Since the day Andrew Yang announced his outsider campaign for president, I have been a skeptical supporter. In a two-party landscape dominated by career politicians so hardwired that it can be difficult to know if they ever have a genuine thought of their own, Yang seemed sincere about the nature of his political process.
Yang’s radical pitch to give every American $1000 a month and the grassroots support he built online through meme culture and the spontaneous explosion of his YangGang crew signaled a humourous and organic addition that portrayed itself in stark contrast to the rest of the pale and robotic field.
Simply put, I liked Andrew Yang for the same reason I like Williamson, Gravel, Gabbard, and Trump. Each seems unabashedly honest about their positions and speak with a moral and philosophical conviction that is rare in our modern discourse.
But Yang completely lost me this weekend when he feigned tears in an emotive bid to win over support from the primary state’s electoral base. Sitting on stage at the ultra-partisan “Everytown Gun Safety Town Hall” in Des Moines, Iowa, Yang “choked” back tears (to polite applause) as a mother told the story of losing her 4-year-old daughter to a stray bullet.
When she finished, and when Yang was done scrunching his face into a ball of forced pain and anguish, he asked if he could give the woman a hug. She accepted and he jogged across the stage to embrace her.
The cameras, of course, caught the whole brilliant Hollywood-esque scene in real-time and for the first time, Yang got the kind of warm publicity the legacy media has kept from him since day one. And for the first time during his campaign, I felt oddly unconvinced. For me, the whole scene smacked of a script.
It was almost as if we could hear one of his top aides whispering and cooing the made for TV moment out of the tech millionaire. As an initial fan of Andrew Yang, I prized his candor and lack of political calculation. Sadly, this moment appeared to be one of the most fraudulent moments from any candidate in the race so far.
Perhaps it’s just that I’ve lived under a Trump presidency for far too long or maybe it’s our two-decade lurch into the pessimistic underbelly of a meme-maligned internet subculture but the entire episode felt just like that; a boring and sad episode of my least favorite daytime soap.
A meticulously instructed dance hectored by green room handlers in a coy attempt to wipe away the overwhelmingly clinical and technical aspects of Andrew Yang’s ‘math-based’ candidacy.
As the TV crews slowly zoomed in and the ‘tears’ sat in his eyes, Yang explained the horror he felt when thinking of his own children before deftly and inevitably pivoting immediately to a pitch on how swift gun legislation promised a way to solve the ills of our ‘violent’ society. Yang, ever the technocrat, pitched ‘personalized guns,‘ or guns that will only react to the biometrics of its owner as a safety solution.
Yang, ever the free thinker, smartly pitches the idea as a form of individualism. He suggested that owners “can make a grip that essentially knows whether it’s the owner based upon the size of their hand,” and that “a lot of owners would love it, because who doesn’t want a gun that’s just yours?”
While the idea has enticed some gun owners who embrace a delicate balance between individual liberty and gun safety, this measure would not change any of the issues we have had with the mass shootings experienced throughout the country over the past 20 years.
Nevermind the insane overhead cost of implementing such an idea at the massive scale of the United States where there are more guns than there are people. Nevermind the breach of privacy for individual gun owners who would be required to have their personal data organized for the ‘good of society’ in a centralized government database.
While it made for a unique moment in what has been an otherly benign campaign, I couldn’t help but feel like the tears didn’t sum up what has been Yang’s main issue from the start: he’s too soft. He speaks about topics that are crucially threatening the wellbeing of our citizens in a sort of feel-good and wholesome natured tone that ultimately doesn’t capture the nowness of his moment.
There is no doubt in my mind that someone could win running with Yang’s platform – it’s just not him.
The hardest thing for Andrew Yang to have done at that moment would have been to tell the truth; while we all empathize with any person who has lost a loved one to gun violence (or any other type of tragedy), we cannot make the world whole through the saber-rattling of a bureaucratic hand.
And while gun violence is treated as a national epidemic, the truth is that data consistently proves you are more likely to die from choking on food, bicycling, assault by a sharp object, police/law enforcement or any list of health issues including heart disease, cancer, stroke, or Alzheimer’s.
Instead of doing the hard thing, Yang did the politically expedient thing: he buckled gently under the warm glow of studio lights for the internet fan club and a few hundred white suburban moms who might bump his basement poll numbers up .2% before Iowa. The tears felt staged. The whole thing sounded and looked set-up.
When Obama cried after Adam Lanza brutally murdered 27 children in Sandy Hook, Newton, the former President was filled with rage. He didn’t force anything. We watched, in stunned silence, as he struggled to keep himself from openly weeping. They were tears of strength. It was an honest moment and one befitting a true presidential figure.
Andrew Yang skirts the fundamental ideas of the Constitution when he advocates for any smart-sounding law that acts as a panacea to a society-wide crisis that goes much deeper than a tool made of steel and aluminum.
It is the responsibility of a gun owner to know their weapon, to only use it in times of complete necessity, and to be an educator for others who wish to protect their God-given freedoms and contractual property rights. Placing faith in the government to protect your life and liberty through legislative directive is naive.
Every time a gun owner cedes individual liberty to the government by accepting the legislative whims of the politically mobile, they relinquish parts of a genetic memory that explain, in essence, our great American experiment. Americans must not allow emotional hysteria masquerading as ‘common sense’ gun reform to influence our distinct notions of freedom and liberty.
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