He turned out to be highly political — just not very good at politics
As the legendary New Yorker Yogi Berra said: it’s deja vu all over again. A disastrous fourth place finish in this week’s Democratic primary for the city’s mayoralty, entrepreneur and internet star Andrew Yang has confirmed a political profile consistent with the reputation of the German armed forces in world wars — starts strong, but definitely fades down the stretch.
We won’t officially know the next mayor of New York City for some time. But it’s looking good for frontrunner Eric Adams. And we know the next mayor will not be Andrew Yang. He said so, as he conceded on Tuesday night.
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“You all know I am a numbers guy, I’m someone who traffics in what’s happening by the numbers, and I am not going to be the next mayor of New York City,” Yang told a deflated crowd. This is something Adams’ remaining rivals — Maya Wiley, a hipster favourite of Brooklyn and Queens, and Sylvia Garcia, paragon of the Manhattan Democratic establishment — declined to do. They’re clinging to the (very) outside chance of a surprise finish.
Mr. Yang won’t have that chance. He blew it.
For Yang, this has become something of a pattern. He is perhaps both the most underrated and overrated figure in American politics. In the 2020 presidential race, Yang leapt from obscurity to become the most prominent Asian-American politician in the country’s history. Not a joke, as the president would say. He developed a cult following, built on the internet, and a promise — universal basic income — whose time may yet come.
When push came to shove, Yang dramatically under-performed. He failed to get off the ground in either crucial primary states of Iowa or New Hampshire, dropping out after the latter. Unlike Joe Biden (who also struggled early), he had no ace in the hole planned in South Carolina, where black voters saved the eventual 46th president.
He’s delivered a repeat performance in the Big Apple. Initially the front-runner, even though he had no experience in New York politics, now Yang’s pitiful final score may mark the end of his political career.
It’s easy to forget on the day when a former Republican mayor of the city, Rudolph Giuliani, lost his law license that many of the city’s residents admire a quasi-conservative toughness. A Republican mayor of Washington, D.C. or San Francisco seems unimaginable, but it’s happened again and again in New York in recent memory, with Giuliani and then Michael Bloomberg.
But Yang shrank from the role of the hardliner, ceding ground to Adams — a black former cop with a mixed record, but a man who went more out of his way to emphasise, albeit erratically, a classic law-and-order message. Yang’s timidness bled over into international affairs, which became relevant to the city’s Orthodox Jewish community as a small war broke out in May between Israel and Gaza. Yang initially backed Israel to the hilt, before apologising. His equivocation may have cost him.
Voters and rivals concluded that he reeked of opportunism. The final embarrassment came in the close of the campaign, when Yang hatched a ranked-choice alliance with Garcia (which will be as swiftly forgotten as Cruz/Fiorina ‘16).
In announcing the tacit alliance, Yang led a cheer for Garcia, who notably did not return the favour. The man billed as the consummate anti-politician proved to be highly political, but not very good at politics.