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Deradicalizing the Radicalized: How Andrew Yang's Campaign for Humanity First is Revealing How to Heal the Nation

Scott Santens
Scott Santens
6 min read

You need to read this post about how Andrew Yang's UBI-centered campaign deradicalized someone that so many others just want to either write off or further radicalize. Not left, not right, forward, means bringing people back out of the depths of destructive hate.

I'm in my early 20s, but I don't want to disclose my specific age. I was raised in a rather kosher conservative household and might have described myself a right-of-center moderate until I entered high school. I was really active online, and what started as rather innocent laughs at the expense of very vocal and radical feminists and otherkin and fringe gender identities manifested itself into increasingly hateful positions on women's rights, LGBTQ persons, race relations, and more. At first, I was proud not to be the people I was laughing at, but I grew increasingly proud of myself through the very same lenses I criticized them for - race, sex, sexuality. I really became aware of my status as a white man of European descent. I wore it on my sleeve with pride and chauvinism, and in time, I really began to think these qualities alone made me inherently superior to my peers.

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With the onset of the European migrant crisis in 2014, the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, what I saw as a hysterical reaction to the Trump campaign and later victory, and further "research" on websites like 4chan and various communities on Reddit that included racial disparities in crime rate, IQ, and broad civilizational achievements, I had all but abandoned any pretense of simply being a conservative, or a fierce one at that. I proudly labeled myself as a racialist, and I read everything I could get my hands on, from Hitler's Mein Kampf to Codreanu's For my Legionaries. I considered myself "woke" on the Jewish question, and saw them as over-represented in law, academia, banking, politics, the courts, media, and more. I saw them as responsible for Communism's domination of it's sphere of influence in the cold war, and saw Jewish academics as responsible for "cultural marxism" in the United States as a form of deliberate subversion. It really developed into a visceral hatred. I began to doubt the validity of the Holocaust after watching The Greatest Story Never Told off of a dropbox again on 4chan. Really, I was deep, deep into this rabbit hole.

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I was present at the Charlottesville rally. I felt no remorse when I heard a woman had been killed. Today, I know her name was Heather Heyer. Up until four months ago, all of the above would have applied to me. I started following Andrew Yang's campaign through twitter, initially just as a joke. Myself, and many on the far-right had been disillusioned by Trump's dismal failure to take any meaningful action to slow America's transformation into a minority-majority country - one where white men such as myself were now a marked minority from 90% to 49% in less than a hundred years. There was a perception that Trump is firmly in Israel's pocket, and will never act in America's interest when it comes to foreign policy, instead continuing to cozy up to Saudi Arabia and launch vapid tirades against the Iranian boogeyman. The idea was, if even our best chance was going to be a failure, we may as well get a thousand bucks a month while we watch the country descend into chaos.

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But, I started watching more of Andrew's interviews. I started following more of his social media. I went to one of his rallies to see him in person. I started absorbing more and more articles published online. I read through each and every one of his proposed policies. To me, he was just a very charming individual. I didn't care that he wasn't white. I thought he was funny, charismatic, and when he spoke I really felt as if he cared about what he had to say and he cared about the issues he spoke about. His perception that AI is currently the largest 'unseen' threat to the average American worker - me, couldn't have rung more strongly with me. His solutions just made sense to me in a way that I can't articulate. I tried to poke holes in the argument for a basic income, but could only come up short.

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For me, a thousand a month would let me spend more time with my sick mother, without working increasingly later shifts at work. It would give me the flexibility to care for my loved ones without sapping my own strength. I don't know why, but seeing the benefit to myself in such a dramatic manner just triggered some otherworldly type of empathy within me. Out of 300,000,000 Americans, tens of millions probably live through more stressful situations every single day. What's meaningful to me would be monumental to them.
I have gotten involved in small-scale volunteer operations, and it is just eye opening to work alongside people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. I would go home from my shifts feeling ill at what I would have thought about these people without giving them a second chance. I'm still de-programming myself from the hate that I absorbed over the last five years. But I can confidently say I am not a racist any longer. I am not a sexist any longer. I am not an anti-semite any longer. I believe Andrew Yang has the winning formula for neutralizing the movement that today is a radicalized, racially-conscious group of disaffected young white men who feel that they have less and less of a future to live for. Thank you. I am proud to say Andrew has secured my vote in the primaries and I will do my utmost to get this man elected. He has won me my life back.

I see a debate between Democrats who appear to believe white voters no longer matter and the focus should be on people of color, and the GOP who appear to believe only white people will ever matter. Meanwhile Yang is saying this goes deeper than color. There are Americans being driven into extremism by scarcity. Instead of writing off those who voted for Trump as racist hate-mongering deplorable bigots, let's put a floor under them. Let's put resources into their hands. Let's end their daily survival stress so they can breathe freely, because existential anxiety is the enemy, not color.

Have you ever seen the documentary "Accidental Courtesy" about Daryl Davis, an African-American man who has made it his mission in life to change the hateful ideology of members of the KKK by engaging them in conversation? It shows what works to actually pull them out of hate. That's what's probably bothered me most about the shit Yang has gotten for having some alt-right supporters. They like him not because he's like them. They like him because he is talking to them about their real problems instead of demonizing them, and that's how to deradicalize. Deradicalization requires engagement. You can't hate people out of hating. It doesn't work that way. You have to find common ground and then you can start to bring them back. What doesn't work is drawing a line and saying, "Your life doesn't matter to me. You're a racist monster."

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Ten days before his assassination, MLK said, “I think it is absolutely necessary now to deal massively and militantly with the economic problem." In his final speech he spoke about going beyond civil rights to human rights. Humanity First is a message of economic justice for all. The way forward isn't further division where you're either a racist asshole or calling out racist assholes for being racist assholes. The way forward is to change the environment by ending poverty and the fear of it. That's how to make fewer racists. End the fear that makes them.

Yang's campaign is already bringing people hope that things can actually be better. That hope alone is enough to shift some people from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance. I've seen it myself over the years just talking about UBI. Its very potential to exist can change how people think.

As I've written about before and as a line from Dune states so well, "fear is the mind killer." Our entire society is suffering the consequences of an increasingly rare sense of any security in life. But we can change that with an unconditional universal floor for life.


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Andrew Yang

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Unconditional basic income (UBI) advocate with a crowdfunded basic income; Author of Let There Be Money; Senior Advisor to Humanity Forward; BasicIncomeToday.com editor; Fund for Humanity board member