Thunk Tank Podcast Episode 54-2020 Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang
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If I had to give a one sentence description of presidential candidate Andrew Yang, it would be the same one he gives at rallies: “There’s an Asian guy running for president who wants to give everyone $1000 a month”. The other quote he says a lot also gets right to the point: “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian guy who likes math”. And when you listen to him articulately describe his policy positions, it’s clear that he is mathematically literate. For me, the fact that someone this intelligent and likeable is running for president is what gets me so excited. Low resolution information—often times false information, aka fake news— spreads too successfully in our culture right now, and his clear and honest approach uniquely stands out against this backdrop. He speaks in an articulate way and backs up his statements with detailed statistics. If you thought Obama was smart, then I think you will be even more impressed with Yang.

Trump’s 2016 Victory

One of the things I like most about Andrew Yang is his analysis of the 2016 election. Unlike many on the left, he doesn’t blame racism, the electoral college, or voter fraud. Of course there are many complicated reasons that led to the 2016 outcome—in my opinion one of those was Hillary Clinton being a pretty lame candidate—and it’s hard to know how much blame to put on each one. I personally think that the far left’s identity politics, irrational mobbing, and often baseless accusations of racism/sexism did way more harm than people realize. I don’t have any data on this, but it’s certainly something I’ve discussed with many people in my own life and a story I’ve heard over and over online. Many voted for Trump as a kind of “fuck you” to the corruption and disappointment that was the 2016 Democratic Party. It’s extremely difficult to find the line between the more reasonable stance on the left and the fringe and often irrational “SJW” portion of the left. I think this, combined with Clinton’s lack of inspiration, caused too many people to take a risk on Trump. Clinton’s assertion that Trump’s supporters were “a basket of deplorables” would be a perfect example of this.

But Andrew Yang looked at the data and noticed something. Leading up to this election, four million manufacturing jobs were lost to automation in the very swing states that won Trump this election. And according to his data, this problem of automation will continue to take more and more jobs, with up to one-third of jobs being lost over the next twelve years. He believes that the working class people of these and other states can sense that something big is happening. The labor participation rate is only at 62.7%. People are in trouble, and the democratic side needs someone who can honestly point out and connect with struggling people. Are some of the people who voted for Trump racist? Almost definitely, but is that really surprising in a country with 330 million people. Although that might be a partial reason for the energy behind Trump, it alone does not explain why he won this election.

I really appreciate that Yang does not scapegoat the 2016 election on simple and politically popular talking points. He understands that the Democrats need someone who can speak to and connect with the working class families that live throughout the swing states. These are the people being most affected by automation. And even though Yang is incredibly smart and articulate, he is also down to earth and seems great at connecting with all levels of education. He has many policy positions on his website, but his main policy is that of universal basic income.

Universal Basic Income

Universal Basic Income (or UBI) is the idea that every citizen of a country gets a guaranteed sum of money with no strings attached. In Andrew Yang’s policy, this number would be one thousand dollars per month. This sounded pretty crazy to me at first, but after researching it more I began to realize that it’s quite a reasonable proposal. And because of how rapidly technology is changing our economy—we are experiencing the biggest technological shift in history— a radical adjustment like UBI is becoming more and more necessary. As we adjust to this new wave of automation and artificial intelligence, we will need something to make up for the millions of lost jobs.

The conservatives, in their fear of anything with a socialist leaning, are obviously hesitant towards UBI. But in most of the examples I’ve seen (like this Fox News interview), his talks with conservatives go quite well. He is down to earth in explaining that this time the problem is different. This wave of technology will disrupt things too much for a conservative “lift yourself up by your boot straps” philosophy to work. But he is also a hard working person who connects with and understands conservative thinking; I would sum up his demeanor as one that is aiming to unite the left and right with a truly American message. Our country is extremely divided right now, and the unreasonable voices on both sides of the debate are yelling over the more reasonable conversations happening in the center.

Andrew Yang is having a different conversation, though, and people from both the left and right seem to be responding. He is smart, articulate, and personable. He reminds me of (and apparently is friends with) Eric Weinstein who we talked about during our Intellectual Dark Web episode. I’ve also heard Yang say “fuck” or “Let’s fucking do this” many times at rallies. How many presidential candidates are this relaxed with their public presentation? I’ve been so disillusioned with politics the past few years; dishonesty is rewarded and spreads, and unintelligent and overly simple analyses dominates the media. Watching Andrew Yang over the past few months has given me a sense of hope. It is popular to hate on America, but I feel like Andrew’s message is rooted in an American pride. There are many problems to fix and they are only getting worse. Self driving cars/trucks are coming. Artificial Intelligence is coming. Automated factories are already here and are taking more and more human jobs each day. We need someone who can take on big problems like this in an intelligent and thoughtful way. We also need someone who will dial down the polarization between the left and the right with a more unifying message. There are probably a few acceptable candidates on the democratic side, but none seem to have the intelligence or foresight that Yang has. If you want the opposite of Donald Trump, then I think Yang might be your guy.

You can find a breakdown of his policies on his website, and below I’ll link to some of my favorite interviews:

Thanks for reading!    -Luke from Thunk Tank Podcast

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