With all due respect to Kamala Harris and Howard Dean, it is Andrew Yang who holds the crown for the most awkward presidential campaign of the twenty-first century (so far). Or have you forgotten when he declared, “I’m the full service presidential candidate,” and gleefully squirted whipped cream into the mouths of kneeling supporters, until he was pulled away by a mortified aide? Yang is now running for mayor of New York, and he seems to have learned his lesson: Asked Sunday what he thought about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Gaza) likening the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, Yang offered neither whipped cream nor a single word in response. Instead, he just turned and walked away. Ignoring this problem, however, will not make it go away for him.
Yang was caught in the dilemma of the modern Democratic Party. Ilhan Omar and her fellow to-the-Left-of-Mao-Zedong Squad members represent its base, far more than Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer ever did, and Yang knows that full well, as does every Democrat on the national scene today. Omar was expressing the general views of the party’s base when she tweeted: “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban. I asked [Secretary of State Antony Blinken] where people are supposed to go for justice.”
The worst part of Omar’s statement was not that she lumped together forces that work hard to avoid civilian casualties with those that target civilians and glory in their deaths, but that so many online Leftists leapt to her defense in the ensuing furor and insisted that she was right.
In the face of that, what was Yang to do? He could have joined them and declared that Omar was indeed right, and that America is not great, was never great, and can never and will never be made great again. He could have echoed actor John Cusack, who is slightly to the Left of Joseph Stalin, and who recently tweeted: “We aren’t great – we aren’t even mediocre – we’re f**king awful.”
If Yang had done that, however, he would have alienated the dwindling number of Leftists who think that maybe America is not entirely evil and that national suicide may not be the best policy. There may even be a handful of such people in New York City itself. He would also have drawn the ire of conservatives and patriots, who still exist in sufficient as-yet-uncanceled numbers to cause him some public discomfort if he had decided to become the successor of Gotham’s worst mayor by promising to be even worse still.
If, on the other hand, Yang had decided to denounce Omar and defend his country, he would have been kissing his mayoral hopes goodbye. There is no quicker path to electoral suicide for Democrats today than to criticize Omar, AOC, or any other member of the Squad. There is no quicker path to electoral irrelevance among supporters of the Party of Jefferson and Jackson and FDR today than to be openly patriotic and say anything, however mild, in defense of America’s history, institutions, or present-day society.
Yang’s dilemma was thus clear, but it is also clear that he would have paid a far smaller political price among Democrats, and in New York City today, if he had defended Omar and denounced America than if he had defended America and denounced Omar. Open hatred for their own country is now mainstream among the Democrats’ base.
Think I’m exaggerating? Carry an American flag into an Antifa or Black Lives Matter demonstration and see what happens. Remember that in September 2020, Leftist demonstrators screamed “Death to America” on the streets of New York City, where Andrew Yang wants to be mayor. Just a few days before that, according to journalist Andy Ngo,“around 700 black bloc militants and their supporters rampaged through Oakland, Cal. They chanted ‘death to America’ while starting fires and smashing cars and buildings.” The week before that, according to Townhall’s Julio Rosas, “An American flag was just burned outside the Kenosha County Courthouse. One woman screams, ‘Death to America!’ and kicks the fence.”
If Andrew Yang has any hope of being elected mayor of New York, those are the kind of people he needs to keep happy. But knowing that one has to feed the crocodile doesn’t necessarily mean that one wishes to become one. And so he chose to keep silent. He will likely be pressed on this question again, until he enunciates enough hatred for America to make himself worthy, in the eyes of the Left, to be mayor of its largest city.