Andrew Yang is forming a third party. Is it just a stop-over on the way to Republican town?

Yang Gang sign at the 2019 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Surprising no one and blaming cancel culture- among other things- Silicon Valley magnate, former presidential candidate, former mayoral candidate, and universal public income advocate Andrew Yang has announced that he is a Democrat no more.

Andrew Yang isn’t a Republican, but he is going to help Republicans get elected- and without all the social baggage of registering as one.

It is surprising that Yang is this determined to swim against a rising tide.

Looking out across the landscape of society, it is hard to deny that progressivism is on the ascendency. The star of liberalism, quietly rising for some time, has come to utterly dominate social discourse, social media, academia, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the mainstream media.

Like the conservative-dominated cultural gatekeepers of yesteryear, the new enforcers of correct thought and prosecutors of thought crimes brook no argument.

Their judgement is absolute; their word is law. There is no appeal and no quarter will be given.

Consequences for dissension include blacklisting, loss of livelihood, being deprived of legal council, even being denied medical treatment. (Please note; people who have been convicted of heinous crimes- like mass murder- still receive medical treatment.)

Journalist Matt Taibbi, long ago cancelled from the Rolling Stone for failing to toe the progressive line, isn’t the first person to note that the new cultural gatekeepers of the left are every bit as bad as the old Jerry Falwells of the right, and perhaps even worse.

Jerry Falwell- whose antiquated attempts decades ago to censor pornographic movies seem almost quaint given the terrifying and ubiquitous nature of pornography today- is at least socially irrelevant.

Taibbi, Yang, and other former-progressives like them, may have a point: Seemingly overnight, cancel culture has taken hold of the progressive left. Polls, surveys, and anecdotal evidence galore suggests that most Americans don’t feel comfortable speaking their minds in the current political climate. Most of us won’t bother looking up any of that because we already know the sharks of cancel culture are always circling.

Other countries are notably reluctant to import this particular American pastime. French President Emmanuel Macron recently decried U.S. cancel culture as a divisive, noxious weed which French citizens must not cultivate. He instead urged his fellow French citizens to focus on the unifying aspects of a shared nationality, language and country.

Why has the American left been so tolerant of cancel culture?

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” is more than just the twisted, misguided reasoning of a totalitarian dictatorship. It is an attitude of great naiveté and privilege. Assuming everyone gets a fair shake- that if you’re being cancelled you must have done sometime to deserve it- reveals the same fallible, privileged perspective.

The mob justice of cancel culture is every bit as fallible as the U.S. legal system, and probably more so.

Long before Black Lives Matter and George Floyd came to dominate the national consciousness, studies showed major cultural differences in the ways different U.S. demographic groups viewed police officers, authorities and government officials.

If a middle-class or reasonably affluent white person discovers their cousin committed a serious crime- let’s say, armed robbery- that person might feel morally obligated to turn their criminal cousin over to the police.

Let’s say the cousin has a drug problem which is escalating- hence the armed robbery- and they refuse to get treatment. What if they hurt someone? A middle-class white person is more likely to make the following calculation: “If I turn my cousin in to the police, they will get a fair trial, maybe dry out in jail, even get treatment. Doing so might actually save their life.”

A Black person from a low-income neighborhood is far less likely to make the same calculation. They might not automatically assume their cousin would be treated fairly by the legal system. They probably know other people in the community who have been in similar situations and have faced extra jail time for crimes they didn’t commit, excessively long sentences for minor offenses, and perhaps much worse.

For this demographic, the calculation looks more like this: “If I turn my cousin into the police, they might not get a fair trial. They will definitely not dry out in jail, as there are are as many drugs in jail as out, they will not receive treatment, and instead will meet worse criminals in jail. Turning them in might actually cost their life.”

Mass incarceration has deeply impacted low-income Black communities nationwide. This experience has influenced an entire generation. White people from low income communities aren’t immune, either.

Going to court costs money. Attorneys cost money. Being in jail costs money. The less affluent of every description are less likely to “trust the system”. The system is rife with injustice and justice unfairly applied.

For people like Andrew Yang, and a growing list of other progressives who no longer identify with the laws of liberalism, which they find highly illiberal, the problem isn’t so much the new rules, or even the new rigorousness and zealotry of its adherents, but the obviously unequal application of them.

Mike Richards, former-longtime executive producer for the popular game show, Jeopardy!, and erstwhile guest host of same, was soundly cancelled recently for years-old inappropriate humor. He went from being chosen as host- which was probably due to him being the cheapest- to stepping down from the position, to leaving Jeopardy! altogether before fans knew what hit them.

Jimmy Kimmel- who once hosted a show called “The Man Show” which featured, among other misogynistic attempts at humor, young women in revealing clothing jumping on trampolines- is still a scion of the left and is currently using the podium of his popularity to advocate against unvaccinated people receiving emergency medical treatment.

Retroactively applied, Howard Stern’s list of infractions would be longer than the whole rest of the historical record put together

Perhaps it is the arbitrary nature of these cancellations which is turning so many progressives away from the Democratic Party. Because if someone you know and like hasn’t already been unfairly cancelled, just wait. And as they say, if you don’t know who it is, it might be you.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)