impact their way of life in any meaningful way. It would only affect their absurdly elite status—their access to that exclusive club policed by Forbes.

So is the status of those 500 people somehow worth more than the happiness of 500 million? Should we all be subject to the whims of people who got extraordinarily lucky? None one should be comfortable with the idea of this kind of wealth existing in a world where so many suffer and where nations struggle to fund programs for the public good and the future life-sustaining capacity of our planet.

Australia Fires Getty Images

It's estimated that it would cost only $300 billion to delay the catastrophic impact of global warming for 20 years—a tiny fraction of what billionaires like Maezawa made last year. A Universal Basic Income could turn out to be a great thing, but until we have a clear sense of how to do it right, the wealth taxes proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren seem like a small first step in the right direction.

CULTURE

The Full Breakdown of the 2020 Candidates' Dance Moves

Because the American people deserve to know

With less than a month left until the Iowa caucuses officially kick off primary season, it seems like we've spent the last decade slowly whittling away at an endless list of candidates.

Many voters have already seen their favorite contenders drop out of the race. Others have yet to figure out which person on a crowded debate stage best represents their interests. Obviously there are a number of axes on which you can compare the candidates, and countless articles that can help you navigate their differing economic policies, their stances on health care, or their various approaches to foreign policy. If those are the factors by which you judge a candidate, you should have no problem finding what you need to make up your mind. People like me are not so lucky.

Obama dancing with Ellen Degeneres

I have always been a single issue voter—consistently casting my ballot for the best dancer. In 2008 and 2012, I had an easy time of it. Barack Obama's blend of smooth and corny dance moves struck a perfect balance for my sensibilities, easily winning out over Mitt Romney's "Gangnam Style" convulsions, or John McCain's high-intensity robot. 2016 presented a more difficult choice. I nearly didn't vote at all, but ultimately decided that Hillary Clinton's stiff Whip and Nae Nae represented the lesser of two evils when considered against Donald Trump's apocalyptic rendition of "Hotline Bling."

Trump dance SNL SNL

Sadly, some 60 million voters didn't see what I did, and made the wrong call. I won't let that happen again. The American people deserve to see every candidate dance before they go to the polls. Until the DNC finally listens to wisdom and converts one of their debates to a dance off, I've compiled this list so that you can make an informed decision.

Elizabeth Warren

We'll get the top-tier candidates out of the way first. Senator Elizabeth Warren has nothing to hide. She has been the most upfront, transparent candidate when it comes to her big, structural dancing. And while it may not be everyone's first choice in style, you can not fault her fun-aunt-at-a-wedding energy. The latest example of her eclectic blend of fist pumping and hula dancing comes from last night's Brooklyn rally with—recent dropout and competent dancer in his own right—Julian Castro. She probably just needs a couple more glasses of zinfendel from the open bar before she really loosens up.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is surprisingly spry. You might not expect a man in his 70s with heart problems to cut a rug, but Bernie is not your average senior citizen. He has the energy of a man half his age, and the timeless consistency of his dancing allows him to keep up with his young supporters.

Joe Biden

Former vice president Joe Biden dances exactly as you'd expect—slow, old fashioned, and "sweet" in a way that's uncomfortably intimate.

Andrew Yang

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Yang has more than enough spring in his step to keep up with any roomful of middle-aged women on the dance floor. His universal basic dance moves aim to remind us that we all share one dance floor.

Tulsi Gabbard

Congressional representative for Hawaii Tulsi Gabbard doesn't exactly dance—she dance-fights. Just as with her approach to debates or to the war on terror, her Capoeira moves may be a bit more aggressive than some voters want.

Amy Klobuchar

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is known for her no-nonsense pragmatism. She strives not to make any promises she can't keep, so she will appear to be the adult in the room...but her dancing tells a different story. Klobuchar dances with the energy of a happy toddler who could enter full-blown tantrum mode at any moment.

Marianne Williamson

Marianne dancing

You may be surprised to find that spiritual guru Marianne Williamson is still in the race, but once you see her dance moves, you'll be surprised she isn't the front runner. She is as one with the music as she is with the vibrations of the universe.

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