Switching Sides: The Conversion Conundrum

Several years into an extremely divisive presidency, polarization between different political groups seems worse than ever. Andrew Yang, however, seems to have had the most success in managing to cross the typical left and right boundaries. Yang’s ability to appeal to a wider base a positive thing for the campaign, but has also brought its share of challenges. Erik Williamson examines the implications and consequences of Yang’s wider appeal.

The primary objective of the Democratic Party is to defeat President Trump, and it has always been the goal since his election. There is, however, the question of what defeating Donald Trump actually means. Trump is perhaps one of the most controversial presidents in history, and he appealed to populist sentiments in the 2016 election in order to defeat his more well-established opponent Hillary Clinton. This was a clear sign that something had changed in the political landscape, and the Democratic Party has struggled to adapt.

Three years into the Trump Presidency, and an exhausting and haphazardly-run administration later, the Democrats in general are still struggling to pull anyone from Trump’s notoriously loyal base. The Democratic Party’s currently fractious and mercurial traits have not helped them establish any clear path to defeating the current President either. One of the few, if not the only, exception to this trend is Andrew Yang.

Over the course of the campaign, small pockets of Trump supporters have been making their way into Yang’s camp. This is most apparent on social-media as one vocal Trump supporter known on Twitter as @trumpwarrior45 changed their display name to Yang Warrior and has been seeking to act in the interests of the campaign ever since. In another interview with Fox News’ Rob DiRienzo, one converted Trump supporter known on Twitter as @BBoxReality considered himself a “lifelong conservative” but noticed that “things in this country get more and more divided no matter who’s in the White House.” He joined the Yang Gang because “It makes sense to me it’s not immigrants, it’s automation that’s taking jobs in America.”

There are also many Yang supporters who have confessed to voting for Donald Trump in 2016. While these all may be anecdotal, there is also the survey cited by Yang which supported that 10% of previous Trump voters would vote for him if he were to be the democratic nominee. These factors on their own might not mean much, but when combined a pattern forms, that suggests that Yang appeals to Trump voters and even Republicans more than the majority of other candidates on the Democratic ticket.

This has been seen as a bad quality of Yang’s by many progressives, however they may not be considering the fact that his appeal to Republicans can win him the election against Trump. There is also the matter that Yang offers a chance for something almost unthinkable in current politics; the chance for bipartisanship and perhaps healing the rift between progressives and conservatives.

Andrew Yang has been vocal in expressing the idea that Trump is bad for the country, but the reasons for the current president’s near-meteoric rise to power are what really matter.

Yang understands that defeating Trump is only part of the battle, and that there is much more work to be done afterwards. The pragmatism of Yang’s view is what seems to be appealing to Trump supporters as he is not interested in simply usurping Republican control of the country for its own sake, but working with anyone in order to better the country.

Yang has also acknowledged that there were reasons people voted for Trump, and that those reasons have not gone away. It is easy to paint the opposition as “deplorable” for their political choices, but much harder to understand those choices and look at the larger picture. While there are no doubt seriously negative elements to Trump’s base, the Democrats do themselves no favors by casting them as “lost-causes” and seeing them as nothing more than an enemy to be defeated and forgotten. Whether Trump wins or loses, his base is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Those that see Yang’s appeal to conservatives as a negative, and Trump supporters as a monolithic force of evil fail to see that those who have decided to support Yang are going for a completely different message this time. “Humanity First” in contrast to “America First.”

The fact that such a message can appeal to those who have been painted as xenophobic and tribal at best, breeds hope that perhaps things are not as dark as they have been portrayed. It shows that perhaps the country can still come together to make moral and rational decisions regardless of petty differences.

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