Minnesota is expected to be a battleground state in the next presidential election, and both major parties are gunning to claim the state as theirs.
Among the presidential hopefuls to visit the Twin Cities so far is candidate Andrew Yang. He is one of three Democrats who have already planned stops in the state, with both Beto O’Rourke and Pet Buttigieg, also making appearances over the last week two weeks.
Yang hosted his “Humanity First” tour for about 500 people at Boom Island Park on May 5. He said his platform focuses on three main areas: a universal basic income of $1,000/month for every American over the age of 18, Medicare for all, and human-centered capitalism.
In a play against Trump’s MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) slogan, Yang pushed MATH during the rally, which he said stands for “Make America Think Harder.” He blamed automation and the loss of four million manufacturing jobs in swing states such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa as key factors in Trump’s 2016 win. He cautioned the same could happen in retail, fast food, and transportation, which would have devastating effects on the U.S. economy.
The MSR spoke with Yang after the hour-long rally to find out how his platform would impact communities of color and what he thinks makes him stand out among the sea of presidential hopefuls.
MSR: How do you see your platform impacting the Black community?
AY: My flagship proposal is the freedom dividend, which was championed by Martin Luther King, Jr. among others. The freedom dividend would put $1,000 a month into the hands of every American adult starting at age 18. This would help the Black community, in particular, because Blacks — historically and currently — have lower access to resources and opportunities and the ability to create their own businesses.
One thousand dollars a month would be the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars being put into the hands of Black families and consumers, which would then spur investment in those communities.
MSR: How does your platform compare to other Democrats’, like Amy Klobuchar?
AY: My first election was Bill Clinton, and so, to me, my policies line up with the Democrats in many of the social policies with things like reproductive rights and climate change. My approach is a little bit different than Amy Klobuchar’s and many other candidates. I’m focused on solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected in 2016, which to me originates from the fact that our economy is changing in fundamental ways that are pushing more and more Americans to the side.
I can’t speak for other Democrats, but I think the Democratic Party should be laser-focused on trying to solve the problems that led people to vote for Trump.
MSR: What’s your position on the prison system and prison reform?
AY: Our prison system is deeply corrupt and racist in its application. It’s excessively punitive. It doesn’t invest enough in rehabilitation. I would get rid of private prisons. It makes no sense to have prisons with a profit motive where they actually benefit from recidivism and make more money if they treat their inmates poorly.
So, I would be for getting rid of private prisons. I would be for decriminalizing both marijuana and opiates, and I would mass pardon everyone who’s in jail for a nonviolent marijuana-related charge on April 20, 2021.
MSR: There’s been an uptick in police violence and mass shootings. What is your take on policing in the United States?
AY: The goal should be to try and invest in community policing where there’s actually some sort of interaction. One step we could take immediately would be to federally fund a body cam for every police department in the country and make it so that cost is totally not an issue for all of the police departments around the country.
Then we could build up the presupposition that if you have an interaction with a police officer, it gets recorded. Over time that would decrease police malfeasance and actions against the Black community in particular.
MSR: Locally, the activist group Communities Against Police Brutality wants police officers to be required to get their own insurance.
AY: It’s a really strong idea that you want to have police officers internalize the cost of their actions so if they do something bad, they’re personally liable. I saw a figure once where there was a particular police department — I think it was New York City — that literally spent tens of millions on lawsuits for police brutality.
So, right now the department is bearing that cost. You would think that if you’re an individual police officer, the fact that you might be held up on charges or lose your job would be enough of a disincentive.
Surrounding the cost of insurance, I’d have to see whether or not [there would] be a better way to incentivize police officers, but I love the thinking behind it. As someone who’s studied economics, if you can have people internalize the costs of their actions then they tend to change their behavior.
For more on Yang’s campaign, visit http://yang2020.com.
Chris Juhn is a contributing photographer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.