An Open Letter to the Yang Gang

It pains me to write this, but not as much as it would pain my conscience not to.

My Yang Story

February of 2019 was my first exposure to Andrew Yang’s campaign via the official campaign website; I read through every single policy proposal and was taken by the possibilities of such a forward-thinking, comprehensive platform. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a Democrat, a progressive, or any other iteration of a liberal. I am and have been a political radical for over a decade, but I’m also an adult, so I was concerned with where the US appears to be headed and found zero potential in the proliferating revolutionary ideologies that have served to further splinter the electorate for at least the past five years.

I’m not a fan of capitalism. I’ve studied its history and the contemporary globalized manifestation of capitalist ideology enough to know better. But I have yet to see a well-considered alternative proposal, and I’d rather we didn’t kick off a violent revolution that will make our lives exponentially worse and then search for an alternative once the world has devolved into outright chaos. Human-Centered Capitalism seemed to be the best option for mitigating the worst effects of globalized capitalism, at least within the US (yes, I have always had qualms with the fact that it does nothing to address the effects of globalization on poorer countries in the Global South).

Universal Basic Income is obviously essential to the survival of the average human being as we enter the cannibalistic phase of late-stage capitalism, so I followed Yang’s candidacy for months because he was the only person who was sounding the alarm about where we are headed. I eventually joined Yang Gang Facebook groups sometime in the spring. I, like many others, found some of the content on Facebook off-putting, so I took to Twitter to see if I could find a Women for Yang account. I didn’t, so I created one. I did so because I saw revolutionary potential in Yang’s platform for women in the US.

Women for Yang

I’ve spent the last six months working to promote Andrew Yang, especially with undecided women voters, who will be the key to his success or failure in the DNC primary if 2018 — or any other election — has anything to tell us (it does; the DNC and its candidates need to recognize that Black women have saved us and will continue to save us from the worst excesses of the GOP; see Roy Moore).

That was my first mistake. I assumed, since it’s widespread knowledge, that everyone knew that women and Black folks carry DNC primaries. What I failed to recognize at first was that a large chunk of the Yang Gang is made up of politically disengaged or otherwise disaffected voters, many of whom have never voted before in their lives. That’s understandable; his platform appeals to people who are disgusted with the stranglehold the two-party corporatist system has on our nation.

My second mistake was to underestimate some of the tendencies I had seen at work on Facebook and assume they could be overcome with logic and strategic realism (i.e., the DNC primary is a game and you can’t win it if you don’t play it). I’ve got a dozen years’ experience in political writing and I’m a good salesman, but I’m one person and I’ve got a serious handicap: I’m a woman.

While a good chunk of Yang Gang on Twitter have been great allies because they recognize that we need women to win, an awful lot of people were angry that my page even existed, especially given the fact that I’m vocal about the necessity of taking women’s concerns seriously.

It became clear in the late summer that an actual organization would be necessary to get any work done. I’m in the fortunate position to have had plenty of free time and an income with which to sustain myself, so I’ve worked full-time along with other women on building up Women for Yang across social media and on amassing a volunteer group to spread Yang’s message to women voters.

Since June, I’ve donated a huge sum of money to Andrew’s campaign, bought merch for people who couldn’t afford it, donated money to Yang Gang in need, worked my ass off to create content and promote content created by others in the Yang Gang, served as a YGPC, spent hours phone banking and text banking, and, unfortunately, served as a hotline for women who were being mistreated by men in the Yang Gang.

I doubt most people in the Yang Gang have any idea just how much behind-the-scenes wrangling I and others have done to prevent public explosions. Regardless, proliferating optics crises have recently outstripped my or anyone else’s ability to mediate them. And the reaction of some members of the Yang Gang to those crises has sapped my will to try (though I will always be here to listen to and help any woman who needs an ear).

The Bro Code

NAMALT: not all men are like that. If what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to you, it doesn’t apply to you. If it does, it does.

It’s no secret that Yang’s base is made up of somewhere between 60 and 70% men, depending on which source you check. It’s also no secret that Yang is currently polling between 0 and 2% with women. The answer to that problem is not “women are too illogical to know what’s good for them.” The answer is to recognize that we need women to win, create targeted messaging to help familiarize women likely to vote in the primary with Yang’s policies, and convince them that those policies are superior to those of other candidates. It is our job to sell women on Yang.

A few things are standing in our way. The general preconceived notion among liberals and progressives is that Yang’s campaign is made up of 4chan inmates and bros. It doesn’t really matter whether that’s accurate. It’s a hurdle that we need to surmount by any means necessary if we want to win. Those means ought to include a women’s policy section on the campaign website, a concerted push to court women voters, and a campaign team that reflects a consideration of women’s voices. None of that is within our control, however.

What is within our control is what curious women voters see when they choose to think for themselves and check out Yang’s support base on social media. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but we’re blowing it. There is plenty of fun, wholesome content on social media for outsiders to see, but it’s insubstantial. When we actually start discussing policy — especially policy that affects women’s lives — our demons come out for the world and potential women voters to see.

When Yang tweets in support of reproductive justice, blue hats show up to tell women to “keep their legs closed” if they don’t want to get pregnant. When he makes the irrefutable argument that children shouldn’t have access to violent pornography, blue hats show up to praise the porn industry and make us all look stupid. I could go on, but this is already getting too long.

God forbid a woman takes issue with mistreatment and says so. The most common response I see when a woman in the Yang Gang posts something in public about having been abused, harassed, or discriminated against is “WHY DIDN’T YOU HANDLE THIS IN PRIVATE?” The underlying assumption being that she hasn’t tried.

Let me alert you to something in case you were unaware: the blowback that comes along with sticking up for yourself as a woman prevents us from going public most of the time. If someone is upset enough to go public, they’ve already tried to handle the issue privately, hit a wall, and made the decision that the injustice of what’s occurring is so great that they have a moral obligation to say something, come what may.

We know what comes. Men and women in the Yang Gang hurl insults, accusations, and worse at women who call attention to injustice and the complainant often finds herself excommunicated. That indicates a scarcity mindset if anything does; “Humanity First” does not mean “accept abuse quietly so everyone else can get their bag.” It means treat other people like human beings, the way you’d like to be treated. It is not Yang Gang women’s job to take one for the team and suffer in silence. Women who come forward are not trying to take Yang out, they are trying to let the sunlight in to disinfect the rot.

I’ve done my best, without coming out and explicitly saying it, to warn Yang Gang that the media and other campaigns are watching the way we treat each other, and especially the way men in the Yang Gang treat women. While there are plenty of awesome male allies, their voices are often drowned out by the ones who tell a sick young woman she has “no ass,” the ones who call every woman with a claim of mistreatment a liar, the ones who demand receipts with overt hostility, the ones who create alt accounts to pursue their petty grievances in misogynistic terms (speaking of, y’all really ought to try harder to hide your identities with those alt accounts).

Apostates

In addition to the supposition that this is a “bro campaign,” do you know what else people say about the Yang Gang? That it’s a cult. Hallmarks of cults include unquestioning acceptance of whatever the leader does, extreme vitriol directed at anyone who questions or insults the cult’s leader or values, and rabid attacks on outsiders and apostates. I can already hear the replies to this very post:

“She was never Yang Gang anyway.”

“She’s a feminist and we don’t want feminists in the Yang Gang.”

“She’s pushing an idpol agenda.”

Let me respond preemptively with: give me a fucking break. The first is a joke, the second is a weak dogwhistle smear that only works with misogynists, and the third is the height of irony, considering the fact that a large portion of the Yang Gang is made up of anti-PC white dudes who are themselves an identity group.

Finally, I’m not an apostate. I’m a member of the Yang Gang who is worried about where I see things headed and is issuing a warning. Refusal to consider constructive criticism is a great way to allow your arrogance to lead you off of a cliff.

Doublespeak

This brings me to what I consider to be the most toxic factor at play in the Yang Gang: the twisting of campaign slogans and policies such that they come to mean the opposite of what was intended.

To be fair, “Humanity First” and “Not Left, Not Right, Forward” are empty vessels that allow people to pour their own neuroses into them. What’s most interesting about “Humanity First” is the sub-clause of forgiveness and redemption. Has anyone but me noticed the willingness of Yang Gang to repeatedly forgive and redeem figures who abuse others and then offer flippant apologies and promises to act right? If they’re male, that is. And especially if they’re Yang Gang posterboys.

Yang Gang women rarely require forgiveness and redemption, but when they do, it’s because they’ve called attention to the actions for which others in the Yang Gang need to seek forgiveness. That forgiveness is swift and overwhelming, but it’s slow and reluctant — if it comes at all — for the woman who spoke out (unless, of course, she agrees to hug it out for the sake of unity).

The Mental Illness Campaign

One of the things I appreciated most about Yang’s platform when I read it was the focus on mental health, because the US is, indeed, in the midst of a trauma, depression, anxiety, and despair epidemic. It’s unfortunate to see such a promising focus on our nation’s mental health twisted into a cudgel so often. I’ll illustrate this with examples:

  1. Several men in the Yang Gang have behaved atrociously, both online and in person, toward other members of the Yang Gang. They then take to Twitter, announce that they’re struggling mentally, and their abusive behavior is immediately forgotten while everyone turns into a wet noodle in service of helping them through a tough time. Mental illness does not obviate accountability. Or, it shouldn’t, but it does for some people.
  2. When women go public with stories of mistreatment, some members of the Yang Gang jump to say they must be mentally ill. I won’t pretend that hasn’t been the case in some instances, but the fuzzy, chocolately reception men who claim to be suffering enjoy is often absent. Where’s that solicitous, Humanity First attitude when a woman is struggling? What’s even more troubling is the deployment — often behind the scenes — of talk of mental illness to discredit women who say things Yang Gang doesn’t want to hear. That serves to privately discredit the complainant, after which none of her arguments are taken seriously.

When did everyone get their PhD in psychology? Mine didn’t come in the mail with my Yang 2020 stickers, but I have lost count of the times people have attempted to get me to agree with them in private that someone is suffering from disorder X or Y. The most heartbreaking example I can think of is the time I saw a bunch of women in a group chat discussing another woman’s mental illness that they had fabricated from whole cloth rather than face the idea that, sometimes, inescapable and targeted group harassment can cause people to lash out.

There’s a term for what I just described, since Yang Gang loves pop psychology jargon so much: gaslighting.

Epilogue

I’m not leaving Yang Gang. Yet. But I am so disappointed in the utterly pointless chaos and rampant misogyny and psychological abuse that have overtaken us that I felt compelled to say what’s been on my mind for months now, (hopefully) before it’s too late. We have rough times ahead of us, my friends. The way we’ve collectively responded to the crises that have already emerged has done nothing but make them worse and does not bode well for the future.

Before you even start typing a reply to tell me that posting this in public alerts the press to our internal issues, save it. They’ve already seen us at our worst, and this doesn’t come anywhere close.

Andrew Yang has the most comprehensive set of policies to improve women's lives. Twitter/IG/FB: @WomenForYang

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