Our spring issue, “Pandemic Politics,” is out now. Get a discounted subscription today!

Why the Yang Gang Should Join Bernie’s Political Revolution

Andrew Yang ran a principled anti-establishment campaign that highlighted the deep crises afflicting US society. The best way for Yang’s supporters to uphold the campaign’s fighting spirit in 2020 is to elect Bernie Sanders.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Hats off to Andrew Yang. Despite a virtual media blackout, Yang outperformed and outlasted candidates who were blessed with truckloads of billionaire cash and establishment support. More importantly, he ran a refreshingly honest and policy-driven campaign that told the truth about our corrupt political system and highlighted the deepening economic crises facing working people.

With Yang’s decision to drop out of the race, his supporters are now faced with the question of where to throw their support. Many pundits have speculated that the so-called Yang Gang would ultimately side with Bernie Sanders. On the eve of the Iowa caucus, Yang himself acknowledged that “I think that Bernie and I do have a lot of overlap in support, so it wouldn’t be surprising to me if many of our supporters head in that direction.”

But it would be a mistake to assume that Yang’s passionate base will automatically get on board the Bernie train, particularly since the two candidates have diverged on signature issues including Universal Basic Income (UBI) and Medicare for All. According to one recent poll, a strong plurality of Yang voters were not planning on voting for any other presidential candidate.

Fortunately, Bernie has a strong case for why he’s the presidential candidate best positioned to carry on the spirit of Yang’s irreverent, truth-telling campaign.

Above all, both are anti-establishment leaders. Yang himself has noted this affinity, arguing that he “wouldn’t be here without” Bernie.

The reason both candidates were subjected to months of media blackouts is not simply that they lacked personal connections to the high priests of the mainstream media. Media marginalization is the inevitable price to be paid for any candidate willing to go up against, and tell the truth about, the Democratic Party establishment.

Like Sanders, Yang has been more than willing to call out the party’s culpability in the deterioration of working-class living conditions across the country — and the election of Trump. As Yang told the Intercept in June 2019:

When I travel in the Midwest, you know, I was with a truck driver in Iowa and he said to me. He said I don’t think the Democrats care about people like me. And I was shocked by that because growing up, the Democrats to me were the party of the working class. And so, if there are people that think that their problems have gone unaddressed and unacknowledged by our government, by the Democratic party in particular, they’ve been casting about for some sort of real response. They landed on Donald Trump. Some of them regret it. They’re looking around for real solutions.

Yang eloquently made this case to the country at last week’s debate in New Hampshire, when he made use of his brief spotlight to lambast the direction of both parties. Out Bernie-ing Bernie himself, he argued that Democrats have lost state after state to the Republicans, because for decades they’ve ignored the plight of working people.

Against billionaire-bought candidate Pete Buttigieg, Yang replied that “Donald Trump is not the cause of all our problems, and we are making a mistake when we act like he is.” Trump was just the “symptom of a disease.”

Only Bernie is going to continue making these types of arguments on a national stage. Far from being a hindrance to defeating Trump, this willingness to tell the truth about both parties is a key reason why polls show Bernie beating Trump by 18 points among independent voters — the highest percent of any candidate running on the Democratic ballot.

Sanders is also the only other leading candidate willing to uplift Yang’s message about the deep economic troubles facing the working-class majority in this country. “Bernie understands that the country is in crisis,” noted Zach Graumann, Yang’s campaign manager. “There’s a lot of similar urgency and messaging that comes with that.”

Contrary to Trump’s misleading boosterism about the state of the economy (a myth many liberal pundits have sadly bought into), the reality is that most Americans are still hurting — and a vast majority understand that the economic system is rigged against them. While Joe Biden peddled a rose-tinted nostalgia for the Obama era and Pete Buttigieg mastered the craft of empty rhetorical platitudes, Yang proposed material solutions for ordinary Americans. As he put it at the last debate, “communities are seeing their way of life get blasted to smithereens.”

Yang and Sanders not only acknowledge this dire reality, they openly blame (to quote Yang) “corporations and rich shareholders” for bringing this about. Both have been vocal critics of the fact that corporations like Amazon pay exactly zero in federal taxes. And like Bernie’s call to prosecute fossil fuel executives, Yang has similarly advocated jailing CEOs of companies fined $100 million or bailed out by the federal government.

Andrew Yang deserves credit for leading an underdog campaign marked by political honesty and bold ideas. Whatever differences we might have on the relative merits of capitalism and UBI, the similarities in vision and ethos animating the movements around Sanders and Yang should be more than enough for us to work together to win the nomination, defeat Trump, and transform this country.

The train of US history has been hurtling towards increased inequality and social crisis for decades. Yang Gang, we could really use your help in switching tracks before it’s too late.