Andrew Yang could be the leader America needs because he could be a 21st Century Theodore Roosevelt.
To explain, President Theodore Roosevelt (R-New York) was a reformer who challenged power and led the battle to demolish America’s Gilded Age oligarchy. I think Yang could lead the battle to destroy America’s 21st Century oligarchy and reform our political system.
The parallels between Yang and Roosevelt are fascinating. You can describe both men as establishment insiders turned outsiders.
Roosevelt was a member of one of New York’s oldest and richest families, a Harvard man, and a prominent Republican. Similarly, Yang is a graduate of elite schools, Phillips Exeter Academy (a prep school) and two Ivy League schools; Brown University and Columbia Law School.
In addition, Yang was a tech entrepreneur and a prominent member of the Democratic Party. President Barack Obama (D-Illinois) named Yang a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.
Yang ran for president and mayor of New York City as a Democrat. In 2020, Yang took enormous heat for endorsing Joseph R. Biden (D-Delaware) in the Democratic Presidential Primary.
Third Party Revolts
Yet both men led third party revolts against the political establishment. Roosevelt was the Progressive Party’s 1912 Presidential candidate. Notably, TR was the only third-party presidential candidate to get more votes than a Republican or a Democrat in the 20th Century.
Teddy won 88 Electoral College votes and 4.119 million popular votes in 1912, In contrast, President William Howard Taft (R-Ohio) won only eight Electoral College votes and 3.484 million popular votes.
Dramatically, Yang just left the Democrats and launched the Forward Party. The Forward Party is a center-left organization that resembles Roosevelt’s Progressives. Like the Progressives, the Forward Party is a challenge to corrupt Democratic and Republican establishments.
Is the Forward Party the future of American politics?
The Forward Party offers a package of popular reforms the two major parties ignore. Those reforms include; ranked-choice voting, open primaries, universal basic income, term limits, early voting, mail-in ballots, civic juries, data as a property right, automatic tax filing, Democracy Dollars, civil service reform, the formation of a US Department of Technology, and the use of blockchain and cryptocurrency in government.
In 1912, the Progressive Party platform included Social Security, national health insurance, civil service reform, an elected US Senate, a federal income tax, union rights, workmen’s compensation, primary elections, and votes for women. Roosevelt risked everything on reform in 1912, just as Yang is staking his future on reform in 2021.
Roosevelt’s revolt succeeded. Most of the Progressive Party’s agenda become law within 20 years 1912. For example, the states ratified the 16th, 17th, and 19th amendments within eight years of 1912. The 16th Amendment gives Congress the power to levy income taxes, the 17th Amendment created an elected US Senate, and the 19th Amendment gives women the right to vote.
Moreover, Social Security, union rights, and workmen’s compensation insurance were part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (D-New York) 1930s New Deal. In the New Deal, FDR completed the work his cousin Theodore began in 1912.
Hence, the Forward Party platform could be a preview of American politics for the next few decades. The 2021 Forward Party Platform could be the Democratic or Republican Platform of 2032.
In addition, I think Yang’s strategy of pushing state level reform could be more effective than the Democratic Party’s efforts to push reforms through Congress. Congress will not get rid of something as stupid and destructive as the Filibuster.
Yet many states are taking radical action. For example, Alaska and Maine are experimenting with ranked choice voting. Additionally, California has an open primary and several states have abolished gerrymandering for Congress districts.
Yang vs. Roosevelt
On the surface Teddy Roosevelt, the hard-charging war hero, upper-class cowboy, and big game hunter, has little in common with Andrew Yang.
Yang is a gamer, a sci-fi fan, a geek, and a wrestling mark from a middle-class background. Roosevelt came from one of the oldest European American families, his Dutch ancestors settled New Amsterdam in the early 17th Century. Yang is a second-generation American – the son of Chinese immigrants.
Yet there are eerie similarities between the two men’s political careers. Both men rose to power in conventional politics and turned their back on it. Roosevelt and Yang both lost their races for the Mayor of New York.
Both men are candidates who became larger-than-life folk heroes. Roosevelt became a national hero by standing up to corrupt political machines and challenging the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age. Similarly, Yang has become a folk hero by challenging today’s tech titans and the corrupt leadership of both political parties.
Finally, both Yang and Roosevelt began as conventional politicians but were radicalized by their experiences. Roosevelt began his career as a standard Republican. He became radicalized after witnessing political corruption in New York’s state legislature and seeing poverty in Manhattan’s tenements.
Meanwhile, Yang began as a conventional Clinton style New Democrat. Yang became radical after witnessing technological unemployment, income inequality, growing poverty, economic stagnation, and community collapse in the Rust Belt.
However, Yang’s profile is far lower than Teddy’s was. Roosevelt was an ex-president and the world’s most recognizable celebrity in 1912. Today, Andrew Yang is that nerdy guy who ran for President, appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast, and promotes Basic Income.
However, I think Yang’s profile will rise if the major parties keep promoting incompetent buffoons such as Joseph R. Biden junior and Donald J. Trump senior. Watch Andrew Yang closely because he could become as influential in the 21st Century as Teddy Roosevelt was in the 20th Century.