The Yang Cake
Why Andrew Yang represents the future of US politics
“I think he makes a lot of sense”
Summer 2020. Here I was sitting on my couch, watching the news, listening to my Jewish, liberal mother-in-law declare support for Andrew Yang.
This was the moment I realized Andrew Yang was something new.
You see, my dad and I had also just talked about Andrew the week before. My dad is a small businessman, devout evangelical Christian, and a registered Republican.
Yet, in different conversations with my dad and my mother-in-law they both expressed admiration for Andrew. While I was already a fan, this is the moment I was fueled to better understand why he makes a lot of sense.
Andrew represents an entirely new system, at once radical, exciting, and yet logical and common sense. He appeals to people of all political stripes and geographies. Andrew is a new breed of politician that will flourish in the new system.
The world is turning faster
What's new is how fast the world now changes. Every single aspect of modern life is changing, thanks to the internet.
- mass media
- legacy corporations like GE
- political party machines
were what defined modern society up until now.
But new, technology-enabled systems are rising up. The old systems resist the advent of new systems, like Jerry the boomer at your office resists Slack.
The new systems will destroy the old systems or render them obsolete. Irrelevant. It's inevitable.
Andrew Yang is part of a new system.
Polarization is a symptom of system breakdown
There’s a palpable feeling of polarization in the United States right now. But polarization is not a cause, polarization is a symptom.
Post World War II American society was at an all-time high. We came together as a country to defeat an obvious enemy. We trusted our systems.
It was mass delusion, the system was perfect for some people, and for the rest there was no alternative.
The old systems facilitated unity, their breakdown leads to polarization.
Enter the Internet
Many Institutions That Predated the Internet Won't Survive the Internet
In 1961 we had access to 3 TV channels, radio, and newspapers. Information was scarce, controlled by a handful of trusted systems.
No wonder we had social cohesion!
The internet is a funny beast though. It allows all the fringe groups that didn’t fit the mould of 1950s suburbia to find each other.
We have a deluge of information relative to 1950. Twitter and Reddit allow fringe groups to find each other. On the upside, obscure hobbyists find community, on the downside conspiracy theorists find each other. In 1971 if you had a wild conspiracy theory your town just thought you were crazy and ignored it, 50 years later you can find every crazy person in every town.
The internet is the largest driver of societal change to date. The changes we’re going through are irreversible. You can't put the genie back in the bottle. The only option is to push forward and design a better future.
This brings us back to the systems that controlled society up until this point.
One by one they are breaking down due to the internet, and tech companies.
The media - media must compete with all other media on the internet. So they offer sensational entertainment as news - which drives clicks. Donald Trump wasn't all wrong when he called it "fake news".
Political machines - the party machines controlled who moved up the ranks. You paid your dues and worked your way up the system. But savvy internet users like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Donald Trump used social media to get elected, against the wishes of the party bosses.
Legacy corporations - Legacy companies were the bedrock of the American middle-class. Now, every year more disappear. Tech companies, changing trends, and the internet are the reason.
There’s a straight line tracing the crumble of systems and the rise of polarization in the United States. All exacerbated by ideological echo chambers - reinforced by engagement algorithms on social media.
Is America really pulling apart?
Where does Andrew fit?
The US has been polarizing for the last few decades, with the gap widening rapidly in the 2000s. Not coincidentally coinciding with the rise of cable news first, and accelerated by the internet.
Take a look at the image to the right here. Look at the amount of overlap in the 80’s and then look at today. It’s profound when you look at the centerline of the two curves, the middle chasm has vastly grown. And we can all feel it. I feel it in my own life.
To come back to my dad, he’s a California conservative, probably right in the center of the red bell curve.
My mother-in-law is a San Francisco lesbian, and has been composting since before we were all born. She’s left of center on the top of the blue curve. Not hard left, but pretty far left.
The gulf between these two people is profound, take a look at the chart again. I’ll put a big star where my MIL and dad are, look at the distance!
With yesterday’s systems breaking down they have nothing in common except me.
They don’t read the same news, they don’t vote the same, they don’t see eye to eye on topics, and yet Andrew Yang had them both nodding their heads in agreement.
How does Andrew cut through the breakdown of systems, the polarization?
Not left. Not right. Forward.
Yang charts a path on a third line and he lays down bread crumbs for both sides to bring them down this third line.
You see in yesterday’s political system people belong on a spectrum of left and right and we can plot this on a chart with distribution on the Y axis, but Yang knows this is an old system.
He found traction by changing the paradigm, so much so that he made, “Not left. Not right. Forward.”, a central campaign slogan.
All you have to do is reach back to when you took math in high school and remember the z axis. He charted a path into new territory along a new axis.
Take a look at the diagram to the right. This is the reality of his policies. An alternative path forward with just a little math - not coincidentally another of his favorite themes.
MATH - Make America Think Harder
It’s not just my mother-in-law and my dad, Andrew had the most diverse set of individuals that supported him. From liberal techies to people on the far-right. Andrew is elusive, like a slippery frog. The moment you try to grasp his ideology he’s slipping out of your hands in another direction.
Who is Andrew Yang?
Andrew Yang is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, who grew up in the suburbs of NYC. He went to Columbia law school and started his career as a corporate lawyer, but changed to tech.
After a few failed tech startups he had success with Manhattan Prep. Andrew worked his way up to CEO, and when the company sold to Kaplan he made his first millions.
He went on to found Venture For America, a noble but failed idea. The concept was simple. Take America’s brightest college grads and instead of sending them to investment banks in NYC or Facebook in Silicon Valley, have them work with entrepreneurs in middle America. Cities like Saint Louis, Tulsa, and Detroit.
During his time at Venture For America he began to form his worldview of a pending A.I.-pocalypse.
He observed that automation trends were beginning to affect middle-America. Not in a distant dystopian future, but right now.
Andrew Yang’s World View
Andrew is eyeing trends that have been occurring for the last 10 years and extrapolating that into a future 10 years out.
The problem that Andrew sees for America is not race, Republicans, or immigrants, it's automation.
Just take a quick watch of this moment in the debates to the right.
The biggest criticism of this worldview is that it's hard to see these effects. Andrew believes they're widespread and diffuse.
He spoke of asking Americans why the shops have closed on Main Street. The response is always the same, Amazon.
Andrew talks about how the most common job in 29 states is a truck driver, and Silicon Valley is working on automating that away.
Andrew believes the effects of automation will be further reaching than the Industrial Revolution, and occur at 3-4 times the rate.
“Automation is no longer just a problem for those working in manufacturing. Physical labor was replaced by robots; mental labor is going to be replaced by AI and software.”
For white-collar jobs, Andrew cites how radiologists are being disrupted by machine learning.
Though the effects of automation may not be obvious, he feels they are coming on quick and we must prepare.
Though automation and it's solution, universal basic income, which I'll touch on below, are the cornerstone of his platform, he covers a ridiculous amount of topics. Some of them almost belong in a science fiction book, but he’s looking at the world in a different way.
Sci-fi is an apt descriptor for Andrew. His goal is to redesign society for a post technological revolution, and it's second and third order effects.
Andrew the optimist
Despite his belief that pending automation spells doom for many current jobs, he's utopian.
He sees Amazon as a fantastic company that provides immense value to many. They're not the bad guy, but they should pay more taxes. And we should address any negative externalities of technical change.
He doesn’t want to stop robo-truck drivers, but to give the former truck drivers a soft landing.
The solution is free money
This brings us to his solution, universal basic income (UBI).
"UBI is a government program in which every adult citizen receives a set amount of money on a regular basis. The goals of a basic income system are to alleviate poverty and replace other need-based social programs that potentially require greater bureaucratic involvement." Investopedia
Andrew brands UBI as a “Freedom Dividend”. He'd give $1,000 a month to every US citizen over the age of 18 free and clear. No matter how rich you or poor you are.
He sees this as a vast, not safety net, but enabler of American entrepreneurism and mobility. Andrew says 12k a year isn’t enough to live on, but it buys you options. This massive, monthly injection of capital into the US would change the risk factors for a ton of people.
“if you're in a town in Missouri with 50,000 people and let's say you really like to bake. But starting a bakery is a dumb idea because people just do not have money in that town to buy your baked goods. But then I pump 60 million dollars a year into that economy and a lot of that just circulates right there in that town.
So the money is not the solution the money helps set the stage for the solutions”
Andrew is a businessman and a capitalist, but he believes the game has shifted. The American economy is growing, largely due to massive tech companies, but the average person isn't sharing in that wealth.
Andrew's freedom dividend makes citizens into shareholders in America's wealth. And he intends to fund it by taxing the tech companies generating the wealth.
He calls this new system capitalism that doesn’t start at zero.
The Yang Cake
Yang is an ideological indiscriminate and borrows generously from the pantry of political groups. He takes the best ingredients from each pantry and meticulously bakes a cake that is hard to resist.
you need to take the best of any camp to solve the problems of this era
The Yang cake is not Democrat, not Republican, and not moderate. It’s wholly American. It’s radical, and it’s common sense all at once. Anyone who smells the Yang cake wants a piece.
Why didn’t he win the 2020 candidacy?
Why was a candidate with such diverse appeal not nominated? Personally I’d like to think he was just ahead of his time, but analyzing this at a deeper level a few reasons emerge.
Andrew isn’t part of the Democratic Party Machine
The Democratic Party is an old system that rewards its own.
We saw this in 2016 with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Even though Bernie was an exciting candidate with surprising appeal to many conservatives, he's not a Democrat.
The party considered 2016 Hilary's moment. Hers, for her investments into the machine. She reduced the Bill Clinton scandal, then worked her way up from senator to Secretary of State. Her nomination for president was pre-determined by the system.
Andrew Yang is a political outsider, not an establishment Democrat.
American Progressive Movement
The American progressive movement does not see Andrew as progressive. Full stop. Despite being a liberal candidate with a radical platform intended to progress society, he's not part of the American Progressive Movement.
The American Progressive Movement has grown more powerful in the last few decades and has significant influence in legacy media institutions and the Democratic party.
Why isn't Andrew progressive?
Progressives focus on policies that affect people of color, LGBTQ+, immigrants, etc.
Despite being a person of color, and a son of immigrants, Andrew speaks little of these issues. When asked, he's quite supportive, but he instead focuses on economics and technology.
He does, however, talk about the plight of rural, white men. This further alienated him from Progressives, but had an amazing effect on getting rural conservatives to listen to his ideas.
Climate change is a major issue for Progressives - and rightfully so. Andrew is okay with, even pro, nuclear energy. Despite evidence of nuclear being a safe, emision free alternative, it's not supported by Progressives.
Progressives focus on income inequality in the United States. It's in the solutions to this that Andrew breaks with Progressive orthodoxy.
1 he’s pro business and capitalism, where Progressives denounce business and renounce capitalism, and the most radical elements of Progressives are calling for socialism. His businessman background is perceived as negative, where for conservatives it's often lauded.
2 his UBI program would give money to all Americans, and not only the poorest.
Guilt by association
Andrew Yang is willing to engage with conservatives. The Progressives say that he has supporters on the far-right, so he must be far-right.
This is a problem with Progressives in America. They contribute to the divide by not listening to their fellow Americans.
I'm reminded of Daryl Davis, a black musician who befriends Klu Klux Klansmen. Over the years he’s convinced hundreds of Klansmen to give up their robes. By the Progressives standards Daryl is a white supremasist. The logic breaks down when you make it obvious.
Andrew Yang is reaching conservatives where they are, and he’s doing a good job of converting many of them into liberal believers.
The Media and Andrew
It’s clear that the mainstream media outlets, such as the New York Times and MSNBC, do not like Andrew Yang. And this is important to dive into.
During his candidacy for the 2020 nomination, Andrew was often ignored. Here's a great collection of instances.
Now, he’s running for New York City mayor, and he’s polling as the favorite. The media cannot ignore him so they've switched to smearing him.
This headline is intended to show Andrew as a charlatan or failure.
But Andrew spoke often of his time at Venture for America and why it didn’t work, it’s what drove him into politics. The New York Times knows this, but they also know most people don't and they just skim headlines. Smear.
The NYT chose to write a headline to portray him as a failure.
Why does the media not like him?
I have three theories, it's likely a combination of them, though I'm unsure of the weighting.
They don't understand him.
There was a recent New York Times post that declared Andrew Yang a moderate. This is a shallow analysis. Andrew has novel, radical solutions to America's problems. He appeals to the common sense of people on both the left and right. His ideas, positive personality, and willingness to engage with everyone has earned him fans on both sides of the spectrum. Moderates are a compromise, they’re purple in a world of red and blue. Andrew is a different color altogether that just so happens to appeal to reds and blues.
Progressive influence on the media
As I elaborated in the section above, Andrew is not a Progressive, and is not supported by them. As the Progressive movement has gained influence in the Media, they are against Andrew.
Andrew is a new system, Media is legacy
“Many Institutions That Predated the Internet Won't Survive the Internet” Balaji
Andrew came to prominence on new media: podcasts, internet memes, and hashtags. He represents a future that the current media companies have no place in. Subconsciously they understand this, and they resist him.
Last, Andrew has no prior political experience. This is the most valid criticism. Interestingly, this wasn't leveled by the same legacy institutions that loved Pete Buttigeig.
Recipe of the future
Andrew Yang is the beginning of a new movement. He represents a new form of politician not confined to our current spectrum. Personally I’m excited to see politicians like Andrew emerge. We could use some fresh recipes here.
1 cup of futurism
1 cup of technology
1/2 cup of optimism
1/2 cup of common sense
3 Tbs of humor
In a large social media bowl mix the futurism, technology, optimism, and common sense. Then gently fold in the humor.
Set in the oven for a few more months, then when the NYC election is over serve the cake first to NYC. Then serve to the rest of the US.