Is New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Andrew Yang’s beeper going off? Because suddenly it feels like it’s 1991, when well-meaning people would tell us that they know “a gay,” or say that they’ve watched an episode of “Will & Grace” and liked it, or how much they appreciate how nice our gay neighborhood is.
Such was the case this past Wednesday when the leading gay political club in New York City hosted a candidate roundtable (virtual, on-line), inviting each Democratic candidate in the New York Mayoral Race to answer questions from the Stonewall Democratic Club. The city will be using ranked choice voting for the first time, allowing voters to rank their top five choices. Mr. Yang, who previously ran and lost in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, is currently polling at the top of all the candidates despite never having lived in New York City prior to declaring his candidacy.
On the positive side, Yang’s two campaign managers are both gay, and he is politically progressive with a reputation for fresh thinking and having a friendly personality. His supporters are passionate about him, and he has largely avoided pandering to the mosaic of sub-cultures that traditionally make up NYC Democratic politics.
And then this past Wednesday’s video call happened with the Stonewall Democratic Club, which some participants have labelled as Michael Scott-like (Steve Carell’s meme-ready character from television’s “The Office”).
Not a single soul:
Andrew Yang pic.twitter.com/PtLFJH7Djg
— Phillip (@MajorPhilebrity) April 22, 2021
According to various members of the club who participated on the call, Yang repeatedly referred to “your community” and described gay people as “beautiful.” As the New York Times reported: “I genuinely do love you and your community… you’re so human and beautiful. You make New York City special. I have no idea how we ever lose to the Republicans given that you all are frankly in, like, leadership roles all over the Democratic Party.”
Not an awful comment, but it sounds… weird.
He then continued to talk about how much he was looking forward to going to renowned lesbian bar Cubbyhole. In contrast to the other candidates who discussed their solutions for various issues of importance, to not just gay voters but all working class New Yorkers such as affordable housing and homelessness (particularly for LGBTQ+ youth), Yang talked about how much he wanted the Gay Pride Parade to happen.
Andrew Yang courting my beautiful vote pic.twitter.com/043dRzvpSS
— Matthew Schneier (@MatthewSchneier) April 22, 2021
The Times further noted how multiple participants described Mr. Yang’s remarks as offensive, saying that members of the club who raised policy issues found his mention of gay bars off-putting.
“Gay, gay, gay. Wow,” one person wrote in the chat accompanying the forum, which was later shared with The New York Times. “More to us than just that.”
Any plans for LGBTQ homelessness and affordable housing?
Andrew Yang: pic.twitter.com/yR2FejbvyW
— Ben Yahr (@benyahr) April 22, 2021
Reactions to Yang’s candidacy have been varied, and since he is the front-runner it is natural for there to be extra scrutiny on his comments and his policy statements. As a political progressive I enjoy watching Yang as a political contributor on CNN and other news outlets, even if I disagree with some of his policy proposals (Universal Basic Income, for instance). But as a gay man, it just seemed a bit out of touch how he presented his candidacy to the Stonewall Democratic Club.
Hopefully he re-calibrates his message, and if he does win the nomination, goes on to find innovative solutions for New York City.
This post is solely the opinion of this contributing writer and may not reflect the opinion of other writers, staff, or owners of Instinct Magazine.