I would not be wrong in saying that Andrew Yang was an outsider in the 2020 Democratic Primary. His central platform of a Universal Basic Income, or $1000 every month for every American adult, was consistently bashed or ignored by the media. Pete Buttigieg even laughed at his idea during a debate.
And now, his concept of a UBI is being pushed as the leading solution to Covid-19.
And it’s because he was right. Yang warned of how, at some point, massive job displacement will occur, and in this situation, the social safety nets put in place would fail. In a scenario where tens of millions of Americans are suddenly unemployed, they will require a permanent supplemental income to help them adapt. He had perhaps the most ideologically diverse coalition on stage, ranging from libertarians to progressives, he drew support from all sides of the aisle. And after he dropped out in February, it was a pretty easy assumption that his ideas wouldn’t disappear.
Jump forward a few weeks, and a global pandemic has displaced tens of millions of Americans who now find themselves at home, unemployed and unable to earn an income. In response, politicians from both sides of the aisle have picked up his idea as the solution. It seems the only issue Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez actually agree on is the necessity of a UBI.
Andrew Yang did not run for president. Although he ran a campaign, it was obvious he never intended to win the nomination. He wanted to create a discussion. He wanted to bring this idea that has been proposed by economists and civil rights leaders from Adam Smith to MLK to the spotlight of American politics. He had genuine discussions with conservatives and managed to gain mainstream coverage on Fox News even when MSNBC left him out of countless polls on the nomination. He dissociated his ideas with himself, which has ensured that his ideas survived beyond his candidacy.
And while his ideas are now supported by Trump and progressives alike, the plans going through Congress right now are not getting the same bipartisan support. Centrist Democrats and staunch fiscal conservatives have expressed opposition to the UBI, something that, if passed, would give Trump a massive bump in the election — which in the end, while I in no way want Trump to get re-elected, is the single worst way of going about that. While they won’t explicitly state that, it’s sad that it is painfully apparent that that is the real reason. Personally, it’s a sad day for me when I would place my trust in Mitt Romney over Nancy Pelosi in a heartbeat due to how they fall on this issue.
And on the flip side of this is the relief bill shut down by senate democrats on March 23. This bill included no protections for workers and was effectively a glorified corporate bailout, something that was opposed firmly yet still brought to the vote for one critical reason, the statement. Whether or not the bill would have wasted $1.8 trillion to line corporate pockets and delayed actual aid to workers or not, that wasn’t important to that vote. McConnell brought it to a vote he knew would fail because of the headline, “Senate Democrats block Coronavirus relief.”
The real catastrophe is that our government has managed to make a pandemic a partisan issue. Coronavirus response will be at the heart of the 2020 election, and on that front, I don’t know which side will claim victory. But I do know that at the end of the day, the real winner will be Andrew Yang.