BEN SMITH: Andrew - thanks for doing this! To begin -- could you send over a selfie, and tell me where you are and what you’re going?
ANDREW YANG: Give me 2more mins
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Andrew Yang selfie
AY: I’m in New York City spending time with my family before hitting the road again for this week.
BS: This chart from Axios makes a point you’ve been hammering:
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Andrew Yang is the #6 candidate ranked in polling, #4 ranked in tweets about him during debates, but #14 in articles written about him and #13 in cable news mentions about him
BS: What do you think is wrong with the media?
AY: I think that the media feels more comfortable covering politicians who have been part of the establishment for a while rather than candidates who are less traditional and/or new on the scene. They are afraid of somehow having their judgement questioned if they take someone seriously.
BS: I think a lot of people covering and the political class you think you’re interested but maybe not ready to be president. One of our reporters overheard Cory Booker teasing you about being stressed before the first debate. Were you? Do you feel… ready?
AY: I feel much more ready than our current President to solve the problems of the American people. Cory and I are old friends.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: @scottsantens tweets reading: “The 36-yr-old man who terrorized two West Texas towns with an assault-style rifle Saturday had been fired from his trucking job a few hours before he led the authorities on a high-speed chase. @AndrewYang retweeted with comment reading: Oh no. There will be many displaced truckers in the days ahead. Tens of thousands are ex-military. Link to trucking policy.
BS: You tweeted this over the weekend. What should this administration be doing for truckers right now?
AY: We should immediately appoint a trucking transition czar to start deploying resources so that displaced truckers have a sense of their future. This will be imperative as automation and self-driving vehicles displaced thousands of truckers in the days ahead. Driving a truck is the most common job in 29 states.
BS: What do you think of that NYMag piece labeling you a “Doomer”?
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Excerpt from New York Magazine Article reading: But taken all together, Yang’s dystopian vision and proposed answer can fit uncomfortably well within dommerist attitudes - especially for his climate answer last night. As Robinson Meyer puts in the Atlantic, “Asked about climate change on national television, Yang said that climate change is an inexorable problem that the U.S. can’t do much of anything about it, and that if the seas take your house - that is if a problem outside your control deprives you of your most expensive asset - then the government shouldn’t do anything specifically to help you.” I’d just note that it’s not precisely that the government shouldn’t do anything specific; it’s that the government should give you some money so you can figure it out as an individual, rather than addressing it as a collective, societal problem. Another way of putting it might be: “The world id fucked, so let’s pay people off to disband society.” That sounds anti-socialist to me.
AY: The fundamentally mistakes my point-of-view. My stance is we need to do more together not less.
BS: Do you ever, yourself, tip over to the dark side of this? Feel panic about what happens if we (continue to) do nothing?
AY: I always find that you feel much better about a problem if you are working to solve it. Right now I’m working as hard as I know how to so it’s much easier to focus on what solutions look like.
BS: I want to ask a couple questions about the Internet. First, do you have a favorite Yang meme?
AY: I liked the one where they turned me into a Pokémon
BS: As this one so eloquently puts it, you’ve drawn some supporters away from darker parts of the Internet:
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Meme of Knights of the Round Table laying their swords in the center. Three knights are labelled “Bernie bros,” “Ex-MAGA bros,” and “Zoomers that are turning 18.” In the center, where all the swords point is the phrase “YANG GANG”
BS: How do you think about approaching the kind of angry young men on messageboards who are such a source of concern right now?
AY: I think that we should do more to account for the fact that 94% of new jobs in this country are temp, gig, or contract work that don’t have benefits and may disappear at any moment. In that environment it can be more common to question what your future holds.
BS: On that topic, a last policy q: We published a big investigation this weekend of Amazon’s practice of subcontracting its last mile, and what seems to be a dangerous level of pressure on drivers to deliver huge numbers of packages. (I sent Randy a copy.) How do you reform a system that huge?
AY: Amazon is doing what is best for its bottom line. It has figured out that the last mile is the most inefficient part of its route. So it has outsourced the inefficiency to contractors to put the onus and cost on them. It would be possible for us to pass a rule that requires certain standards for subcontractors in that context. At this point Amazon comprises such a huge part of our economy that we should be exploring rules specifically to curb their abuses or practices.
BS: And finally, we had some questions about your walk-on music. Return of the Mack! Why?
AY: Because it’s universal and makes people happy, just like a Freedom Dividend of $1,000 a month will.
BS: You are unshakably on message! Many thanks for taking the time.
AY: Thanks Ben. Hope to meet soon.