“It was a no-brainer for me. I went to a college that was very liberal. I lived in New York City. Everyone around me was a Democrat,” he wrote, noting that he grew up as the son of immigrants. His family did “not talk about politics at all growing up.”
Even so, in his 20s, Yang remained a “staunch Democrat,” supporting John Kerry’s campaign, former President Barack Obama, and throwing his support behind Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential campaign in 2016.
Yang explained that he viewed former President Trump’s victory that year as a “red flag” and “call to action.” He noted his experiences running for president on the Democrat side, meeting “a lot” of Democrats around the country and becoming friends with other Democrats in the field, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX). Yang eventually became a “surrogate for Joe for months” and campaigned for Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Raphael Warnoff (D-GA) in the Georgia runoff.
“Again, I have at this point dozens of friends and confidantes who are entrenched in the Democratic Party. I’ve been a Democrat my entire adult life,” he wrote, adding, “And yet, I’m confident that no longer being a Democrat is the right thing.”
While he emphasized that he is “NOT suggesting” for others to do as he did, as it could “disenfranchise” those who live in very partisan areas of the country, he said he personally felt his mindset shift as soon as he signed the paper, making his switch official:
My goal is to do as much as I can to advance our society. There are phenomenal public servants doing great work every day – but our system is stuck. It is stuck in part because polarization is getting worse than ever. Many of the people I know are doing all of the good they can – but their impact is constrained. Now that I’m not a member of one party or another, I feel like I can be even more honest about both the system and the people in it.
The key reform that is necessary to help unlock our system is a combination of Open Primaries and Ranked Choice Voting, which will give voters more genuine choice and our system more dynamism. It will also prevent the spoiler effect that so many Democrats are concerned about, which is a byproduct of a two party system with a binary contest and simple plurality voting.
I believe I can reach people who are outside the system more effectively. I feel more . . . independent.
Further, Yang said there had always been “something of an odd fit” between himself and the Democrat Party, as he views himself as more practical than ideological.
“I’ve seen politicians publicly eviscerate each other and then act collegial or friendly backstage a few minutes later. A lot of it is theatre,” he said, adding that it feels “really good to be building my own team.”
“Breaking up with the Democratic Party feels like the right thing to do because I believe I can have a greater impact this way. Am I right? Let’s find out. Together,” he added.