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Books by and about 2020 presidential candidates
Crippled America,
by Donald J. Trump (2015)
United,
by Cory Booker (2016)
The Truths We Hold,
by Kamala Harris (2019)
Smart on Crime,
by Kamala Harris (2010)
Guide to Political Revolution,
by Bernie Sanders (2017)
Where We Go From Here,
by Bernie Sanders (2018)
Promise Me, Dad ,
by Joe Biden (2017)
Conscience of a Conservative,
by Jeff Flake (2017)
Two Paths,
by Gov. John Kasich (2017)
Every Other Monday,
by Rep. John Kasich (2010)
Courage is Contagious,
by John Kasich (1998)
Shortest Way Home,
by Pete Buttigieg (2019)
The Book of Joe ,
by Jeff Wilser (2019; biography of Joe Biden)
Becoming,
by Michelle Obama (2018)
Our Revolution,
by Bernie Sanders (2016)
This Fight Is Our Fight,
by Elizabeth Warren (2017)
Higher Loyalty,
by James Comey (2018)
The Making of Donald Trump,
by David Cay Johnston (2017)
Higher Loyalty ,
by James Comey (2018)
Trump vs. Hillary On The Issues ,
by Jesse Gordon (2016)
Outsider in the White House,
by Bernie Sanders (2015)

Book Reviews

(from Amazon.com)

(click a book cover for a review or other books by or about the presidency from Amazon.com)

The War on Normal People
The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future

by Andrew Yang



(Click for Amazon book review)


OR click on an issue category below for a subset.

BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:

This is Andrew Yang's campaign book, published in April 2019, just around the time that his polling numbers qualified him for the early Democratic primary debates. Yang's credential to run for the presidency is that he's a self-made millionaire who made his fortune by doing good. We'll explore that credential in this book review, and how it relates to his unparalleled appeal to younger voters.

The 2020 election marks a turning point in American politics because business success is now considered a sufficient credential to run for president, due to Donald Trump's 2016 victory based on that credential alone. Every president elected before Trump was either an elected official, or a high-level government appointee. The 2020 campaign cycle features six candidates whose major credential is that they served as corporate CEOs:

  • Andrew Yang made his fortune at several startup companies, the most important of which were Manhattan Prep, a GMAT standardized test prep service, and Venture for America, which provided capital for non-profit start-ups. He was appointed as an honorary "Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship" by President Obama in 2015, but has no history of electoral campaigns nor high-level government appointments.
  • Howard Schultz, who briefly ran for president in 2019 as an independent, provides the best model for Yang: he made his fortune running Starbucks and portrayed himself as a CEO focused on social change. Schultz withdrew his candidacy after heavy harassment by liberals worried that he would be a "spoiler" in the 2020 race between Trump and the more liberal Democratic nominee. Yang overcomes that criticism by running as a Democrat.
  • Tom Steyer made his fortune in banking and finance, but also worked for several years on ballot initiatives in California, several of which passed. Steyer portrays himself as politically experienced due to those ballot initiatives, but like Yang, he has held no elective office nor government appointments. Steyer is NOT a model for Yang, however, because Yang explicitly opposes making one's fortune in banking and finance.
  • Mike Bloomberg also made his fortune in finance, but then got elected mayor of New York City. Bloomberg's campaign is declining all donations, which excludes him from the Democratic primary debates, but he plans to spend millions on TV ads to make up for it. Yang is merely a millionaire, not a billionaire like Bloomberg, so Yang relies on donations (and hence qualifies for most debates).
  • John Delaney made his fortune as a healthcare CEO, but then took a more traditional path of running successfully for Congress before running for President. Delaney made the cut for the early debates, but fell off the radar when the polling criteria got stricter (he's still in the running, as of this writing). So much for the traditional path of proving "electability" after a CEO stint.
  • Don Blankenship is another CEO whom most voters haven't heard of, even though he ran for Senate (in West Virginia in 2018). He switched to the Constitution Party after losing the Republican Party nomination in that race, and is seeking the Constitution Party's nomination for president. He calls himself "Trumpier than Trump" and obviously believes in the Trump CEO candidacy model (Trump DID run for office prior to 2016, twice!)
A lack of having won elective office has not disqualified candidates from seeking the presidency historically, either. Here are a few recent examples, and their relevance for 2020 politics:
  • Ross Perot ran for president twice against Bill Clinton, and made a name for himself by supporting the BBA Balanced Budget Amendment and opposing NAFTA, both of which remain staples of political discussion today. He pioneered creative TV ads (which cost millions) along the lines that Bloomberg is attempting in 2020.
  • Pat Buchanan is perhaps the most important model for Trump, and perhaps served as the source of Trump's agreement with Buchanan against trade, against immigration, and for prosecuting the Central Park Five, all of which were populist causes when Trump and Buchanan both ran for president in 2000. Buchanan did, however, serve in high-level appointments in both the Nixon and Reagan White Houses.
  • Ralph Nader ran as the Green Party nominee for president in 1996 and 2000. Nader worked for decades on ballot initiatives and class-action lawsuits, which may have inspired Tom Steyer to believe he was eligible for a presidential run.
Yang does not talk about any of those past candidates (or any present candidates, or any candidates at all) as models. He shares the iconoclasm of Ralph Nader, and both portray themselves as outside of the political mainstream. That "iconoclast/outsider" status is the best explanation we've got for Yang's appeal to young voters -- who consider themselves the future victims of past bad policy decisions of their elders, and yet are ignored by mainstream politics. I'm waiting for a Yang Gang member to dismiss that analysis with "Ok, Boomer," but that rationale is the source of attraction for numerous past candidates who appealed to young voters (Bernie Sanders (2015-16), Barack Obama (2008-12), Howard Dean (2003-4), Robert Reich (2002), and Ralph Nader too).

So what does Yang actually talk about? His young supporters all sport "MATH hats", an acronym for "Make America Think Harder," on blue hats, and Yang wears a "MATH" lapel pin during the debates. The "MATH" logo contrasts the red MAGA hats (Make America Great Again) that Trump supporters wear. But Yang doesn't talk about MATH at all in this book (it was made up afterward, we suppose). He does talk about "UBI" in this book, a LOT (pp.165-85), and also talks about it at every debate. That's the "Universal Basic Income" which Yang proposes as the solution to every problem from welfare dependency to homelessness and joblessness to higher education costs -- several of our excerpts provide details.

We think Yang's 2014 book, Smart People Should Build Things, is better for policy discussion and better for voters getting to know Yang, but Yang doesn't talk about ideas from that book on the campaign trail. Yang does talk about every idea in this book in the debates, incessantly, making it mandatory reading for prospective members of the Yang Gang. But they should read the earlier book to fully understand what wearing a "MATH hat" means. --JKAG Jan 2020

-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, January 2020

 OnTheIssues.org excerpts:  (click on issues for details)


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The above quotations are from The War on Normal People
The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future

by Andrew Yang
.

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