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.

Scholar, activist, musician, event organizer, author—Christoph Carr is the personification of a visionary. As the co-founder of Brooklyn Wildlife and Black Land Ownership, Carr has long been working to break down boundaries and to create space where art and life can thrive without outside imposition.

More recently, he's been leading unique NYC-based Black Lives Matter protests that attempt to engage directly with the police. His many projects address current, pressing needs—but they also envision a world that could be, a world of connection, deep roots, and human empathy. Here, we spoke about the stories behind his groundbreaking organizations, and the grief and strange possibility buried in the depths of 2020.

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POLITICS

Kamala Harris Will Be Joe Biden's Running Mate

Give us your best meme of Kamala destroying Pence at the debates: GO!

After months of deliberation, Joe Biden has picked Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Harris became nationally recognized after she surged to prominence in the 2020 Democratic primary season. Notoriously, she called Biden out about racial issues during the first Democratic debate. "There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school, and she bused to school every day," she said in a speech that has now become famous. "And that little girl was me."

55-year-old Harris is currently the only Black woman in the Senate. She served as California's Attorney General prior to being elected in 2016.

Harris was born in Oakland, California; her father is from Jamaica and her mother from India. She studied at Howard University and then at University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. She worked as a prosecutor in Alameda County and San Francisco before running for district attorney and then attorney general.

As a Senator, Harris was on the Intelligence Committee which interrogated Trump about Russia, and she also made waves through her interrogations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Attorney General William Barr and Brett Kavanaugh.

Since her 2020 presidential campaign concluded, Harris has focused on the Senate's response to the coronavirus crisis, as well as their response to systemic police brutality and racist violence. In the past, Harris worked closely with Joe Biden's late son, Beau, on challenging big banks in the wake of the housing crisis.

Biden announced the decision via email and text messages to his supporters. "You make a lot of important decisions as president. But the first one is who you select to be your Vice President," he wrote Tuesday afternoon. "I've decided that Kamala Harris is the best person to help me take this fight to Donald Trump and Mike Pence and then to lead this nation starting in January 2021. These aren't normal times. I need someone working alongside me who is smart, tough, and ready to lead. Kamala is that person."

If elected, Harris would be the first vice president to be female or a person of color. "I think that she will help bring a strong voice on issues of immigration and racial justice," said Rep. Ro Khanna, a Fremont Democrat who backed Harris' opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primaries. "Given her life story, to see someone like her selected ... it will be encouraging to so many young people of different backgrounds."

Harris's mixed record as a prosecutor and her vacillation on progressive policies like Medicare for All has come under fire from many progressives' but in this scenario, even the most radical progressives seem to agree that Biden must be elected in order to oust Trump.

Immediate reactions to the Biden-Harris ticket on social media indicated how much supporters were looking forward to seeing Harris face off with Pence during the debates: The match-up seems to be made in meme-heaven.



Perhaps meme culture is the best response to the Biden-Harris ticket, as Democrats must support Biden as the only way to oust Trump–though Biden is far from ideal. "Biden is very problematic in many ways, not only in terms of his past and the role that he played in pushing toward mass incarceration, but he has indicated that he is opposed to disbanding the police, and this is definitely what we need," said civil rights activist Angela Davis.

Davis continued, "The election will not so much be about who gets to lead the country to a better future, but rather how we can support ourselves and our own ability to continue to organize and place pressure on those in power. And I don't think there's a question about which candidate would allow that process to unfold."

CULTURE

Our Vermont Savior: Bernie Sanders Ended His Presidential Bid, but His Impact Will Persist

Bernie Sanders is no longer running for president, but he had an indelible impact on American politics.

Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race on Wednesday, April 8th. The news broke at around 11AM ET, and Sanders addressed his supporters in a live-streamed press conference starting at 11:45.

Standing inside his home, flanked by framed photos of bucolic houses, the Brooklyn-born Vermont senator thanked his supporters—specifically mentioning his campaign staff, all the people who called and texted for him, and all the artists and writers who did their best to promote his unprecedented campaign for president.

"The greatest obstacle to social change is the corporate and political establishment," he told the audience as comments flickered down the side of the screen—a Trump 2020 troll, then a Biden supporter, then a disappointed fan calling for him to re-enter.

Sanders, broadcasting from Burlington, Vermont seemed calm, yet focused. He referenced the Nelson Mandela quote, "It always seems impossible until it's done." He reminded his followers that while Medicare for All was a fringe idea in 2016, now multiple democratic candidates supported it in the presidential race, and now progressive ideals have pervaded mainstream American consciousness.

"Few would deny...our movement has won the ideological struggle," he said. "A majority of the American people now understand that we must raise the minimum wage...that we must guarantee healthcare as a right...that we must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels...and that higher education must be available to all, regardless of income."

Bernie was always a policy candidate, fixated on the issues at hand, clearly tormented by the idea that people are still sleeping on the streets in the richest nation in the world. The rest of the image surrounding him—the toxic masculinity, the Internet trolls—may have been true in part, and perhaps that played a role in his campaign's demise, but the truth is that Bernie's campaign failed for the same reason it won the support of millions of young people and working class people across the country: It was always about supporting and uplifting the working class.

"A member of Congress for nearly 30 years, Mr. Sanders has been bitingly frank about the way that money strangles American democracy," wrote Elizabeth Bruenig in a rare pro-Bernie New York Times op-ed, published conveniently after Sanders dropped out. "Rich individuals with a vested interest in defanging egalitarian politics donate to campaigns, PACs, universities and think tanks in hopes of purchasing lawmakers' loyalties and rigging the legislative process in their favor. These oligarchs — the Koch brothers, the Mercers and Michael Bloomberg, among others — exert control over our politics that far exceeds the one vote accorded to each citizen."

In a nation that worships wealth above all else, and that's truly led by massive corporations, perhaps this was a doomed endeavor. Sanders certainly invoked ire across political parties; and sometimes, Bernie supporters did exhibit somewhat cult-like behavior—though from personal experience, this cult mostly consisted people who were deeply inspired and committed to healing American society.

For some, that Sanders dropped out in the midst of the coronavirus crisis only adds insult to injury. As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor wrote in the brilliant New Yorker article "Reality Has Endorsed Bernie Sanders"—published a week before he dropped out—coronavirus is starkly illuminating the validity of points that Bernie has been making all along. "The class-driven hierarchy of our society will encourage the spread of this virus unless dramatic and previously unthinkable solutions are immediately put on the table," Taylor writes. "As Sanders has counseled, we must think in unprecedented ways… The Sanders campaign...has shown public appetite, even desire, for vast spending and new programs. These desires did not translate into votes because they seemed like a risky endeavor when the consequence was four more years of Trump. But the mushrooming crisis of COVID-19 is changing the calculus. As federal officials announce new trillion-dollar aid packages daily, we can never go back to banal discussions of 'How will we pay for it?' How can we not?"

Though Bernie's acquiescence to Joe Biden is a devastating loss for many of his supporters, particularly those who were never able to even cast a vote for him, in many ways Sanders' decision to drop out was a logical and even ethical choice. As Sanders himself stated in the broadcast, there was no clear path to his election—a crushing Biden victory on Super Tuesday made that clear—and in addition, holding primary elections during the coronavirus crisis poses its own unique health dangers and inevitably would distort the results.

Now, for all intents and purposes, Biden is the Democratic nominee. Though he fell short of actually endorsing Biden, Bernie called the former vice president a "very decent man" and promised to do his best to promote his progressive ideals in the forthcoming campaign.

The road ahead will be long and difficult, regardless of who wins this November. But our Vermont savior, who symbolized such a potent and promising new world, at the very least laid down some seeds. We may not see them this season, but maybe in future years, the ideas Bernie Sanders planted will be able to grow.

"Now is a moment to remake our society anew," Taylor writes. To say Bernie made an indelible impact on American politics is an understatement. In a critical and volatile moment, he inspired a new wave of young progressives to organize, and made millions of voters question the status quo. He prioritized morality in his campaign in an era that seems entirely devoid of it—not morality in terms of tolerance that disguises inaction, but morality defined by what we truly owe to each other.

These ideas will not die out after Sanders exits the primary. If anything, they'll become more local, more grassroots, more rooted in people power. After all, mainstream political parties in America have never been at the forefront of radical people-focused action. That kind of change will always have to come from the actions of everyday folks, organizing and fighting tirelessly for people they don't know.