With his dedicated national donor base, recognizable slogans, a nationally recognized platform (UBI!), and high name recognition, Andrew Yang is a formidable candidate for mayor of New York City. Unfortunately for Yang, part of the whole running for mayor thing is talking to the press in a relatable way — and in a recent interview, he, uh, kind of struggled with that in an interview with The New York Times.
When responding to a question about why Yang, his wife Evelyn, and their kids had decamped to his weekend home in New Paltz, which is about 70 miles north of Manhattan, Yang responded: “We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. And so, like, can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?”
In other words, Yang sounds incredulous that anyone would even attempt what millions of New York City parents have been doing for nearly a year since COVID-19 lockdowns took place, many parents made their dining room their desk, and their kids sat down right next to them. For a guy whose brand is being the cleverest person in the room, it was a pretty foolish thing to say.
Yang was almost certainly attempting to show solidarity with NYC parents by talking about the difficulties his family has faced as a result of COVID-19. And of course, it would be crazy to stay cooped up in a small NYC apartment if you had a large upstate place to go to. The choice he made was extremely rational. The problem is, of course, that many NYC voters who might be looking at Yang as a viable candidate can definitely “imagine” doing what he was talking about — because they have been forced to do it through their economic situation and COVID-19 reality.
In a city where wealth inequality is a penetrating, obvious reality of everyday life, such missteps will catch the eye of discerning parents and voters. But all the same, it’s highly unlikely that this gaffe is the death knell for his campaign five-plus months before the Democratic mayoral primary. The #YangGang, a national force of pro-UBI voters, isn’t wavering in their support of their preferred candidate. And it’s important to note that Yang has come through for New. Yorkers in the past. He distributed direct cash to NYC residents during the COVID-19 crisis, including $1 million to families in the Bronx, launched a UBI pilot in Hudson, New York, and helped reinstall the June primary (remember when?) when the NYC Board of Elections tried to cancel it due to COVID-19. But the gaffe is… well, a gaffe. And for NYC parents who have been hurting in a very specific way, it’s a big one.
Local critics, reporters, and writers have been highly critical of Yang’s remarks and his response to the revelation that he’s never voted for mayor. Elsewhere in the story, Yang says that he took city government “somewhat for granted.” That’s not exactly what New Yorkers, as (obnoxiously) proud of where they live as anyone, want to hear.
The comment also set up one of Yang’s chief rivals in the mayoral race for this slam-dunk of a tweet, proving how boneheaded the gaffe was from a political standpoint.
Which is basically kind of the point.
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