Andrew Yang Quits Democratic Party

His explanation makes no sense. At all.

Andrew Yang, who despite never having held political office somehow managed to be taken seriously as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and was a frontrunner for mayor of America’s largest city in 2021 has decided to become an independent. On a post on his personal blog, “BREAKING UP WITH THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY,” he explains why. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he’s not just hoping to squeeze out a sixteenth minute of fame, his explanation makes no sense.

After several rambling paragraphs noting that he has been an active Democrat since 1995 and that he’s not advocating that other Democrats leave the party, he writes,

So why do I feel in my heart that this is the right move?

While it was simply a small piece of paperwork, I genuinely felt a shift in my mindset as soon as I signed it.

So, there wasn’t a shift in mindset before signing the paperwork?

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.

These sentences don’t go together. If one wishes to advance our society as a public servant, presuming that this means as an elected official, there’s essentially no way to do it but as a member of one of the two major parties. And, while I grant that there are some shibboleths that go with being a partisan official, there’s nothing precluding honesty as a registered Democrat.

The key reform that is necessary to help unlock our system is a combination of Open Primaries and Ranked Choice Voting, which will give voters more genuine choice and our system more dynamism. It will also prevent the spoiler effect that so many Democrats are concerned about, which is a byproduct of a two party system with a binary contest and simple plurality voting.

I’m not a fan of open primaries (or treating them as though they were a proper noun) and think ranked-choice voting makes sense. But it’s not obvious what that has to do with one’s party affiliation or how becoming a registered Independent makes Yang more effective as an advocate for those practices.

I believe I can reach people who are outside the system more effectively. I feel more . . . independent.

I won’t gainsay Yang’s feelings but it’s hard to see how the move makes him more effective. Democrats will see this as a rebuke and Republicans will still see him as a Democrat.

Also, on 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.

While our parties have certainly sorted ideologically over the years, adopting a party label doesn’t preclude practicality. And, frankly, most of Yang’s policy proposals align pretty well with the progressive ideology of his erstwhile party.

I’ve seen politicians publicly eviscerate each other and then act collegial or friendly backstage a few minutes later. A lot of it is theatre.

I’ve also had people publicly attack me and then text or call me privately to make sure that we were still cool. It just had to be done for appearances.

But, dude, this was happening within the Democratic Party. It was other Democrats attacking you in both of your races. They were, after all, Democratic Party primaries.

If Yang’s point is simply that he thinks he can make more of an impact as an advocate and venture capitalist than as a candidate for political office, that’s arguable. He clearly has a knack for getting more attention and being taken more seriously than his achievements would seemingly merit. But it’s not at all clear how changing his party registration impacts that one way or the other.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kylopod says:

    It will also prevent the spoiler effect that so many Democrats are concerned about

    Why do I get the feeling this is a mere hand-wave and we will soon find him running for president as an independent and seeking ballot access in states where there is no ranked choice and where he could threaten to siphon votes away from the Dems? The Green Party is the same way–they officially advocate ranked-choice, but in practice they revel in the spoiler threat.

    Or maybe I’m just a bit suspicious of a guy who parrots right-wing lies about the Green New Deal.

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  2. While it is true that the creation of meaningful third parties is a pathway to real electoral reform (because the main parties have to be threatened enough to be willing to change the rules) but I will say that for a guy who ran around in the “Math” hat, I am unimpressed by his grasp of how all of this works.

    And, BTW, when a system has two parties and one of those parties is behaving in an anti-democratic manner, that isn’t a good time to create a movement to attempt to siphon off votes from the pro-democracy party. (You know, math and all that).

    And primaries themselves are part of the problem and RCV is really only a potential solution if we go to multi-seat districts.

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    Yang, like all these dilettantes that think their first elected office should be the presidency, is profoundly unserious. He is essentially trying to create an alternative to the Greens or the Libertarians, which are themselves clown cars.

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  4. MarkedMan says:

    I will believe a third party can be “meaningful” (or as I put it, serious) when they start local and actually accomplish something, rather than start by running a clown or a has been for the presidency.

    5
  5. ptfe says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Mostly tangential, but there’s been more talk in the last 3 years about actual democratic improvements than we’ve had in my lifetime. Since you’re far more steeped in these topics than the average bear, I’d be interested in your take on the overall effects of these – as in, which of these do you see as significant improvements to democracy, which are sops that appease some groups but do little, and which would you entirely pass over?

    100% mail-in voting
    Reduced in-person voter access burdens (more polling locations, reduced voter ID regs, etc.)
    Automatic registration at 18
    RCV
    Open primaries
    House of Representatives expansion
    Anti-gerrymandering rules/legislation (as currently incarnated in your favored form)
    DC/PR statehood
    Abolish the Senate (for the real progressives out there)
    Repeal (whatever the form it might take) of Citizens United
    Return of VRA protections and preclearance
    Convicted felon voters

    (And please add to the list if I’ve missed anything.)

    [If you prefer a comment related to the article, Yang doesn’t seem to understand a lot about the political process. He’s a classic “Big Ideas” guy – someone who’s pretty sure he can fix something that everyone else is doing wrong, but isn’t willing to explore in-depth what the consequences of that are.]

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  6. @ptfe: Let me tackle that in a post (or more) as time permits.

    3
  7. Andy says:

    I’m about as non/anti-partisan as one can get and even I think this is dumb.

    3
  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s a grift. People kept talking about Yang as a millionaire, but if he’s a millionaire at all, he’s barely one. His resumé as an entrepreneur has always been bullshit. Now he needs an income. He could go out and entrepreneurify or he can give paid speeches, ‘write’ a ‘book’, and get suckers to send him donations.

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  9. @ptfe: Although I will say that I tackled some of that stuff here: Reforms: the Possible, the Improbable, and the Unpossible.

    1
  10. Raoul says:

    Yang’s derrière meet door.

  11. Gavin says:

    He got a lot of publicity out of one decent policy proposal in the primaries before the 2020 election [UBI].. And has proceeded to miss with all of his political swings since then. I have no idea why he was included in the list of candidates for “the primary” that year; regardless, it’s the end of his 15th minute of fame.

    At this point I’m not even angry with people who Propose Solutions before even beginning to discern true root cause(s) of problems.. main issue is the time they waste of other people who take everyone seriously. [This is also my main issue with Alex Jones – he rightly identified a groundswell of rage at establishment but directed it at nonsense about aliens who drink blood while hanging out in the 4th dimension.]

    To paraphrase Billy Madison, we are all dumber for having read and posted on a thread about this guy.

  12. Scott F. says:

    And, BTW, when a system has two parties and one of those parties is behaving in an anti-democratic manner, that isn’t a good time to create a movement to attempt to siphon off votes from the pro-democracy party.

    This! Now is a good time for a movement to crush the anti-democratic party and you are either going to be part of that or you will be superfluous, even counterproductive.

    The only path to the electoral reforms Yang says he wants goes through the defeat of Trumpism. The GOP can turn itself away from the white nationalist authoritarianism it has currently embraced. Or the Republican Party can be destroyed, then we can talk about what kind of system will rise from the ashes.

  13. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Grifters gotta grift *shrug*

    3
  14. mattbernius says:

    I wish I could say this behavior or thinking from a Tech “millionare” would surprise me. But I’ve now worked in civic tech long enough to say that this is very on point–especially for those who have not worked in or directly with governments.

    This is also why funding (both how it works and what gets funded) is so screwed up. Too many people are interested in demonstrating their “disruptive brilliance” than actually taking the time to understand the problems they are trying to fix.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @mattbernius:
    As a guy who is not what you’d call reticent to point out when people are wrong, let me agree wholeheartedly. It’s much, much, much easier to point at mistakes and let go of a Nelson haw-haw, than to actually solve problems. I have some serious issues with my refrigerator. Do I know how to fix it? No, I do not.

    3
  16. Monala says:

    @Kylopod: I’m suspicious of Green Party candidates, period. I recall in 2016 when there wasn’t a single Green Party candidate for any office on the Washington state ballot except for President/VP. Why not? Why wouldn’t you field candidates for state and local offices in a state whose population is aligned with many of your policies and you might win? Multiple third parties were fielding candidates, including the Libertarians, Constitution party, Reform party, etc. They put in the work to get onto the ballot, the Greens did not. It told me that the Greens, at least here in the US, were fundamentally unserious. Kyrsten Sinema being a former Green Party member only compounds that belief.

    ETA: what MarkedMan said

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  17. john430 says:

    The GOP can turn itself away from the white nationalist authoritarianism it has currently embraced. Oh, dear me< where are my smelling salts? Here in south Texas, Hispanics are moving away from Democrats in a noticeable stream. Blacks, ditto Then Democrats start the name-calling. Justice Thomas is called an Uncle Tom, Justice Barret's Catholic faith is questioned, etc etc. Just about every major city ruled by Democrats is a sewer.
    Democrats founded the KKK and instituted Jim Crow rule. Only change is now Democrats leave their white sheet clothes at home.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @john430:
    Hispanics in California were believed to be trending GOP until the Republican governor, Pete Wilson, convinced them to do a U-turn, flock to the Democrats and begin the process of removing Republicans from every lever of power in the state. See, Pete needed to pander to people like you. And people like you are not going to spend long in the same party together with a brown or Black man. You’ll make sure of that.

    Tell yourself all the fairy tales you want, we can always count on you people to drive voters to us. There are only so many bitter losers in this country.

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  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @john430:

    Tejanos are moving away from the Democratic Party in TX. Latinos generally are not. Those are very specific and non-overlapping populations. Interestingly. most Tejanos consider themselves to be white. You do the math.

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  20. Dude Kembro says:

    @john430:

    Here in south Texas, Hispanics are moving away from Democrats in a noticeable stream. Blacks, ditto

    Here in Reality, unpopular, unlikeable birther bigot Drama Queen Donnie and the white supremacist GQP lost the White House, Senate, House, Arizona, and Georgia because they lost 90%+ of the black vote and 2/3 of the Hispanic vote — in addition to supermajorities of youth voters — as well an increasing number of single women, suburban moms, Asians, native Americans, and educated whites. But congratulations on increasing your numbers of chauvinist black and Latino men suffering Stockholm Syndrome from two to three in 2020.

    Then Democrats start the name-calling… Justice Barret’s Catholic faith is questioned, etc etc.

    The cult that worships Dementia Donald is now super opposed to name calling LOL Can you pass your smelling salts to me? And Lord knows nobody on the forced birth right is questioning the Catholic faith of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. Do conservatives work at this kind of phony, obsequious hypocrisy or were you born that way?

    Just about every major city ruled by Democrats is a sewer.

    9 of the 10 poorest states are Republican, wholly dependent on stealing tax dollars from Democrat cities and states to stay afloat. 99 of the 100 poorest counties are Republicans. The states, cities, and counties with the worst education rates and worst school and colleges rankings, worst healthcare outcomes and healthcare systems, highest current COVID death and transmission rates, highest infant mortality, and highest obesity and opioid-addiction rates are all Republican.

    Democrats founded the KKK and instituted Jim Crow rule.

    It’s 2021, not 1876 or 1946. If you GQP cultists understood that instead of sucking up to fascist, racist sore loser Trump — who tweeted a White Power video on 18 June 2020 and who praised as “very fine people” those who pal around with tiki torch Nazis in defense of monuments to pro-slavery Confederate traitors — you’d understand why black, youth, and woke white voters despise the right to the point once-reliable red states are trending purple and blue. Good luck in 2022, 2024, and 2024 with Republicans’ anti-vax Darwinism accelerating those trends.

    7
  21. Sleeping Dog says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    It should be noted that there is a generous subsection of Dems, that refuse to recognize that the Latino vote is comprised of several subgroups and that an appeal to a certain type of identity politics will not only go unheard, but will be rejected. Thus Dem surprise at how well TFG and R’s in general, did in TX and FL.

    4
  22. Mu Yixiao says:

    If one wishes to advance our society as a public servant, presuming that this means as an elected official, there’s essentially no way to do it but as a member of one of the two major parties.

    I didn’t have the bandwidth to comment on this while I was at work, but…. outside of the Presidency, this is patently false. And this is a blind spot that you seem to have with regards to elections: While you talk about the House and Senate, you seem to base your theories solely on the Presidency. Your assertion is essentially a tautology: We can’t have a third party because we have two parties.

    Currently, 117 members of the Green Party and 224 members of the Libertarian Party hold elected offices–and both of those parties are a joke. Hell… Until April of this year, Ashland, WI had a member of the Communist Party elected to office (our sincerest apologies; stop by and we’ll give you some fresh cheese curds in atonement).

    Can a President be elected from outside the D/R duopoly? No. Not at this point.

    But state legislatures are wide open (and, yes, those people “advance our society as a public servants”). Remember: Over 50% of Americans identify as “independent”. Yes, they tend to vote either D or R–but that’s because those are the only viable choices available to them. Why? Because everybody says “We only have two parties, you can’t create any more”.

    It would probably be rather easy for a strong moderate party with solid planks, strong (charismatic) leaders, and a clear vision to step up and take a lot of votes from both sides. Especially at the state legislative level.

    Then there’s the Governor’s Mansion. As you’ve pointed out frequently, most states are solidly purple. Solid candidates with a moderate (or “bi-partisan”) platform could get elected in several state–which would, in turn, give greater publicity and relevance to that party.

    The US House is certainly ripe for a strong third party. If they took only 5% of the seats, that would put them in a position where both sides would be courting them, and coalitions would need to be created–on every piece of legislation that makes it to the floor (committees are a horse of a different flavor).

    Eventually the Purple Party might take a couple-three seats in the Senate, but that’s mostly irrelevant unless we’re in a 50-50 situation like now.

    And… there’s a serious incentive for strong center-leaning politicians from both sides to turn Purple–especially in the House, though also in the Senate. If they become the spoilers across the board, they hold a lot of leverage. So Manchin, Sinema, Cheney, and a few others could really bolster their importance and pull in a lot of favors from both sides to get stuff for their respective states–which would bolster their chances of re-election.

    It’s absolutely possible.

    But it’s incredibly unlikely. Not because the two parties prevent it; because everybody is stuck in a two-party mindset, and not enough politicians are willing to leave the safety net, get together, hammer out a coherent platform with solid planks, and put in the effort it would take.

    If Yang thinks he can make a difference by being independent, good on him. He needs to set his sights at the state level, however.

  23. keef says:

    @Dude Kembro:

    I love a good political rant as much as anyone. But put down the bottle of Jack.

  24. john430 says:

    @Dude Kembro: Regarding your rant: What color is the sky on your planet? Get greased. You are about to get it—good and hard in the 2022 elections.

  25. John430 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: And California businesses, jobs and people are migrating to where? Texas, y’all!

  26. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I know how to fix a refrigerator. I pick up my phone and call a professional. (Check the fuse box first – I was very embarrassed one day after I had someone come over to look at my stove.)

    If that fails, or if the repair cost is too high, buy a new one.

    I am also a genius at fixing the roof, trimming trees, installing a toilet, and all manner of things.