Andrew Yang Knows How to Fit In. Somehow That’s Making Him an Outlier.
Last month, Jon Sarlin, a producer at CNN, posted a short video on his Twitter feed — an on-the-street interview with Russell Peterson, a Trump voter who’d had a change of heart. Peterson, with his goatee, tank top and North Carolina twang, came across the way an unimaginative actor might play a Trump supporter on “Saturday Night Live.” But on his head, in lieu of a red MAGA hat, he wore a MATH hat — “Make America Think Harder,” a campaign slogan for Andrew Yang.
上个月，CNN制片人乔恩·塞林(Jon Sarlin)在他的Twitter上发了个短视频——对改变心意的特朗普支持者拉塞尔·彼得森(Russell Peterson)的街头采访。彼得森留着山羊须、穿着背心，说话带北卡罗来纳口音，就像一个缺乏想像力的演员可能在《周六夜现场》(Saturday Night Live)节目中扮演的特朗普支持者一样。但他头上戴的不是红颜色的MAGA帽子(特朗普总统竞选口号“让的首字母缩写，而是MATH帽子——“让美国更认真思考”(Make America Think Harder)，这是杨安泽的竞选口号。
“I’m a Yangocrat,” he told Sarlin. “I’m only here on the Democratic side to vote for Andrew Yang, because I would not give you two cents for an establishment Democrat,” he said. “When Andrew Yang talks, you actually hear the solutions to the problems that got Donald Trump elected. We all wanted Donald Trump to go in and drain the swamp. We wanted him to be that larger-than-life outsider, WWE superstar.” He continued: “But he’s actually just the insider, and the country’s only gotten more and more divided.”
“我是个杨主党(Yangocrat)，”他对塞林说。“我站在民主党一边，只是来给杨安泽投票的，因为我个人的意见是，不会支持建制派民主党人，”他说。“当杨安泽讲话时，你实际上会听到让唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)当选的问题的解决方案。我们当初都想让唐纳德·特朗普进去把沼泽的水抽干(“抽干沼泽”是特朗普的一项竞选承诺——译注)。我们想让他成为那个卓绝的局外人，世界摔角娱乐公司(World Wrestling Entertainment，简称WWE)的超级明星。”他接着说：“但他其实不过是个局内人，国家的分歧也变得越来越大。”
I sent this video to my Asian friends in the media. It stirred in me an embarrassing pride: Here was a central-casting Trump voter who not only endorsed an Asian-American man for president but also considered him the solution to widespread corruption. But of course this pride was silly — nostalgia for an era when the occasional “Ebony and Ivory” moment marked actual progress.
我把这个视频发给了媒体的亚裔朋友。它让我感到一种尴尬的自豪：这是个再典型不过的特朗普支持者，他不仅支持一个亚裔美国人竞选总统，还认为他是解决普遍腐败问题的良方。当然，这种骄傲是愚蠢的——是对那样一个时代的怀念，即偶尔出现的“乌木与象牙”(Ebony and Ivory，指黑人与白人)时刻标志着真正的进步。
Peterson, to his credit, didn’t seem particularly interested in Yang’s identity. He was interested in drawing a line between Yang and “establishment” politicians. Yang is an entrepreneur who grew up in a model immigrant household before graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy and Brown University, but for supporters he remains an outsider. This is partly because he is not a politician and because the central idea of his long-shot candidacy, a universal basic income, isn’t exactly mainstream. But for a disillusioned voter who can’t stomach the Democratic field, Yang evades other key signifiers, too. He is not “woke” in any exhausting way. He avoids negative messaging. And he is not a woman, nor is he white, black or Latino. He manages to be, as Hua Hsu pointed out in a recent New Yorker article, an “Asian Everyman” who plays down “identity politics” and opts for an almost anachronistic message about everyone coming together — one that, in its rosy vagueness, contrasts with the rest of the field’s willingness to dive, however emptily, into thorny questions about busing, reparations or gender equality.
值得赞扬的是，彼得森对杨安泽的身份似乎不是特别感兴趣。他感兴趣的，是在杨安泽和“建制派”政客之间划清界限。杨安泽是一名成长在模范移民家庭的企业家，毕业于菲利普斯埃克塞特中学(Phillips Exeter Academy)和布朗大学(Brown University)，但对支持者而言，他仍是局外人。部分原因在于，他不是政客，而且其获胜机会不大的参选核心理念——全民基本收入——也并非完全主流。但对于一个无法忍受民主党阵营的失望选民来说，杨安泽也避开了其他关键的符号。他丝毫没有什么令人煎熬的“觉醒”。他避免负面信息。他不是女性，也不是白人、黑人或拉丁裔美国人。正如徐华(Hua Hsu)最近在《纽约客》(New Yorker)一篇文章中所指出的，他成功地成为一个淡化“身份政治”的“亚裔普通人”，并选择传达一种几乎不合时代的信息，即每个人都要走到一起——这条信息乐观的含糊其辞与其他人的意愿形成对比，后者愿意深入探讨校车政策、赔款或性别平等这类棘手的问题，无论这些问题多么空洞。
For Asian-Americans, Hsu points out, guys like this are familiar, and they are seen as insiders, for the ease with which they can blend into white culture. Yang grew up as one of the only Asians in his hometown, enduring racial abuse and bullying, and you can still spot defense mechanisms in the pragmatic, almost dismissive way he talks about identity today. When Asians like this enter elite workplaces, where they are again surrounded by white people, they tend to use such mechanisms to great effect: They are the so-called model-minority Asians who are “like everyone else,” who don’t “play the race card,” who know how to assure others that they belong. When Yang talks about his immigrant parents, it’s in economic terms, describing the patents his father generated for GE and IBM as “a pretty good deal for the United States.” He has a habit of making light ethnic jokes about himself, like a kid trying to ingratiate himself at a new school: “I’m Asian, so I know a lot of doctors,” or “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.” Yang even offered public absolution to Shane Gillis, the comedian who was fired from “S.N.L.” for, among other things, calling Yang a “Jew chink.” His approach to race is the conciliatory style a nonwhite candidate might have adopted years ago — the one Barack Obama took when he talked about being “a skinny kid with a funny name.” It acknowledges racial difference but asks us — self-deprecatingly, a little humiliatingly — to get over it.
徐华指出，对于亚裔美国人而言，这样的人很熟悉，他们被视为局内人，因为他们很容易融入白人文化。杨安泽长大时，是家乡仅有的几个亚裔之一，忍受着种族虐待和欺凌，如今你仍然可以看到他以务实、几乎是轻蔑的方式谈论身份认同的防御机制。当这样的亚裔进入精英工作场所，再次被白人包围，他们往往会利用这样的机制发挥巨大成效：他们是所谓的模范少数族裔亚裔，“和其他人一样”，他们不“打种族牌”，知道如何让别人确信他们属于这里。当杨安泽谈到他的移民父母，他从经济角度形容父亲为通用电气(GE)和IBM创造的专利“对美国来说是一笔相当不错的交易”。他有个习惯，喜欢拿自己开一些带种族色彩的玩笑，就像一个孩子在一所新学校里试图讨好别人：“我是亚洲人，所以我认识很多医生”或者“特朗普的反面就是一个喜欢数学的亚裔男子”。杨安泽甚至公开原谅肖恩·吉利斯(Shane Gillis)，这个被《周六夜现场》 解雇的喜剧演员称杨安泽是“犹太中国佬”等。他对待种族问题的方式是一个非白人候选人多年前可能采用的和解方式——巴拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)谈到自己是个“有着好笑名字的瘦小孩子”时，用的就是这种方式。它承认种族差异，但要求我们——谦逊地、有点屈辱地——克服它。
For white voters who hate thinking about identity, this may resemble many of the Asian-Americans they know and like. But for progressive, upwardly mobile Asian-Americans — many of whom have aligned their identities with a more modern political consciousness — Yang’s approach has raised hackles. This month, in fact, he met with a collection of Asian-American and Pacific Islander journalists and was peppered with tough questions about his comments on race and the harm they might inflict on others. The minority who has minimized his difference is now seen, by these peers, as the wayward child.
Some of Yang’s comments have bothered me too. But I’ve been far more interested in Yang’s refusal to engage in polite identity politics. Those of us who think, write and talk about race for a living, crafting provocative deconstructions of power and privilege, have always associated ourselves with some vaguely defined insurgency against a racist reality; regardless of where we work, whether at Harvard or at The New York Times, we locate ourselves first through our identities, and only then through our work and the financial freedoms it affords. But as I read a recent column in The Los Angeles Times about Yang’s meeting, I was struck by something. I knew almost everyone involved, including the column’s author, Frank Shyong, a dear friend. And it seemed to me that there wasn’t a single observer, especially among Asian-Americans, who wouldn’t see most of the people there as the insiders — professionals with enviable educations who use their influence to push ideas about identity derived, in large part, from the cultural-studies programs of elite universities.
杨安泽的一些言论也困扰着我。但他拒绝参与礼貌的身份政治，这一点令我更感兴趣。我们这些以思考、写作和谈论种族问题为生，对权力和特权进行挑衅性解构的人，总是把自己与一些模糊定义的反抗种族主义现实的造反联系在一起;无论我们在哪里工作，无论是在哈佛还是在《纽约时报》，我们首先通过我们的身份定位自己，然后才通过我们的工作和它所提供的经济自由定位自己。但当我最近在《洛杉矶时报》(Los Angeles Times)上读到有关杨安泽见面会的专栏文章时，我被某些东西打动了。我认识文中几乎所有相关的人，包括专栏作者弗兰克·熊(Frank Shyong)，他是我的好朋友。在我看来，所有观察者，尤其是亚裔美国人，都会把那篇文章里的大多数人视为内部人士——这些专业人士受过令人羡慕的教育，利用他们的影响力来推动关于身份的观念，它们相当部分来自精英大学的文化研究项目。
This is a specific form of multiculturalism, one we’ve come to label “identity politics.” It flourished under Obama’s presidency, especially in our conversations about popular culture. In a time of heightened racial conflict, though, its concerns are showing some wear. When you focus on questions like which Hollywood actors get to play fictional characters, or organize meetings where people with fancy jobs steer a presidential candidate toward their views, anyone who professes not to care about any of these things can easily be anointed a bold outsider. Candidates have rejected identity politics for political appeal before, but I can’t recall a candidate who has done so with as gentle a touch as Yang. People know what those focused on identity would prefer Yang to say, and some seem to admire his quiet refusal to say it. What does that tell us about the ubiquity of these ideas and their possible expiration date?
Watching Peterson, in that video, you are reminded of the many Americans who may feel refreshed by Yang’s demurrals on race. In the second half of his column, Shyong described going to a Yang rally and interviewing Asian supporters, most of whom said that while they didn’t love Yang’s supposed missteps, they didn’t see them as a big deal. They, I imagine, have a simpler view of representation — the same one that felt so anachronistic when I first watched Sarlin’s interview. The simple view is that Yang matters because he’s an Asian guy running for president. But there’s a less-simple view, too — one in which many people might be coming to see the self-appointed arbiters of racial politics, and the candidates working to satisfy them, as the establishment. Those people will be happy to see anyone willing to break from our rigid prescriptions.