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Andrew Yang’s Asian American Superpower

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Andrew Yang’s Asian American Superpower

So what was it like, I asked, when he took off the scarf and put on a plain mask, and looked like just another Asian dude?

“I’ve been on the streets in New York and on the subways any number of times when I didn’t have a ‘Yang For New York’ mask on and the rest of it,” he said after a pause. “And the first time someone shrinks away from you on the subway, or looks at you a little bit too long, you think, ‘well, maybe that was in my head.’ But then if it happens repeatedly, then you start thinking, ‘this is not in my head.’ And you can sense a degree of both visibility and hostility or awareness of your presence, but not in a welcome way. It’s like: ‘I’m aware of your presence and I’m not thrilled about it.’ And that’s a very different feeling, and a very different energy.”

But on that sunny street in Chinatown, everyone knew that the guy wearing a “Yang for New York” mask and being followed by a professional photographer was the Andrew Yang: the Universal Basic Income guy, the former presidential candidate, the could-be mayor — a guy who also happened to be the most prominent Asian American political figure in the country. It was as if Yang had willed his own post-racial celebrity into existence, simply by believing in himself as hard as he could.

“I frankly have been accustomed to being able to blend into the woodwork for most of my life. Because I think that’s something of an Asian American superpower, where, like, prior to the last 14 months, you could become quite inconspicuous,” he said. “When I’m very obviously Andrew Yang — the scarf, the mask — then I get a lot of love and warmth and support. But if I’m not as readily identifiable, then there is a different energy.”

***

The term “model minority” entered the mainstream in a 1966 New York Times Magazine article, when sociology professor William Petersen drew an indelible line between Japanese Americans and “problem minorities” who’d suffered various — and, he believed, equal — types of setbacks.

“When whites defined Negroes as inherently less intelligent, for example, and therefore furnished them with inferior schools, the products of these schools often validated the original stereotype,” Peterson wrote. “Once the cumulative degradation has gone far enough, it is notoriously difficult to reverse the trend.”

And yet, he marveled, Japanese Americans had done so, less than 20 years after the internment camps of World War II. “By any criterion of good citizenship, the Japanese Americans are better than any other group in our society, including native-born whites. They have established this remarkable record, moreover, by their own almost totally unaided effort. Every attempt to hamper their progress resulted only in enhancing their determination to succeed.”

With that backhanded praise, Japanese Americans, and the millions of other Asians who followed them as America’s immigration laws changed, were squeezed into a box nearly impossible to break out of: How could they prove that they face discrimination if everyone thought they were the embodiment of the “Horatio Alger hero,” as Peterson put it? How could they find allies to achieve equality — cultural, political, societal — if everyone thought they were successful by some sort of ethnic disposition? And if they weren’t successful, well, weren’t they just bad at being Asian?

There are endless books, essays, films and shows that try to shatter that idea. But there are also plenty of Asian Americans who meet every criteria of this myth, and even more Asian parents who push their kids to embody it. Andrew Yang grew up as one of these kids.

With two parents with Berkeley postgrad degrees, an upbringing in the quaint upstate New York town of Somers, and an education from Phillips Exeter, Brown University, and Columbia Law — a pedigree that Mayflower descendants would stab each other to obtain — Yang occupies an elite demographic slot, as Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen (no relation), who has interviewed Yang, told me: “Ivy League, East Coast, model minority Asian American, whether he calls himself that or not.”

“I feel some sympathy for him, because he’s caught up in a dynamic of race that he doesn’t want to be caught up in and no one should have to be caught up in,” Nguyen said. “But that’s just the nature of race in the country. If [he] can be a good politician, he has to figure out a response to that. Not because he may care, but because other people care.”

I had wondered if, in his journey to get ahead in America, Yang had distanced himself from the AAPI community or any characteristic of being a Taiwanese immigrant kid, especially after talking to Peter Kiang, the director of Asian American studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Back in the ’80s, Kiang told me, he had worked as a consultant for New England prep schools, including Exeter — the alma mater of billionaires, diplomats, and the Anglo-Saxon power elite — on how to diversify their campuses to be more inclusive to Asian Americans, particularly the children of immigrants, after a string of stories exposing racism on these schools’ cloistered campuses.

“They were confronting this new population and had no idea how to approach it,” he recalled, noting that the schools would either try to integrate them into the student body — incorporating Asian American studies into the curriculum, for instance — or simply stack the incoming class with just enough Asians, leaving this new class to fend for themselves and assuming that they were model minorities who could boost their Ivy League acceptance rates.

Kiang remembered one focus group he conducted with a group of Asian American students at one of these schools, in which he asked them if they had complaints. After prodding, they admitted they weren’t a fan of the quality of rice — but felt like they couldn’t say anything about it, and instead kept rice cookers in their dorm rooms.

“They didn’t know whether, if they made complaints or protests, they’d be kicked out of school and their parents’ dreams would evaporate,” Kiang recalled. They had no language, he said, to call out white people.

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‘A nicer version of Trump’: GOP donors flock to DeSantis

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'A nicer version of Trump': GOP donors flock to DeSantis

POLITICO’s Holly Otterbein reports on how Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s Senate run has become an inflection point in the Democratic party. Plus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she won’t bring progressive “court packing” legislation to the floor. And House Minority Leader McCarthy meets with scandal-ridden Rep. Matt Gaetz.

The enthusiasm was on full display during DeSantis’ appearance at last weekend’s Republican National Committee donor gala in Palm Beach, Fla., where he drew wild applause for declaring the party needed figures who withstood public pressure and weren’t afraid to confront what he called the “elite, New York corporate media.”

The governor was mobbed over the course of the weekend. Joanne Zervos, a New York City donor who spoke with DeSantis during the conference, said many contributors saw him as “a nicer version of Trump,” someone who had embraced the former president’s policies but lacked his rough edges. Zervos said she was drawn to the governor because of his approach to dealing with the coronavirus.

DeSantis last week also made a surprise appearance at a donor retreat convened by the Conservative Partnership Institute, an organization overseen by Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). The event was held at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. During his appearances last week, some attendees approached him and encouraged him to run in 2024.

Whether DeSantis’ popularity among donors is lasting or fleeting remains an open question. The 2024 nominating contest is a long way off, and other would-be candidates have also developed close relationships with contributors. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was also well-received at the RNC retreat, according to attendees. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has previously drawn financial support from hedge fund manager Paul Singer, one of the party’s most sought-after givers. Pence spent years cultivating big contributors, many of whom were uncomfortable with Trump but saw the then-vice president as an ally within the administration.

For now, DeSantis aides insist that the 42-year-old governor is focused squarely on running for reelection and hasn’t begun thinking about the presidential contest, something they have been trying to remind donors. The governor faces a potentially challenging 2022 contest against Democratic state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is expected to enter the race soon.

But DeSantis’ aggressive courtship of national givers bears striking similarities to the approach then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush used in his 1998 reelection race, which preceded his presidential bid two years later. Bush spent the 1998 campaign traveling the country and introducing himself to the Republican Party’s biggest donors, many of whom contributed to his reelection effort and later became key to his 2000 national campaign.

As he embarks on his fundraising blitz, DeSantis has begun building a team with national experience. He has tapped veteran Republican strategist Phil Cox to help oversee his 2022 campaign. Cox, who has developed deep ties to the donor class through his past leadership of the Republican Governors Association, accompanied the governor to last week’s retreats.

But DeSantis’ most potent fundraising weapon may be his home state, which has long been home to some of the GOP’s biggest bankrollers. The governor has tapped into upscale areas like Miami Beach, where during a multistop March swing he appeared at a fundraising lunch at the La Gorce Country Club that was hosted by real estate developer Jimmy Tate. Others present included investor Jimmy Resnick.

Florida’s list of major Republican Party donors is getting longer. While the state has long attracted the wealthy through its promise of low taxes and warm weather, the pandemic has supercharged the migration. Financial leaders say they’ve been drawn to DeSantis’ reluctance to embrace the stringent mitigation policies implemented by blue-state governors that have taken a toll on businesses.

The roster includes venture capitalist David Blumberg, who in November moved to the Miami Beach area from San Francisco. Blumberg, who contributed more than $100,000 to Trump’s reelection effort, has met with DeSantis around a half-dozen times since arriving to the state.

“I have admired Gov. DeSantis from afar,” Blumberg said. “Since I’ve moved to Florida with my family, I’ve gotten to know him reasonably well and have a very good impression of what I’ve seen.”

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The GOP-Big Business Divorce Goes Deeper Than You Think

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The GOP-Big Business Divorce Goes Deeper Than You Think

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a legendary business professor and associate dean at the Yale School of Management, has watched this split grow in recent years, and has heard it from CEOs he knows and works with. What the GOP cares about and what major businesses care about is, increasingly incompatible, he says.

“The political desire to use wedge issues to divide — which used to be fringe in the GOP — has become mainstream,” Sonnenfeld says. “That is 100 percent at variance with what the business community wants. And that is a million times more important to them than how many dollars of taxes are paid here or there.”

Over the weekend, Sonnenfeld hastily organized a Zoom conference with roughly 100 major corporate executives to talk through the voter restrictions being considered by state legislatures throughout the country, and about the way top Republicans like McConnell and Ted Cruz are responding with attacks on businesses that speak up in opposition.

Most of the CEOs on the call were Republicans; Sonnenfeld himself has been an informal adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents, but he has a longstanding relationship with McConnell, and spoke at the senator’s wedding to Elaine Chao. The CEOs “ranged from amused to outraged” in their reaction to the GOP attacks on businesses, says Sonnenfeld. “Their comments ranged from talk about ‘taxation without representation’ to the paradox of ‘cancel culture’: It’s OK if they speak out, but only as long as they stay on script?”

As the GOP tries to position itself as the home of “working-class values,” capturing loyalty with a steady campaign against the perceived excesses of progressive culture, it’s running afoul of a business community that can’t simply silo off “culture war” topics. In the eyes of major corporations, issues like voting rights, immigration and transgender-inclusive restrooms have economic impact, too. The millions of people alienated by those fights aren’t just their future customers, many of whom expect to support brands they believe in, they’re the companies’ employees.

“The bad news for Republicans is that they seem to have a 1920s view of who big business’s workforce is,” says Sonnenfeld. “That workforce is, at a minimum, highly diverse — and they get along. Trying to stir that up is misguided.”

The new Republican penchant for mocking corporations for being too socially aware — for instance, Sen. Ted Cruz’s Twitter threat to use the power of the state to harm Major League Baseball’s business, signing the message off with “go woke, go broke” — fundamentally misunderstands what matters to business in the 21st century, says Sonnenfeld. “Basically, business leaders believe that it’s in the interest of society to have social harmony… Divisiveness in society is not in their interest, short term or long term.”

If the marriage between the Republican Party and the business community is on the rocks, what does that mean for politics? What do we misunderstand about what really matters to CEOs? And why aren’t business executives more afraid of boycott threats from the right?

For answers to all of that and more, POLITICO Magazine spoke with Sonnenfeld this week. A condensed transcript of that conversation follows, edited for length and clarity.

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Pence has pacemaker implanted – POLITICO

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Pence has pacemaker implanted - POLITICO

Former Vice President Mike Pence had a pacemaker implanted on Wednesday, his office announced in a release Thursday.

After being named to Donald Trump’s ticket in 2016, Pence disclosed that he had been diagnosed with an asymptomatic left bundle branch block, he said. In the past two weeks, Pence’s office said he had begun to have symptoms related to a “slow heart rate.”

Pence then had the pacemaker inserted in a successful “routine surgery” at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Va., his office said in the statement. Pence is “expected to fully recover and return to normal activity in the coming days,” the statement said.

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