Andrew Yang on growing the Forward Party, defeating Donald Trump and his political future

The former presidential and former New York City mayoral candidate spoke with City & State following his keynote speech at the 2023 Above & Beyond awards ceremony.

Andrew Yang speaks to attendees at City & State's 2023 Resonsible 100 awards ceremony at Sony Hall near Times Square on Thursday

Andrew Yang speaks to attendees at City & State's 2023 Resonsible 100 awards ceremony at Sony Hall near Times Square on Thursday Rita Thompson

After running for president and mayor of New York City, Andrew Yang these days is spending less time considering his own political future and instead is devoting his energies to buck the bi-party electoral system as co-chair of the Forward Party. The centrist party aims to become legally recognized in all 50 states, boasting a diversity of viewpoints as its main mantra. With the hopes of encouraging competition in the electoral process, the Forward Party aims to tackle democracy at its systemic roots by bringing light to young leaders and challenging the climate of political tribalism ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Yang, now backing Rep. Dean Phillips’ presidential bid, believes that the challenger will be a more forthcoming representative for Democratic voters, breathing life into policies that President Biden hasn’t. City & State caught up with Yang at its Responsible 100 event Thursday, after he delivered a keynote speech to attendees to ask about the Forward Party’s progress and his future political aspirations. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Please talk about the progress you’ve made with the Forward Party.

The Forward party is growing all the time, in large part because people are realizing more and more that we need positive alternatives and competition. One candidate I’m for right now who's now running as a Democrat is Congressman Dean Phillips, who's trying to have a competitive primary against Joe Biden, in large part because Joe is running behind Trump in just about every poll. He has a 37% approval rating. Dean fears, and I agree with him, that if Joe is the nominee, that Trump will return to the White House. That's not a Forward Party project. But that's very, very closely aligned. What we do is that we're trying to introduce healthy competition in more environments. I also am endorsing Long Island congressional candidate Rob Lubin, who's young and enterprising, as a great, innovative approach. And candidates like Andy Kim in New Jersey. So the Forward Party nationally just received access in South Carolina which is an important state and Utah. Here in New York state, we're behind the 505 initiative in New York City to make it so that every New Yorker has a say. A healthier system will lead to better candidates, better competition and better policy results. 

Phillips's criticism of President Biden has been quite jarring. Does this align with the Forward Party?  

I do not think that Dean has been critical of the president. I mean, I'll use my own experience. As an example, I was a campaign surrogate for Joe Biden, and you can look that up. I mean, I campaigned for him in multiple states, both in person, and online, because it was 2020. And people say, look, Dean Phillips voted with the president, I believe it might have been as much as 100% of the time. So knowing that Joe Biden was the right candidate to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 does not mean that he's the right candidate in 2024. Dean's the only person with the courage and principle to say it in public while everyone else waits until the cameras are off. This actually makes him a phenomenal candidate for president. Because what we need in this time is someone who has the backbone to make a stand for the country against their own political interests. And right now in this system, everyone's political interests are to fall in line even if they have deep misgivings about an 81-year-old incumbent with a 37% approval rating.

Some of your former staff members and critics of the Forward Party say that it lacks core ideas and focus. What's your response to this? 

We're building a national movement and issues are different in South Carolina and Utah than they are in New York. So how can you introduce competition both in a place like Missouri that's very Republican-dominated and a place like California that's very Democratic-dominated? The fact is 75% of the country has a one party system, including New York City, and until recently, much of New York state. And so the question is, again, how can you introduce healthy competition in that system? The most powerful ideas that we champion are things that most Americans would be on board with, like open primaries and term limits that would, again, introduce competition. But the ideological background of the people that support Forward is very diverse, because Americans of every alignment are realizing that this system isn’t working.

And so what are your future political ambitions?

Right now, my hope is to make sure we don't wind up with a Trump return to the White House, and I see Dean Phillips, his campaign as the best chance to decrease the odds of that happening. But we're also backing dozens, maybe hundreds of local candidates around the country in 2024, many of whom are in the swing states. I was just in Pennsylvania yesterday as an example. And so there's a lot to be done in 2024. About both making sure Trump doesn't win, but also seeing the right kind of local candidates succeed in their race. In New York, but also in places like Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Nevada, etc.

And regarding winning in New York, do you plan to run for mayor again?

Well, you know, I do get asked that an awful lot. I will confess to having been disappointed but not terribly surprised by this administration. And it's constant turmoil. And I would love to see New Yorkers have positive alternatives in 2025.