Dear New York City,
My name is Andrew and I live in Western Wisconsin, about 1,000 miles away from New York City.
If you think it’s weird that a guy like me is getting involved in your mayoral race in any way, don’t worry, I agree.
I am not a New Yorker, and I am not going to tell you who to vote for or not vote for in your mayoral election.
However, I do know a bit more than the average person does about your leading candidate for mayor, Andrew Yang, and I feel a responsibility to let you know what I know and ask that you consider the concerns I have and which have yet to be raised anywhere else.
Even though I am not a New Yorker, I am aware that the triumphs and tribulations of New York City have ramifications far beyond the lines on a map that define the boundaries of your great city. And after spending more than a decade of my life in progressive Democratic politics, I am keenly aware of the political truism that elections have consequences.
And by all accounts, NYC is at one of the most significant inflection points in its history — making the city’s always consequential choice for mayor, more consequential than ever.
For those reasons, before you choose your next mayor, I want to inform you what I know about Andrew Yang, the people he tends to surround himself with, the concerns I have, the patterns I have seen, and the unanswered questions I would encourage you to ask.
To be clear, I know little about the other candidates. I just know that there are numerous and many of them seem superbly qualified and capable. And in fairness to Yang, I doubt that any of the other candidates are flawless either and they should also be fully vetted.
Like Yang, I am a husband, a father, and a patriot who wants what is best for our country. We all know that the better New York does, the better our country does. And for New York to do its best, it deserves the best mayor possible. I have always believed, and still do, that the more informed electorates are, the better choices they make.
To that end, you may still end up voting for Yang after reading what I have to say. That is your call to make and I fully respect that.
While I don’t claim to know everything about Yang, what I do know, I feel compelled to share.
From Wisconsin with love,
B. Failing Key Tests of Character and Leadership:
- Destroying one “Humanity Forward” (ours) to create another (Andrew’s)
- Hiring Unqualified Friends and Loyalists to Key Positions
- Turning a Blind Eye to Toxicity
- Hype, Partial Delivery, Move On, Repeat
- Alienating and Betraying Grassroots Organizers and Activists
- The Highly Suspect Recent YangforNYC Executive Staff Shuffle
- Being A Nice Guy With Nice Ideas Isn’t Enough
1.A — Background: Who Am I?
For a long time, I have been a proud supporter of Andrew Yang.
However, when I joined the ranks of the “YangGang” in 2019, I immediately felt very much out of place — in spite of my initial warm YangGang welcome (a gift given to anyone who sings their idol’s praises), I immediately feared the reasons my status as an oddity in the group would be a sign of things to come, and they would indeed.
But I wanted to “give the guy a chance” and kept the faith. My reasoning — as many are already saying about him as prospective Mayor of New York City — “He’s super smart… actually, people say he’s a genius(!), so he’ll figure it out I’m sure. Let’s give him a chance.” So I stuck around and went all in.
What made me an unusual member of the YangGang was that I brought over a decade of successful progressive political experience to the table. Conversely, most others in the nascent YangGang “movement” had hardly any political experience (or previous interest in politics) of any kind — and that’s a pretty charitable way of putting it.
Among other things…
- I have run for office more than once and have experienced the joy of winning a difficult race and the devastation of losing a nail-biter.
- I have had the honor to serve as an elected official and also the privilege of helping dozens of progressive candidates get elected to office.
- I have worked on campaigns of all sizes and at all levels — from local ballot initiatives to presidential campaigns (Obama’s 07–08 primary/general campaigns is where I cut my political teeth).
- I also served as chairman of my local Democratic Party when I was 21 during the historic Wisconsin Recalls of 2012 which turned out to be one of the most successful years our local party has ever had.
I have been a candidate, an organizer, a volunteer, a campaign manager, and a party official.
In any other campaign or segment of progressive politics, my level of political experience would not be that unusual. But not in the YangGang — a reality that would foreshadow my future experiences with the political bubble Yang has created over the last two years.
Eventually, though, I was given the opportunity to join a unique Super PAC, Humanity Forward Fund (HumanityFWD), as Strategic Consultant and then as National Political Director.
In that role, I saw Yang, and the teams he had most recently created, work up close. As a result, my confidence in Yang began to erode. Then I felt the personal sting of what it’s like to “work” with Yang and the people he chose and still chooses to keep close.
When people show you who they are, believe them.
- Maya Angelou
I tried so hard, for so long, to find reasons to keep the faith with Yang, but eventually, I had just seen too much.
At a certain point, the patterns became too clear for me to deny what I was witnessing with my own eyes.
Since departing from HumanityFWD, there’s been little for me to do but watch from the sidelines with intense sadness as a candidate and potential movement I once believed in so deeply and saw as so promising — and vital to the future of American society — rapidly devolve into unrecognizable shells of their former selves.
A.2 — Background: Why Now?
I have wanted to write this story for a while, but I haven’t because it seemed rather pointless. Afterall, the people I wanted to initially write it for were Yang, his inner circle, and his loudest and proudest — but, frankly, almost universally politically naive — online supporters who have never been very interested in hearing constructive criticism despite proudly wearing their signature MATH (Make America Think Harder) hats.
Inside Andrew Yang's presidential campaign which former employees say was rife with sexism and a…
Former staffers who worked on Andrew Yang's presidential campaign described the experience as "toxic." They told…
Then, Business Insider journalist, Yelena Dzhanova, published her recent piece, “Inside Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign which former employees say was rife with sexism and a hostile ‘bro culture.’” After the story’s publication, I watched in horror and disappointment at how the worst elements of Yang’s fervent fan club and his inner circle responded to the piece. Most importantly, how Yang himself, failed to rise to the moment, yet again.
Talk is cheap, however, and unfortunately, Yang has a history of having serious issues brought to his attention, publicly and privately responding by saying he ‘takes responsibility,’ offering assurances that things will change, are changing, have changed… but then offering little in the way of lasting fixes.
An Open Letter to the Yang Gang /// Published: December 13, 2019
It pains me to write this, but not as much as it would pain my conscience not to.
That was my impetus for speaking up in this way, sharing my story, concerns, and perspective for a different audience who might actually be interested in hearing what I have to say… New York City voters.
Certainly, there are others who know even more than I do about how Yang and his team operate when the bright lights are not on them. And I can only speculate why so many of them have chosen in recent weeks to either stay silent, defend the indefensible, or simply continue to cheerlead for Yang while pretending like they are unaware of genuine issues in Yang’s past and present.
I can only speak for myself. I do not wish anything but long term success for Yang and the YangGang. While I know there will be an element of the YangGang that will come after me for this piece, I am not going to be scared into silence by their history of vile intimidation of others.
I have no reason to stay silent on the issues I am about to raise — even if my conscience would allow me to. I am not employed by Yang and do not wish to be. I don’t want a job in his campaign or his administration, either. I have not tied my financial security or my personal identity to Yang, as some have. While these factors may motivate others to sit on or seek to swat away valid criticisms of Yang, they are non-factors for me, so here I am.
B. Failing Key Tests of Character and Leadership: Concerns, Patterns, and Questions Needing Answers
While I was glad the Business Insider article was published, I had one major problem with it: it missed the forest for the trees, and in so doing, missed the real story.
The real — and more uncomfortable — story is about the forest the trees exist in and the person who cultivated that forest and is ultimately responsible for it: Andrew Yang.
I am glad Business Insider brought several important stories to light for NYC voters and the general public; I am most glad for the victims in the story to have had their opportunity to be heard; though I was saddened, if not surprised, by the way those who spoke out in the story were met with a mob of Yang Bros (and perhaps more disturbing, a fair number of Yang Women) ready to dismiss their well-founded, serious claims and attempt to publicly shame victims back into silence.
The story that I believe needs to be explored, investigated, and told, especially for NYC voters to digest, is one of patterns — specifically, the concerning patterns of Andrew Yang as a leader and executive. After all, he wants to be the leader and chief executive of the most populace and influential city in the United States.
While Yang is an incredibly lovable guy, and the national media did him dirty in 2020, he does not get a pass — for those reasons or any others.
And being that, according to some of the only available public polling, the clear frontrunner to become NYC’s next mayor, deep scrutiny of Yang is now more important than ever.
The problem with Yang is that his history as a leader is expansive, and yet, for all the areas where he has been in positions of leadership, the information is always very much incomplete, making it hard to get a full picture of his past, and thus, there is no way to possibly know with total certainty what you’re getting from Yang.
The best alternative then is to examine the patterns of his past.
If the best predictor of the future is past behavior, then NYC voters should know the patterns of Yang’s past vs. the hype and lore that surrounds him today.
NYC voters need to understand Yang’s history and ask if these patterns are how they would like their mayor to operate, especially in a time of crisis.
The best I can do is raise the issues and patterns I have observed, share what I know and what I have seen, and have faith that the democratic process will work the rest of it out.
I truly hope that if New York voters see my concerns as valid, that they and the media will press Yang on these issues, investigate these matters on their own, and hold Yang’s feet to the fire until he, Yang, (not his spokespeople, not surrogates, not his Twitter Army… Yang) assuages appropriate concerns, explains in detail how he will break these troubling patterns, and answer the outstanding questions I have outlined in this piece.
If he does all that and earns the support of enough voters to become New York City’s next mayor, great. He will be a far better mayor if he does.
And if voters and the media don’t share my concerns, so be it. I will have done my part and will be totally at peace with that result, as well.
If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
- Mark Twain
B.1 — Destroying one “Humanity Forward” (ours) to create another (Andrew’s)
The single biggest turning point in my perception of Andrew Yang occurred shortly after he dropped out of the 2020 presidential race. Specifically, in late-February to early-March 2020, almost exactly a year ago.
At that time, I was still the National Political Director for the Humanity Forward Fund (most commonly referred to as “HumanityFWD”), a Super PAC (initially founded in July of 2019) whose primary mission (but not the sole mission) was to support Yang’s 2020 candidacy; I joined HumanityFWD in September of 2019.
During Yang’s relatively short presidential campaign, our organization raised nearly one million dollars — considerably more than any other Super PAC supporting Yang’s candidacy — and, unlike most Super PACs, only spent a small fraction of our funds on advertisements.
Instead of spending our funds like Super PACs typically do, I advised that we invest as much as we possibly could into training, equipping, organizing, and mobilizing the grassroots.
We went this route because it was easy for me to see, as an experienced political professional, that the only way Yang would ever have a shot at winning the Democratic nomination for president would have been by harnessing the incredible energy of his grassroots supporters into far more politically productive efforts than they were finding on their own or even at the direction of Yang’s campaign, which was dominated by people — including Yang himself — with little-to-no political experience to speak of.
It was easy to tell and would later be confirmed, even by Yang directly, that his grassroots were not being well supported by the 2020 team Yang had created, who didn’t fundamentally understand how to effectively organize and mobilize his grassroots supporters and put their off-the-charts energy to good use.
Even though HumanityFWD and Yang2020 could not and did not coordinate in any fashion, due to the shocking lack of political experience represented in Yang’s operation (especially in Iowa), and the YangGang’s prolific use of social media platforms and excitable nature, you didn’t even have to be looking or listening (let alone coordinating with insiders) to see and hear what was going on inside Yang’s campaign.
What I saw and heard, from the perspective of someone with extensive political experience, was unreal… and not in a good way. So we intervened.
Most notably, our organization was responsible for a massive volunteer activation in Iowa known as “YangWeek” which soon evolved into “YangMonth” where we trained, equipped, and coordinated the transportation and accommodations of upwards of 500 volunteers from every part of the country to Iowa. Once in Iowa, these roughly 500 volunteers spent every available hour they could knocking on doors for Andrew Yang.
By all accounts, Yang’s in-person volunteer numbers were somewhere between anemic to abysmal before YangWeek and YangMonth provided Yang a desperately needed shot-in-the-arm.
Our hope was to work as an outside force to turn a group of political neophytes with electric energy into an army of pro-level grassroots organizers that would change the game completely.
However, the whole thing hinged on a couple of big bets.
We knew that our efforts wouldn’t move the needle for Yang in Iowa, even a bit, unless Yang took the necessary and obvious steps needed to improve his 2020 team.
And that bet, rested on another (and one which NYC voters may be hearing right now…) “Yang’s a super smart guy, and — on paper — he’s got a lot of leadership experience, so he must know how to build a capable team.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen — certainly not in Iowa.
We bet big on Yang and his team, and lost. And, unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time we “gave him a chance,” made the same bet, and lost big.
Eventually, when the campaign was over and the legal “wall” between our group and Yang came down, our organization began interacting directly with Yang and his inner circle. We knew that due to Yang’s star power and his continued adoration by most rank-in-file members of the YangGang, we had to find a way to work with Yang and his team if our organization was going to go on and our work was going to continue.
Things started off well, but it didn’t last long.
February 21, 2020
On a phone call with members of our organization, Yang personally expressed his gratitude, admiration, and support for the work of HumanityFWD.
During the call, Yang said several important things:
- That the focus of his future efforts wouldn’t likely be grassroots training and organizing.
- That, in his words, while his team “hadn’t shown an aptitude for that work, [we] had.”
- He encouraged us to move forward with our plans.
- He emphasized a desire to develop a partnership between our two groups and support each other in a variety of ways down the road.
- Shared the name he planned to use for his new organization (that name was NOT the name he would eventually use [Humanity Forward]).
February 24, 2020 (just three days later)
Our organization received an urgent call directly from Yang asking for the rights to our organization’s name.
Clearly, Yang — the smart guy that he is — knew (without anyone having to lay it out for him) that:
- You cannot simply take the name of another organization.
- Taking another organization’s name would be wrong on many levels: common sense, human decency, legally, and — in this case — politically.
- Taking our organization’s name would likely cause great harm to our organization and imperil our ability to continue to do our work and function in any way at all.
This is why Yang first asked.
Our organization, when asked by Yang for the rights to our name, did not consent to give it to him.
While we did not definitively say “no” we absolutely did not say “yes.”
And much like in other areas of life, there is only one word that = consent and that word is “yes.”
Yang asked us for our name and we did not say “yes.”
Instead, he was told that we would create a workable proposal addressing our concerns with this request and get back to him and his team in the coming days — to which there was no response indicating that this would be problematic or disagreeable in any way.
February 25, 2020 (just one day later)
Our organization received a frantic phone call from Yang, Zach Graumann, and Carly Reilly, saying that — despite never being given consent to do so (nevermind the conversation with Yang the day prior) — Yang’s team had gone ahead with filing the legal paperwork (accidentally?) to use our organization’s name as the name of Yang’s new organization.
Yang and his team could have picked literally any other name, but for some reason wanted ours, and when we didn’t give them consent to take it, they took it anyway.
This was the date when Yang’s new pride and joy, “Humanity Forward” was born and I realized that my professional pride and joy, HumanityFWD, was put on life support.
Yang’s team coldy responded saying simply that, “it’s too late.”
February 26, 2020 (the next day)
Our group tried to salvage some sort of working relationship between our group and Yang’s by sending a detailed email outlining a potential partnership around supporting each other’s work and addressing the naming issue.
Here are the highlights of what Yang and his team were told in that email:
- We put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (literally) into the development of our organization for almost a full year.
- We put everything we had into building an organization and brand that was known and trusted by the movement and donors.
- Establishing a new entity with our trademark would substantially injure our organization and its staff, as well as create severe confusion within the public in general.
- Re-establishing our organization under a new brand and trademark would inevitably reduce our reputation and incur substantial expense, both tangible and intangible.
- We would view that outcome as punitive to us, and (all things considered), an undeserved punishment.
- Nevertheless, our desire was still to find a way to provide value and stability to the movement as a whole.
- Given that, after multiple conversations with Yang, Graumann, and Reilly, it was clear that the very things our group was (even according to Yang) better at — organizing, training and activating the “movement” (from volunteers to organizers to candidates) — was not going to be a primary focus of Yang’s new organization, and that having our group occupying that “lane” was what would have been best for the movement.
In this email, we also provided them a document which they had requested previously (and which I created for our own organization before the fiasco we found ourselves in had begun to unfold) which laid out how HumanityFWD intended to continue to deliver on our ongoing mission of supporting ground-level, grassroots organizing of the human-centered movement.
As one could imagine, we were very hesitant to share this document after all that had so recently transpired, but given the circumstances, it felt like unless we found some way to bring this relationship back from the brink, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything described in our strategic roadmap anyway.
So in a final, desperate effort to show our sincere intentions, we shared our confidential strategic roadmap with Yang and his inner circle and closed the email with our proposal for how we could work together despite how we had been treated throughout the preceding days.
However, we failed to get any response for 5 days.
The eventual email response from Graumann didn’t address anything from the last email we had sent and only included a non-urgent request for a time to “chat.”
Things only went downhill from there.
Eventually, Yang went on “The View” on Thursday, March 5th, and announced that the name of his new organization was (despite never getting our consent to take our name) “Humanity Forward.”
Instantly, Yang’s announcement set off a domino effect wherein every fear we had for the future of our organization and our work began to materialize. And eventually, our group would become so boxed-out by Yang and his team that HumanityFWD would entirely dissolve.
Soon after Yang’s appearance on “The View” he and his inner circle would quickly create several entities using our group’s name, not just Humanity Forward, but also the Humanity Forward Foundation, and the Humanity Forward PAC.
Beyond the crushing effect Yang’s actions — and the actions of his hand-picked innermost circle, power-center, and brain-trust — had on our organization and our work, it also crushed my personal confidence, faith, and the mental image I had of who Yang was as a person, a political figure, and a leader.
In those moments, not only did Yang and his team show me their ‘true colors’ — by allowing me to see how they really worked and really talked when they didn’t have a public audience — it all happened in a way that is simply impossible to reconcile.
I wasn’t the only one whose perceptions of Yang would be drastically altered as a result of these events, either.
One of the people who invested more time in YangWeek, YangMonth, and the work of HumanityFWD, than almost anyone else, recently shared with me the deep hurt she felt when HumanityFWD was pushed aside and crushed to make room for a new Humanity Forward (Yang’s)…
A few days before the launch of YangWeek, she discovered that her father, who had gone to the hospital with knee pain, and after significant medical malpractice experienced heart failure, and was put on life support.
Still, she was so committed to Yang, his vision, and the work HumanityFWD was undertaking, she still worked long hours every day and night in the hospital ICU — not by her father’s side, but in the ICU waiting room so as to not disturb other family members — doing everything she could to get Yang elected — all while her father fought for his life. And then, when her father passed after being taken off life support, she continued working tirelessly for Yang and HumanityFWD.
Then, in her words, “When [Yang] took “Humanity Forward,” I felt robbed. Robbed of the time I should have spent in the room by my father’s side. Again, my choice, but those three and a half days I can never get back and it all felt pointless now that Yang had made his “choice” to steal our name when HE could have chosen any other name.”
Perhaps saddest of all, she says that after she learned what happened to HumanityFWD, she tried for weeks to reach Yang to express her profound disappointment in what he and his team had done, and he never responded.
Having seen Yang and his inner circle work up close, the other patterns I have witnessed and am about to lay out all make a heck of a lot more sense and are, sadly, much easier to believe.
B.2 — Hiring Unqualified Friends and Loyalists to Key Positions
Yang has a history of hiring woefully unqualified friends and loyalists to vital positions and continues to carry many of them forward, well past the time they should have been dismissed, either because he is unwilling or unable to let them go.
The innermost circle and true power-center of Yang’s 2020 campaign was dominated by people with ZERO political experience, which would be shocking to hear about any candidate for president, but is even more baffling considering that Andrew had ZERO political experience before running for president, as well.
Yang’s longtime right-hand-bro, Zach Graumann, is the clearest and most striking example of this, of course. And the consequences of Graumann’s inexperience were self-evident and serious, to say the least.
It should be noted, however, while acting as if all of the issues that befell Yang’s 2020 campaign were Graumann’s fault, and his fault alone, that ignores the glaring fact that Yang hired him for that job. It was Yang, too, who chose to keep Graumann on as his 2020 Campaign Manager even after the campaigns’ internal and external issues piled up, and even after Yang’s campaign had more than enough cash to get a more qualified campaign manager — Yang kept Graumann in that role until the very end.
And, it should be noted that Yang chose to continue to not only keep Graumann around after Yang dropped out of the presidential race, but he also paid Graumann to lead every one of Yang’s high-profile post-2020-campaign efforts.
If I were an NYC Voter, I would be very concerned that a Mayor Yang may, like many politicians before him, hire unqualified loyalists to key positions and drag his feet on removing people he likes personally from his administration even if the presence of such toxic personnel became detrimental to the overall operation and therefore harmful to the city at large.
Certainly, Graumann bears a great deal of responsibility for issues that happened during his time as Yang’s campaign manager. But we cannot forget that he only had that job because Yang gave it to him and kept him in it far longer than he ever should have.
Then, when Yang dropped out of the presidential race and quickly moved to create his advocacy group (Humanity Forward), that period of transition (which again, I was intimately involved with) was handled primarily by Graumann, and as noted above — unsurprisingly — with a level of incompetence I still can’t believe I witnessed first-hand.
As money allowed, based on publicly available information, Humanity Foward hired one Yang2020 alum after another (when there were almost certainly much more qualified candidates for those Humanity Forward jobs).
How did Humanity Forward advertise job opportunities? Did they have an interviewing and vetting process? How did they determine who they would and would not hire?
And when Yang’s opportunity presented itself to run for Mayor of New York City, he made sure Graumann was one of the first people to come with him, and again, one after another, many of the Yang2020-turned-Humanity-Forward alum, followed Yang and Graumann to New York City to join his mayoral campaign.
And when Yang and Graumann left Humanity Forward to run for Mayor?
The chosen replacement for Graumann as Executive Director of Humanity Forward is a guy named Liam deClive-Lowe…
Liam was Yang’s Iowa guy, specifically his Iowa Caucus Operations guy…
How’d that go? Bad.
How’d that go? Very bad.
Then he was handed the keys to Humanity Forward — a significant organization that is bringing in and distributing huge amounts of cash!?
Based on the scant information that is publicly available about how Humanity Forward has been spending their funds and who they have hired, a cynical person would be forgiven for suspecting Humanity Forward to have been set up as a thinly veiled positive-press-machine to support Andrew Yang’s personal political ambitions.
But perhaps not?
For this reason, in hopes of clearing up any appearance of impropriety, I have publicly advocated for greater transparency (voluntary transparency) of the financials of Humanity Forward (as well as the Humanity Forward Foundation, and the Humanity Forward PAC) along with an official, verifiable accounting of how well Humanity Forward has done with sticking to their originally stated objectives and meeting their publicly stated goals.
Unfortunately, my efforts have gone nowhere. Perhaps NYC voters and journalists may have better luck.
Voters and reporters alike should be asking a lot of questions about how Humanity Forward’s hiring processes were handled and how would Mayor Yang’s hiring practices differ from his past hiring practices?
I am not here to say that anyone Yang has hired is a bad person. In fact, this isn’t even about who Yang hires, it’s about how he chooses who he hires.
What I am saying is that there is a definite pattern — which I would be concerned about if I were a New York City voter — that Yang does not appear to be the best at hiring and firing the right people by common-sense standards. And as someone who has served in government before and has studied it for decades, I know — as I am sure most NYC voters do — that the least sexy parts about governance are typically the ones that bring the greatest consequences to regular people; hiring and firing personnel is perhaps the best example.
No doubt, Yang has gotten lucky with some inexperienced hires before.
Occasionally, a roll of the dice works out and someone with little-to-no relevant experience ends up being a great employee. However, the question is whether or not that is the kind of hiring process a city like New York wants to see in the mayor’s office, particularly at such a trying time. And typically, Yang’s roll of the dice loyalty-first hiring approach did not pan out well (as one would expect).
Example — Trying to Win a Democratic Primary With Non-Democrats
Yang and Graumann deliberately made the most bone-headed choice in Iowa I could imagine in their effort to win the state: rather than targeting frequent voters and likely Democrats (the people you know will vote in a Democratic primary), they targeted unlikely voters and unlikely Democrats.
This strategy didn’t just defy common political wisdom, it defied basic common sense.
Then, predictably, they got their butts kicked and the YangGang blamed everyone else.
Then, Yang’s campaign did the same thing in New Hampshire as they had in Iowa, apparently expecting a different result.
Once again, they intentionally targeted the exact wrong group of people, banking on that most baffling Iowa “strategy” and… once again they got their butts kicked.
Soon thereafter, Yang dropped out and let almost his entire presidential campaign staff go with a process that was only rivaled by how he hired them.
But there was one notable guy who he carried with him to a new prominent position. The one guy who’s been right there with him the whole time and devised the whole “winning a Democratic Primary by banking on non-Democrats and people who seldom vote” plan… Graumann.
Team Yang 2020 repeatedly did things like this that made absolutely no political sense — if you have any political sense. However, because he, his closest advisors, and his most unshakable followers did not, it was a textbook case of the [politically] blind (Yang), leading the blind (Yang staff), leading the blind (YangGang).
Most telling of all, when the few of us who did possess political experience sounded the alarm over the dumb things we were watching, we were dismissed, mocked, and attacked by Yang’s legion of wildest sycophants online.
B.3 — Turning a Blind Eye to Toxicity
Thanks to the work of Business Insider and others, including Women for Yang, the deep toxicity inside the Yang2020 campaign is well documented.
Unfortunately, toxicity did not stop at the edges of the 2020 campaign, nor did the more-than-occasional less-than-serious approach to politics and beyond-petty drama.
In fact, one of my longest-running complaints about Yang and the YangGang is that they were always going to be held back by their clownish behavior (and Yang’s) and their lust for pointless drama and that if it really was true that most of the YangGang aren’t represented by the most undeniably toxic boosters of anything Yang touches, then they would cleanse their ranks of these sideshows.
But that never happened.
An exceptional few tried, but it has never made a lasting material difference.
And, yet again, it’s because it all comes back to the one guy: Andrew Yang, who — it breaks my heart to say — consistently fails to rise to the occasion.
Yang’s followers pride themselves on being independent-minded folks who want America to “Think Harder” and yet they hang on Yang’s every word — often referring to him as, “the boss.”
Yang knows this and so do those around him. So, why doesn’t he step in and remove the toxicity of his online gang? Beats me.
Likewise, when a significant number of Yang’s followers were desperately trending the hashtag “#YangUnsuspend” on Twitter (a ploy, I guess, to convince Yang to “Unsuspend” his campaign and re-enter the race like a political superhero), Yang didn’t step in.
And when folks like myself said, “Stop. You’re embarrassing yourselves, Yang, and anyone associated with him by trending this ludicrous idea.” They didn’t stop because Yang didn’t clearly tell them to stop.
And if a leader can’t or won’t step in to say or do the things that need to be done or said because it might upset their friends, what kind of leader are they?
After the “#YangUnsuspend” idea naturally lost some steam, the next sideshow that a significant number of Yang’s followers dove into was, “The Dark Horse Duo” — later rebranded as “Unity2020” — which was one of the most absurd political concepts I have heard in a very long time
Unity 2020: A Tragicomedy
Bret Weinstein’s dual-candidacy experiment is hopeless. So why is he doing it?
The idea here, hatched by another political neophyte, Bret Weinstein, was to petition and draft a center-Left and a center-Right candidate to serve as a third-party alternative designed to “SAVE THE REPUBLIC” and “BREAK THE DUOPOLY!”
Keeping Up With The Weinsteins
The IDW’s adorable brotherly duo are perhaps lacking in the They Know What They’re Talking About department
A not insignifcant number of Yang’s proudest devotees (but especially his public-facing Twitter army) were totally sold on this totally insane idea for one reason: Weinstein initially wanted Yang to be the center-Left guy.
Instead of “thinking harder” a significant number of the YangGang (including some of Yang’s biggest social media boosters) didn’t seem to be thinking at all, went all-in with Weinstein, and then predictably, the whole thing went absolutely nowhere and the doomed-from-the-start Unity2020 idea eventually faded away on its own.
Yang could have and should have immediately and unequivocally shut down the idea that he would be their center-Left guy and gave his supporters something more productive to do with their passion and energy instead.
But he didn’t. He allowed the ludicrous idea to continue to fester and create unnecessary tension and division within the YangGang.
This again, is not even about Weinstein, or the #YangUnsuspend hashtag, or the YangGang, it’s about Yang’s patterns when in positions of leadership… Here it is:
1. His consistent refusal to step in and stop toxicity and sideshows from grabbing a foothold in his organizations.
2. And it’s about his persistent issues of creating organizational environments that so reliably incubate and provide safe harbor to totally unnecessary issues that range from problematic to downright toxic.
Eventually, when Yang announced he was going to be running for Mayor of NYC, he turned to some of the most prominent supporters of the profoundly loony “Unity2020” idea and the beyond-naive “#YangUnsuspend” silliness, to boost his latest political effort.
Furthermore, while his campaign has suddenly felt compelled to issue a long-overdue Social Media Code of Conduct to prevent the YangGang from imperiling his shot at becoming Mayor of New York, some of his biggest social media spokespeople and boosters — some of whom have turned their simping for Yang into money-making ventures — appear to be free to ignore the campaign-endorsed Social Media Code of Conduct, the official Yang Gang Value System (see below), and are permitted to conduct themselves however they want on social media without any repercussions. In fact, some of the worst offenders continue to be given special access to Yang himself.
It is all very sad and, honestly, extremely embarrassing.
Despite regular pleas from a small cadre of supporters (most of whom have lost faith in Yang altogether or at this point are just barely holding on), Yang’s unbreakable, undeniable pattern is that if there is toxicity in his ranks, either he doesn’t touch it, or if it’s purveyors are loyal enough, he gives it his tacit approval.
There are hundreds of examples to provide here, but in all seriousness, I can’t bring myself to lend any kind of attention or credence to the people I would have to mention here. However, if anyone from Team Yang wants to seriously challenge the above claim, I welcome that with open arms and will update this portion of the story accordingly.
B.4 — Hype, Partial Delivery, Move On, Repeat
Yang is running for mayor on his likeability, name-ID, and his unique ideas, rather than his record of fulfilling his ideas.
I recently asked on Twitter if the #YangGang could relieve me of my concern that Yang doesn’t have much of a record to run on, here’s how it went:
Unfortunately, even if you like the guy (as I do) it’s impossible to deny his dodgy track record of (partial) success.
Yang seems to be a great human, and is a wonderful champion of unique ideas, but when it comes to getting those ideas done, the record — from what I can tell — tells a clear story: he’s great at hyping things up and raising funds for ideas he cares about, bringing a little bit of the idea to life, then walking away for greener pastures or something new.
B.5 — Alienating and Betraying Grassroots Organizers and Activists
Given my passion for grassroots activism and organizing and the people who undertake this work in their free time or as a profession, the way I have seen Yang and his team treat the grassroots of the Humanity First Movement (which, despite some overlap, is — critically — different from the generalized YangGang) has soured me on Yang more than almost anything else.
Here are excerpts from two recent conversations I had with one of Yang’s biggest 2020 supporters, a significant donor, and a committed grassroots organizer. This is how they describe Yang & Co after working with them directly…
Here are two additional grassroots leaders of the Humanity First Movement responding to a Tweet that came out shortly after the release of the Business Insider bro culture story… In my mind, their responses are absolutely damning indictments of the kind of organization Yang puts together.
Keep in mind… this is all in regards to Yang’s most recent executive experience — so it is not as if this is old information and Yang’s leadership has vastly improved since then. Furthermore, the two replies above come from individuals with — by all appearances from what I’ve seen — bulletproof credibility.
B.6 — The Highly Suspect Recent YangforNYC Executive Staff Shuffle
On January 24, 2021, an official fundraising email was sent out by Yang’s mayoral campaign — specifically, the email came from “Zach Graumann, Campaign Manager, Yang for New York”
Less than a week later, the Business Insider bro culture story — which Graumann was a central focus of — was released and included quotes directly from Yang that don’t seem to pass the sniff test. See below.
Yang said, explicitly, that his [singular] Campaign Manager is a woman of color.
However, there are no publicly available statements, LinkedIn records, Twitter bios, or anything of the sort indicating that what Yang said was verifiably true at the time he said it.
He then said the following day at a candidates’ forum that his co-campaign manager was a woman of color.
It would take roughly two weeks from the day the Business Insider bro culture story broke for the news to be printed that Yang’s co-campaign manager was a woman of color.
Buried deep in POLITICO’s 02/04/2021 (obscure) online Playbook, they broke some news. (See below)
Let’s look at the timeline all together now…
January 24, 2021
- Zach Graumann is Yang for NY Campaign Manager.
January 30, 2021
- Business Insider Bro Culture Story Published.
- In the story, Yang says in the story that his [singular] Campaign Manager ‘is a woman of color’ (despite no public records at that time validating this claim… a claim, which, it cannot be ignored, would be the perfect political statement to make to invalidate the central concern of the bro culture storyline of the Business Insider piece — thus making the precise timing of these events incredibly important).
January 31, 2021
- The day following the Business Insider bro culture story‘s publication, Yang says “One of my co-campaign managers is a woman of color, Sasha Ahuja,” during a recent candidates’ forum.
February 4, 2021
- POLITICO publishes the only public record that Graumann is no longer Yang’s campaign manager. The story also does not say, as Yang had, “that his [singular] campaign manager is a woman of color” but in fact, Yang now has two campaign managers and one of them is a woman of color. The story also notes that Yang did not remove Graumann from his campaign entirely, but instead simply relieved him of his role as Yang’s sole Campaign Manager, which had turned into a problematic optical issue for Yang.
This timeline and events should raise the eyebrows of politically astute voters and journalists.
If I were an NYC voter, I would want to know the following:
- Exactly WHEN and exactly WHY was Graumann FINALLY let go?
- Did Yang need to be pushed to demote Graumann?
- Was Graumann demoted out of principle or for other reasons?
- Exactly WHEN was Graumann replaced by the campaign's new co-managers, Coffey and Ahuja? Can the exact time and date be proven?
- Does Yang believe the accusers who came forth in the Business Insider bro culture story? If so, why was Graumann demoted and not let go entirely? If not, why the sudden change to Graumann’s role after the Business Insider story came out at all?
- This change was a big deal for many reasons and for so many, so why did the newly installed political pros at the helm of Yang’s campaign purposefully choose to make this change so quietly?
… and the answers to these questions would only mean anything if they came straight from Andrew Yang and not one of his newly hired, uber-slick campaign spokespeople.
February 12, 2021
- The New York Times published a story, titled, “In Campaign Team Shake-up, Yang Hires a Woman Who Once Disparaged Him” focusing on Yang’s new co-campaign manager, Sasha Neha Ahuja, who strongly suggested in 2019 that she believed accusations of gender discrimination lodged against Yang, saying, “Wish I could say it was unbelievable.”
- The Times reporting includes this noteworthy bit of information about Ms. Ahuja and her relationship to the Yang for NY Campaign…
“It is also important to make sure all sides are heard and promote a workplace culture that is inclusive and committed to equity,” said Ms. Ahuja, who is the current chair of New York City’s Equal Employment Practices Commission. “That’s why when I had the chance to work for Andrew and build that type of culture on a mayoral campaign, I jumped at the chance and am so excited to be here.”
- However, the Times did not appear to have asked how Ms. Ahuja felt about, and to what degree she believed, the accusations of harassment and discrimination described in the Business Insider story or how she felt about the way the accusers who came forth in that story (primarily woman) were treated by Graumann, Reilly, and a significant faction of the YangGang after the story was published. Furthermore, it does not appear the Times asked whether or not Ms. Ahuja believes Graumann should continue to serve in a position of leadership or if she raised any of these concerns when she is said to have been named co-manager of Yang for NY?
I hope Yang and his team meet this moment and are fully transparent and honest about what has really transpired in recent weeks.
Until then, I just want to publicly applaud those who bravely came forward with their stories despite a long history of the YangGang mobbing and harassing people who dare to air their grievances — even privately — about Yang’s operations.
B.7 — Being A Nice Guy With Nice Ideas Isn’t Enough
Voters, rightly, tend to judge candidates on several factors and not just one or two.
Generally, those factors are:
1 — Do I like the candidate as a person?
2 — Does the candidate have good ideas?
3 — Is this candidate electable?
4 — Could the candidate’s ideas be passed?
5 — Could the candidate actually implement their ideas?
6 — Would the candidate know how to govern?
7 — Would the candidate be a good leader?
Andrew Yang has consistently ranked as one of the most likable politicians since he came on the scene in 2019 and it’s easy to see why.
His ideas have gained steam, and personally, I love many of them.
He wasn’t electable in 2020 on the national stage but looks totally electable in NYC.
So, if you give Yang that he’s likable, has good ideas, and is electable, that’s three of the seven.
Is that enough?
I would say no.
Four of the seven are, at best, open questions. (Open questions I truly hope will be answered by Yang)
In my opinion, voting for a candidate with significant open questions is akin to gambling with your vote — and I for one, don’t vote that way.
But ultimately, the opinion that matters most is not mine, but the NYC Voters for whom I wrote this piece.
To those voters, I wish you well and hope this information proves useful.
From Wisconsin with Love,