Candidate Yang gets it: Economic drivers propelled Trump…not racism

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A new column by Brian Dickerson in the Detroit Free Press seeks to explain why 2020 Democrat presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s analysis of President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory is important.

Bernie Sanders believes that Trump is a “racist,” “sexist,” and “homophobe.” Pete Buttigieg stated during the September debate that he believes Trump supporters to be racist. Beto O’Rourke said it’s “really hard” to see a 2020 Trump vote as anything other than racism. It would appear that largely, the Democrats running for the White House believe it was hate that elected President Trump.

But Andrew Yang, one of the only Dems running who has any business experience and the only one of those to receive a modicum of media airtime, believes that something else drove voters into Trump’s arms – automation.

While Dickerson readily admits that Yang has no realistic chance of winning the nomination, let alone the general election, he notes that the candidate does have some cogent points. Points that are refreshingly free of the angry bumper-sticker rhetoric that is being expressed by his peers.

“I simply want to acknowledge that he is the only candidate talking about an issue that seems likely to loom larger in presidential campaigns to come, and suggest that critics who scoff at his signature proposal for a universal basic income may feel compelled to examine it more closely in the decade ahead — especially if Yang’s forecast of an artificial intelligence-induced tsunami of unemployment prove prescient,” Dickerson writes. “The conventional wisdom, as Yang summarizes it, is that Trump’s ascent was the perfect storm spawned by the convergence of racism, Russian cyber-kibitzing, and hostility toward Hillary Clinton.”

But Yang contends that none of these factors played a significant role in influencing swing-state voters to pull the lever for Trump.

“I’m a numbers guy,” Yang said on the New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast, “and the numbers tell a very clear and distinct story: that the reason why he’s our president is that we automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan — all the swing states you needed to win.”

“The replacement of drivers will be one of the most dramatic, visible battlegrounds between automation and the human worker,” he wrote in an essay for Evonomics. “Companies can eliminate the jobs of call center workers, retail clerks, fast food workers and the like with minimal violence and fuss. Truck drivers will be different.”

Not quite automation takeover that movies like “I, Robot” led us to expect, but as we see more self-checkouts and kiosks popping up in our favorite stores, it’s difficult to not see Yang’s point. The way he plans to deal with the automation – not by preventing it but by just giving all Americans $1,000 a month – leaves much to be desired, however.

Dickerson concludes his column by suggesting that Yang deserves our attention for bringing the focus to bigger issues that will impact our future.

Yang deserves our attention because he is focusing on issues — artificial intelligence, automation and their ever-more-profound impact on employment — that will likely become central to the lives of more and more Americans in the decade ahead, whether or not voters hold Trump to one term.

Unfortunately, it seems as though voters are more influenced by candidates who harness their inner anger and say the right things about the news story of the day. It would appear that these issues won’t be addressed possibly until it’s too late.

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