Crosscut Ideas Festival: Andrew Yang on the harm of primaries

Ranked-choice voting is a way out of paralyzing hyperpartisanship, said the 2020 presidential candidate.

When Andrew Yang was vying for the Democratic nomination in 2020, he ran on a platform that included proposals for a universal basic income, ranked-choice voting and automatic voter registration. The businessman-turned-politician eventually dropped out of the race, but he has held on to a number of the planks of that platform. 

During his appearance at the Crosscut Ideas Festival on May 6, 2023, Yang shared some startling statistics with the audience and his interviewer, Crosscut executive editor M. David Lee III: Support for a universal basic income, the most-discussed idea of his campaign, has risen from 27% in 2018 to 65% in 2020. Also, public approval of Congress hovers around 18%-22%, yet, inexplicably, the incumbent re-election rate is 94%.

So what is the greatest job threat for lawmakers so entrenched? Being primaried — which leads to both sides, Yang said, moving away from the center, and from there to a legislative system in which extremism and inaction are rewarded. 

“An issue is worth more to us now unaddressed than addressed,” Yang said one senator confessed to him, claiming that lawmakers could enrage their base, and therefore fundraise, off it. One answer? Ranked-choice voting, for which Yang is an avid advocate, noting that there would be no primaries to frighten politicians and greater participation by women and people of color. 

Ranked-choice voting is among the issues at the forefront of the Forward Party, the political party he founded in 2021. During the interview, Yang outlined his Forward Party’s other goals, such as increasing nonvoter engagement and access between constituents and representatives, while also revealing his plans for a 2024 presidential run.

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