Independents taken in by the fresh face of Andrew Yang, former presidential candidate and current front-runner in the New York City mayoral primary, should think twice before joining his Gang. Beneath the peppy, upbeat exterior lies a sinister political vision which would, if implemented, irreparably reshape America.
Yang bills himself as nonpartisan; his presidential campaign slogan was “Not left. Not right. Forward.” And yet his “forward” veers sharply to the left. He endorsed and enthusiastically campaigned for Joe Biden in the general election and subsequently did the same for Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia runoffs that determined control of the Senate.
Dishearteningly, Yang, alone among prominent Democrats, seems to recognize his party’s tendency to elitism, and yet continues to campaign for that very party.
However, where Yang does deviate from Democratic orthodoxy, he deviates into bloviating stupidity, if not outright dystopian madness. Yang’s 2018 book, The War on Normal People, is a hopelessly muddled hodgepodge of ideas for reshaping society: some good, some bad, and some ugly.
The ugliest of them could be straight out of a Black Mirror episode. Yang proposes a Social Credit System which would reward citizens for pro-social acts such as helping their neighbors. His tech utopia would further involve an array of benevolent machines to attend to our needs, including “an AI life coach with the voice of Oprah or Tom Hanks” to deliver marital counseling and “a wearable device that monitors your vital signs and sends data to your doctor while recommending occasional behavioral changes.”
All of this would amount to a Tocquevillian soft despotism with computers as our gentle overlords. Yang’s call for COVID vaccination barcodes is no fluke; it is emblematic of his worldview.
His paternalism extends to referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci as “America’s uncle” in a recent podcast; once political figures and computers have become stand-ins for family, the prognosis for liberty has grown grim indeed.
Yang is also expressly anti-capitalist, whatever his claims to the contrary. He supports “Human-Centered Capitalism,” in which “markets exist to serve our common goals and values.” He would “have the federal government reformat and reorganize the economy, particularly using technology to serve human needs.” The high-tech proposals mentioned above – the AI marital counselor and doctor-interfacing Fitbit – are not to be offered on the free market, but implemented by the government.
Furthermore, Yang argues that markets undervalue “women” and “people of color/underrepresented minorities.” Economic well-being in his vision would include factors such as “social and economic equity.” Those hoping that he might move Democrats beyond noxious identity politics should take careful note.
As I have argued previously, calling a socialist system a new form of capitalism does not make it so. Yang’s proposals, in their own way, are far more radical than those of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; the difference is that the latter are honest about what they are proposing.
Indeed, in a podcast with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, Yang made his methodology clear: he cleverly frames his arguments in order to “sell” conservatives on left-wing policy proposals, such as by saying that universal health care will increase entrepreneurship, or invoking the importance of the family – arguments that “work on a different set of Americans” by “appealing to different values.” This is why he named his Universal Basic Income proposal the Freedom Dividend: “A lot of it is about changing terms.”
And thus is the capitalist inducted into socialism.
In the final pages of his book, Yang’s language veers into the openly demagogical:
“Through all of the doubt, the cynicism, the ridicule, the hatred and anger, we must fight for the world that is still possible… As hands reach out clutching at our arms, take them and pull them along. Fight through the whipping branches of selfishness and despair and resignation. Fight for each other like our souls depend on it. Climb to the hilltop and tell others behind us what we see.”
I need not directly name the twentieth-century tyrants whose spirits Yang seems to be channeling here, but this rhetoric is more utopian-populist than anything that Donald Trump has ever said.
The most frustrating element of all this is that Yang’s book is peppered with glimmers of valuable insight. He speaks with seemingly genuine compassion for the plight of workers and families harmed by recent economic trends. The problems he highlights are real. And yet it is his solutions that form his worldview, and his solutions by which he must be judged.
A lonely outsider in his childhood, Andrew Yang has now gained the acceptance of the cool kids, insofar as Joe Biden and other powerful Democrats can be called “cool.” This is a man who has the ear of the leader of the free world, just as he stands poised to become mayor of America’s largest city. Anyone who does not want a government computer giving them marital counseling should take note.