New York City has been known for its unique mayors. Only such an eccentric city could produce mayors such as Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg. Even the current officeholder, Bill de Blasio, is something of an oddity whose progressiveness extends to universal pre-k but ends at police reform. Therefore, it should be no wonder that New Yorkers have seemingly cozied up to the campaign of Andrew Yang for mayor.
I truthfully never understood the appeal of the lowly CEO and political novice. Yang’s style of speaking is wholly uncharismatic and awkward in my view. Yet, it is not his delivery but his message that has garnered this newcomer a cult following from people all across the political spectrum. Yang relies less on his political agenda and more on his personality. I will be the first to concede that he seems like a fun person. He knows memes and keeps in touch with internet culture in a way that is reminiscent of Elon Musk. He seems to be fighting for the little guy– or at least that’s what he says. Yet, some of his ideas relating to easing restrictions on business in the city contradict this message. Yang is not really a moderate or a liberal or a socialist; he’s not much of anything. His main idea of a universal basic income for the poorest residents of New York is the extent of his policy proposals.
None of this has mattered as he leads in the polls for the Democratic primary election in this year’s mayoral election by a significant margin. The primary occurs June 22 and will determine the eventual winner of the race since the Republican candidate rarely wins. His success has as much to do with the celebrity he accumulated during his 2020 presidential race as it does with the crowded field of unknown names. His Democratic opponents have spent decades-long careers with their hearts set on City Hall. Scott Stringer and Eric Adams, his two main opponents, have served many years in various New York City political offices. By contrast, Andrew Yang has never even voted in a mayoral election before.
He has often been compared to Mayor Bloomberg, whose socially progressive and corporate-friendly views won him relative acclaim, just not among the Black and brown communities who suffered under his stop and frisk policies. However, Bloomberg was a king whose billions of dollars in personal wealth allowed him to bend the public and private interests of the city to his will. Yang has no such connections and will face a significantly harder time implementing his policy ideas in the same kingdom.
Andrew Yang’s rise has only continued the trend of inexperienced egoists who believe they can do the job better. Donald Trump was a damaging example of what happens when the keys are handed to someone who has no idea what they are doing. I see the same dangers for a future Mayor Yang. New Yorkers could put a stop to this if they liked; there are quite literally dozens of other well-qualified and thoughtful candidates running. Yet, after a flailing de Blasio administration and a crushing pandemic, it is understandable that the Big Apple would take a gamble on a nice, self-described nerd who wants to put money in poor people’s pockets. For the sake of the city, I hope it pays off.