[guest post by JVW]
With all of the crazy news out there, perhaps you are like me and have paid scant attention to this month’s mayoral primary contest in New York City, in which the top two finishers, one Democrat and one Republican, will advance to a November election in which they will be joined by assorted candidates representing various other parties. Among the Democrats is last year’s Presidential aspirant Andrew Yang who has seen his fortunes fall dramatically over the past six months, from being the front-runner at the tail-end of last year to now perhaps finding himself staring up at the top two candidates. It’s a very sudden descent (Yang was leading the polling pretty strongly as recently as six weeks ago), and Kyle Smith over at National Review Online thinks he knows why:
So what happened? People started asking Yang questions about New York City. And he answered them. He has said so many embarrassing things that New Yorkers are starting to compare his leadership qualities to those of The Office’s Michael Scott. “Cringe, in many ways, has been what the Yang campaign runs on,” wrote New York Times critic James Poniewozik.
Like Trump, Yang has zero experience in government. And, like Trump, he hopes to be seen as a rich businessman who can break and/or fix things. Also like Trump, Yang lunges at every microphone and camera. He will talk to anybody, even comedians, and he is unembarrassable. Though Yang has lived in the city for 22 years, he gives off the impression that he either hasn’t been paying attention or has been out of town a lot. Poniewozik assembled against Yang the following damning indictment:
To that can be added the following: Yang complained that the city is not enforcing rules against unlicensed street vendors (which felt like a dig against immigrants and the harmless yet colorful vibe they bring to the streets). He has said of fellow candidate Kathryn Garcia both that she has demonstrated incompetence by having served under Bill de Blasio and that he would hire her to manage his government for him. He has blanked out when asked basic questions about NYPD reforms, how he would pay for his fanciful idea to wrest control of the subway system from New York State, and what his favorite Jay-Z song is.
And here was the capper: Asked to name his favorite subway stop, Yang said, “Times Square.” This was evidence of some next-level cluelessness; one of the things that binds all New Yorkers together is that we all hate tourists and the wellspring from which they emerge, Times Square. The remark reinforced the perception that Yang, who grew up in the suburbs north of the city and went to boarding school at Phillips Exeter Academy, is not a true member of our strange New York City tribe.
The accusation that native son Yang is not a true New Yorker is pretty remarkable considering that the current mayor of Gotham, the execrable Bill de Blasio, spent most of his childhood living in Cambridge and continues to profess his loyalty to the Boston Red Sox, of all the ways to poke New Yorkers in the eye.
I admired Andrew Yang’s performance last year, though I acknowledge that I found his universal basic income idea a bit daffy. But Kyle Smith (another Massachusetts transplant, but one who seems to more readily identify himself as a New Yorker) judges Mr. Yang’s performance in the mayoral election this year to be almost embarrassing, from his ignorance of the city he hopes to lead to his wimpy backtracking after having expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian rocket fire. And Mr. Smith alerts us to a fact that I had not previously known about Mr. Yang, namely that he isn’t the amazing dot-com mogul that he and his fans would want you to believe:
Yet, unlike Trump, Yang cannot point to any entity or edifice and brag that he built it; his signature accomplishment was a flashy nonprofit career-training outfit that promised to incubate 100,000 jobs but fell 99,850 short and burned through tens of millions in donations in the process. Yang’s other achievement is climbing confidently up the rungs of private industry all the way to the position of chief of a small test-prep company you’ve never heard of. His net worth is about $1 million, according to Forbes, which for a 46-year-old lawyer in Manhattan who got his J.D. from Columbia University is slightly embarrassing. (At major city law firms, starting salaries approach $200,000.) Yang seems to think that his self-styled “entrepreneur” label makes him sound like a rich guy who doesn’t like to brag, but in fact he’s just another schmuck on the No. 2 train.
Well, somebody’s gotta be mayor of that town. I have zero opinion on any of the other candidates except for to note that they are pretty much exactly the sort of candidates you would expect in New York City of 2021. I guess we’ll find out who makes it to November soon enough, but I must confess that Kyle Smith has me seeing Andrew Yang in a whole new light, far more unflattering than how I viewed him last year.