After two interesting but ultimately not very successful campaigns for office as a Democrat, entrepreneur turned political novelty Andrew Yang is making the next logical, if tediously predictable, move: “breaking up with the Democratic Party,” as he puts it in a blog post, and declaring himself an independent:
My goal is to do as much as I can to advance our society. There are phenomenal public servants doing great work every day — but our system is stuck. It is stuck in part because polarization is getting worse than ever. Many of the people I know are doing all of the good they can — but their impact is constrained. Now that I’m not a member of one party or another, I feel like I can be even more honest about both the system and the people in it …
I believe I can reach people who are outside the system more effectively. I feel more … independent.
Excuse me while I yawn.
It’s neither surprising nor especially significant that Yang, the self-professed “outsider,” has now stepped outside the two-party system that totally controls our politics and much of government at every level. It’s what you might expect after the one-time frontrunner in the 2021 New York Democratic mayoral primary finished fourth, and also failed in his coalition gambit with Kathryn Garcia, who finished third. But it’s also not clear what the man who achieved fame for promoting the kind of redistributive income transfers that Democrats are currently struggling to achieve in Congress hopes to accomplish as an indie. He claims he wants a perch to promote open primaries and ranked-choice voting. There’s no particular evidence that politics is less polarized in the 21 states (including vicious partisan battlegrounds like Georgia, Texas, and Wisconsin) that have open primaries. And Yang might better help the cause of ranked-choice voting by working to improve voter understanding of such a system among New York’s Democrats, to whom he was appealing so very recently in a ranked-choice election.
Curiously enough, Yang doesn’t purport to be a pied piper leading his kind of people out of Democratic bondage into the freedom of independence. He says:
[K]eep in mind that I am NOT suggesting that you also change your voter registration to Independent, as I have done. Doing so could disenfranchise you if you live in the 83% of the country that is very blue or very red. For this reason, I considered either not making this change or not talking about it.
Sounds like Yang’s first impulse was sound. But his second impulse, tiresome as it was, seems more to his suiting:
[O]n a personal level, I’ll admit there has always been something of an odd fit between me and the Democratic Party. I’m not very ideological. I’m practical. Making partisan arguments – particularly expressing what I often see as performative sentiment – is sometimes uncomfortable for me. I often think, “Okay, what can we actually do to solve the problem?” I’m pretty sure there are others who feel the same way I do.
It’s interesting that at a time when “getting things done” in this country mostly happens within the two major political parties such a “practical” person would abandon them entirely. That bipartisan group in Washington that calls itself the “Problem Solvers Caucus” hasn’t exactly solved a lot of problems, has it? Yang’s breezy contempt for ideology rubs me the wrong way as well: A big factor in partisan polarization is that Americans genuinely disagree about many important things. Having an ideology is actually pretty “practical” in the sense of rooting political solutions in principles rather than sheer expendience.
Speaking of expedience, it may not be too cynical to suspect that Andrew Yang might be thinking of an expanded audience for his spanking new book. Surely its readership should not be constrained within the artificial bounds of one political party — or one city, for that matter. So it’s perhaps understandable he’s leaving New York’s Democrats behind.