Andrew Yang Rips Presidential Election Process: "We're Like Characters In A Play And We Have To Follow It"


Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang joined CNN's Chris Cuomo Thursday night to talk about his debate closing statement where he lambasted the "reality TV" element of the presidential campaign process.

"You know what the talking heads couldn't stop talking about after the last debate? It's not the fact that I'm somehow number four on the stage and national polling, it was the fact that I wasn't wearing a tie," Yang said at Wednesday's presidential debate. "We're up here with makeup on our faces and our rehearsed attack lines, playing roles in this reality TV show."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: That's Andrew Yang. He may have the best group following. "Feel the Bern" is good, but we know that one for a while, the "Yang Gang" is how people are known who are backing Yang, especially online. He's an outsider to the process, but not to success in this country. Let's bring his perspective on to PRIME TIME.

It's good to see you Mr. Yang. Oh, I see you don't have a tie. Let's take a commercial break so you can put one. On, I'm kidding. Now what is behind the critique, your frustration with the process? Spell it out to the people watching this show right now. What do you think is counterproductive?

ANDREW YANG: Well I was on the stage last night. And I like most Americans, could have predicted where the attacks were going to come from and who they're going to be lobbied against. And you notice that no candidate ever attacks someone below them in the polls.

It's not like people were throwing rocks at Michael Bennett. You're always throwing rocks the people that are ahead of you, because everyone saw the success that Senator Harris had attacking Joe Biden in the last debate and everyone wanted to replicate that.

So that's what I meant that there's a dynamic that unfortunately gets set up that we're like characters in a play and we have to follow it.

CUOMO: So how do you change something that I believe is an opportune ism based on human nature. Negativity works in campaigns, advisor three-to-one negative. People seem to want to know what's wrong with that Yang. What do I not know about him, right?

I mean, look, you know that the more noticed that you get, the more people start to come at you. That a piece about you that is positive is seen as puff and if somebody takes a shot at your success it's seen as good journalism. How do you change that?

YANG: Well certainly for me, I'm still at a point where Americans are just getting to know me and I'm happy to say last night was a great opportunity to introduce myself. We received over half a million in individual donations just from last night to right now.

So I'm still making a very positive case to the American people. I would relish the day when I become such a big deal that other candidates start throwing rocks at me.

CUOMO: Be careful for what you wish for.

YANG: --join in.

CUOMO: So let's look at the flipside of what made you popular last night. Two of my three kids cried them to sleep, because they believe that the world is going to be on fire in 15 minutes, because you said it's too late to stop climate change. Did you go too far in that assessment?

YANG: Well, I was just telling it like it is. Well, the facts are that we are 15% of global emissions. If we go to--

CUOMO: But it's not too late.

YANG: --half of what we are right now, we are still probably going to only slow the rate down. I mean, the study just came out the other day that showed that Greenland is - the ice pack is melting at the rate that was predicted to be in 2070 - 50 years from now.

So we're way ahead of whatever the projections were and we need to own the fact that the last four years have been the four warmest years and recorded history already.

CUOMO: True.

YANG: --your kids man, because I've got young kids too.

CUOMO: No, I'm just messing with you. My kids don't pay any attention to what I do what. I'm saying is that - the problem is that you're going to try to persuade people to care about something that not enough for this country does, including our President, right?

I mean we know how he talks about this. He treats it as a joke, at the minimum. So if you don't give them an aspirational sense of what can still be achieved, aren't you shooting yourself in the foot in terms of getting anything done?

YANG: Well, my campaign is built around telling it like it is. I wish I had better news to report. I wish I could say, "Hey, if we get our acts together, we're going to reverse climate change, everything is going to be as it is for us, for our kids." But that's not what the science is saying, that's not what the facts are saying.

And we keep assuming we're going to turn things around in terms of our energy composition and our carbon emissions and we haven't demonstrated that we can do it even within our own borders, much less in developing countries where you know they're just going to choose the cheapest, dirtiest form of energy available to them, unless we somehow make cleaner forms of energy cost competitive and attractive to them.

CUOMO: Well, look, fair point. Not very optimistic, and usually politicians are in the business of persuasion, but you are not a politician. All right, so I'll take you on that one. Let's look at it on the flip side.

Whereas you've got a dour view of what the facts suggest about climate change and what we can still do. You believe that $12,000 in people's pocket will be revolutionary in terms of change in their lives. It seems like too little and too simplistic. How is it not?

YANG: Well, a lot of people don't live where you and I live Chris. $1,000 a month would be huge for many people who are living in Ohio or Michigan or Iowa and New Hampshire, these other places that I've been campaigning these past weeks and months. And 78% of Americans right now are living paycheck to paycheck--


YANG: 40% plus say they can't afford unexpected $400 bill.

CUOMO: True.

YANG: So if you had a thousand $1,000 a month coming in, then your head would come up, the boot would be off your throat.

CUOMO: But is it American as a solution you give it to them? Is that American?

Is that capitalist, which is supposedly what we're all about?

YANG: Well this is a deeply American idea from Thomas Paine to Martin Luther King to Elon Musk. And I'm a capitalist myself. I'll tell you that businesses perform better, markets perform better and people perform better if there is money to spend in consumers hands.

CUOMO: So you think it's worth the investment of government capital and that it wouldn't just be the independent, too right, too far right nightmare of, "Oh, my god, this is the ultimate socialist principle. This is why we can't go near anyone on the left."

There's one stay that's had a dividend for almost 40 years, Chris, and it's Alaska which is a deep red state. It was passed by a Republican governor. There are many people who are libertarians and conservatives who love this, because what they detest is a huge government bureaucracy making decisions for the American people. They like the idea of economic independence and people making their own decisions.

CUOMO: If it doesn't work out for you as a candidate would you consider a job in someone's administration?

YANG: My goal with this run, Chris, is to solve the real problems that are facing your kids, my kids. I mean, it's 2019 our economy is being transformed before our eyes in addition to the climate. I will do anything in my power to help solve these problems, whether that's as President or in some other capacity.

CUOMO: Well, as we see in the current administration, we need people who know what the heck they are doing. Andrew Yang, thank you for being provocative. It was needed on that stage last night. You are welcome on this show to talk about ideas that matter to the American people. Thank you, sir. Good luck going forward.

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