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Primary voters across the five boroughs generally support labor unions, take into account a candidate’s race and ethnicity and veer farther left in their politics. In recent years traditional Democrats who suited voters for decades were toppled by even farther-leaning upstart progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Even Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a moderate in the mayoral field this year, celebrated winning support from a trio of influential unions last week.

Yang’s political leanings in this field are as unorthodox as his candidacy itself — a novice to local politics who vaulted to frontrunner status even as news coverage focused on his escape from the city during the height of the pandemic, his spotty voting record and staff complaints about a hostile work culture in his presidential campaign.

In an interview with POLITICO this week, Yang characterized his media strategy as an underdog’s effort to boost his profile while broadening his appeal beyond Democrats.

“I was trying to, frankly, get people to pay attention to my campaign and the ideas about automation and universal basic income,” he said, referring to his signature presidential campaign policy that he has recast in the mayor’s race. Where his federal plan would not have applied to undocumented immigrants, a municipal version of the policy clearly states it would — perhaps another recognition of the more liberal political climate here.

As he and Rubin discussed automation, Yang said, “If you take these people who are working in fast-food restaurants — and these jobs get automated away — and in my mind they should be automated away. Trying to preserve these jobs is not where we should be going.”

He told POLITICO that he would only support automating those positions if the affected workers had better job alternatives.

“Right now, given the way our country operates, it’s hard to say that people who lost these jobs would have an effective safety net or a path to better opportunities, but in an ideal world they would,” he said. “But unfortunately, we don’t live in that world.”

Yang’s past comments hint at a general skepticism of large government — a contrast to outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has expanded the city workforce and ballooned the budget.

“I’m no fan of big government. The larger an organization is, the more cumbersome and ridiculous it often gets,” Yang wrote in the “Human Capitalism” section of his book The War on Normal People.

He also did not rule out charging city workers more toward their health care premiums in a policy questionnaire POLITICO sent to the mayoral candidates in January. “I am not inclined to balance our budget in this way, although I do understand that this is one of many options on the table,” Yang said.

Yang’s podcast appearances were hosted by a loose collective of political commentators immortalized in a New York Times profile in May of 2018 as the “intellectual dark web” — a term coined by podcast host and Thiel Capital manager Eric Weinstein. The shows frequently cover traditional gender roles, masculinity, criticism of “woke” policies and socialism — and presaged today’s right-wing backlash against progressive “cancel culture.”

Members of the IDW were intrigued by Yang’s income proposals — not because they necessarily agreed with him, but because he was being ignored by mainstream media outlets at the time.

“I think it was that openness to conversation — his unwillingness to be boxed into only talking with the approved class of Left-wing pundits — that endeared him to the IDW,” Shapiro told POLITICO via Twitter direct message.

Sam Harris, a liberal member of this group, was the first to host Yang on his podcast in mid-2018. During a wonky 24-minute interview, Yang offered a brief biography of himself and described the argument behind his basic income plan.

“I suspect that you and I are kind of similar — traditionally Democrat leaning,” he told Harris. “I consider myself something of an independent at this point, though I line up with Democrats and liberals on most social priorities.”

The social climate has shifted dramatically since 2018.

Last November, Harris, a vocal Trump critic, publicly distanced himself from the IDW after several of its members began pushing what he condemned as “delusional” conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, criticizing it as an “imaginary organization” obsessed with attacking the far left. (Harris did not return a request for comment.)

When Yang appeared on Rogan’s show in February 2019, he met 6 million listeners. “Happily, everybody who’s a fan of yours, which is apparently everybody, now knows that I’m running,” he told Rogan.

Rogan, a comedian, UFC commentator, and podcaster loosely associated with the IDW, is known for his interviews with MMA fighters; Hollywood A-listers; conspiracy theorists; political commentators like Jordan Peterson, Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos; and, famously, a weed-smoking Elon Musk. During the pandemic Rogan drew controversy for hosting anti-vaccine commentators, culture warriors and pro-Trump personalities.

Yang soon appeared on Ben Shapiro’s Sunday Show for a 65-minute interview, sparring over the economics of his UBI proposal.

Shapiro, a right-wing commentator with one of the most popular podcasts in the country, told POLITICO he found Yang “delightful.” He said Sunday Special had requested interviews of every Democrat candidate running for president that cycle, but only Yang “had the stones to come on the show.”


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Yang, however, directly sought out Rubin, who was closely identified with the IDW and was frequently accused of giving uncritical platforms to people associated with far-right ideology. In prior years, Rubin interviewed Yiannopoulos, Pizzagate promoter Mike Cernovich, the anti-feminist Gamergate personality Sargon of Akkad, Candace Owens and white supremacist internet personality Stefan Molyneux.

“So I think you can say that the way that we talk about free college is rooted in identity politics. Immigration is rooted in identity politics,” Rubin said to Yang. He then asked whether Yang agreed identity politics is “dangerous.”

“I don’t think it’s a great way to try and build consensus, or bring people together, or get big policies across the finish line. And I think it’s a kind of stupid way to try and win elections,” Yang said. “I think the Democratic Party needs to try and gravitate away from identity politics and towards things that would actually bridge the gap.”

Yang did not distance himself from his comments and said he did not regret his appearances.

“If you asked Democratic voters in Iowa or New Hampshire or anywhere around the country what their main criteria was for the Democratic nominee, it was the ability to beat Donald Trump. That is one reason why Joe Biden eventually became the nominee,” he told POLITICO this week. “So the case that we were making at the time, was that, look, Andrew Yang can peel off seven to 10 percent of Trump voters.”

Tweets from his presidential campaign manager, Zach Graumann, show an organization proud to have attracted positive attention from MAGA supporters. “You know you’re onto something when you’re a Democrat and the conservative blogs write an article on you that DOESN’T bash you,” Graumann tweeted in February of 2019, linking to a Daily Caller item about Yang’s Rogan appearance. He later boasted about getting selfie requests from Fox News producers.

That attitude carried past the election, when Graumann criticized Trump’s Democratic critics in the midst of the former president’s conspiratorial claims that the election was “stolen” from him — rhetoric that eventually led to the Capitol Hill insurrection on Jan. 6.

“Feel like we all need to chill. Trump was usually a jerk. Many Dems were just as bad in their intolerance of him,” Graumann wrote on Nov. 9, 2020. “But most of us are just regular Americans who think govt is best when there’s balance between the left and the right. Let’s move on and save the country.”

Days later, he accused Twitter of deleting one of his tweets that joked about Democrats rigging elections.

Yang told POLITICO he disagreed with Graumann’s comments: “I think his statement falls into something of a bad habit of trying to cast things in an equal light when I don’t think they are.”

Yang’s appearance on the shows underscores his loose connection to the Democratic label common among most New York City voters.

“I certainly line up with the Democratic Party on virtually all of the social issues so there was that, but I’m a numbers guy and I actually felt like oftentimes Republicans were responding better to numbers than other people,” Yang said on a show hosted by a self-described “Trumper for Yang.”

“As a life-long Republican, I support universal basic income and nearly every single policy on Andrew’s lengthy Yang2020 platform,” the host, Dennis Dean, told POLITICO. “I am on record being against his mayoral run as I believe he would make a larger impact on our country running for federal office, not local.”

Asked if he would continue appearing on these shows as he’s running for mayor, Yang didn’t rule it out, but said he’d carefully consider who he sits down with.

“I have not kept track of what’s happened with some of these personalities. So I’d have to review what they’ve been up to, frankly, over the last number of months,” he told POLITICO. “If someone is genuinely engaging in honest conversations, then I’m happy to sit down with folks. I don’t expect to agree with everything they think or believe or vice versa. But if someone has crossed a line from honest conversations into things that are destructive or divisive, then I wouldn’t go on their program.”

Eric Phillips, de Blasio’s former spokesperson, suggested Yang’s mixed ideology may serve him well in the June 22 primary.

“I don’t think the orthodoxies of the past are going to dictate this election,” Phillips said. “And I think part of the appeal of him, in my view, is he’s authentic. And that’s really powerful and I think these are examples of that authenticity, even if some of them are harder to explain than others.”

Joe Anuta contributed to this report.



Black Lives Matter thought they had Washington’s ear. Now they feel shut out.





Now, leading Black activists say those issues aren’t getting the hearing they deserve.

“It was grassroots and base building organizations that put our issues at the forefront. That’s who delivered this win to the administration,” said Amara Enyia, policy director for the Movement for Black Lives. “At minimum, those folks should be given an audience.”

Part of the disconnect may be the cultural gap between activists — for whom justice is an absolute, but attainable ideal — and politicians, who deal with the messy realities of governing, forging compromise, and accepting incremental wins. Many BLM leaders, for instance, pushed to “defund” city police departments, only to find little appetite among lawmakers for what was widely seen as a politically suicidal position.

On Sunday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) signaled that he was willing to water down qualified immunity, which currently shields officers from civil liability for misdeeds, in order to pass some sort of policing reform legislation.

“Well, I will never sacrifice good on the altar of perfect. I just won’t do that,” Clyburn told CNN. “I just won’t do that. … Sometimes you have to compromise.”

So while, at the outset of the new Congress, movement leaders stressed they wanted to play a role in enacting policy change, and insisted they weren’t interested in empty rhetoric or piecemeal reforms, they’re now reassessing that approach as frustration sets in.

Now, where there was once more momentum behind the push for sweeping systemic change, bureaucratic policy hurdles and political calculations have pushed activists with the Movement for Black Lives back to the sidelines.

While this has forced activists to refocus their efforts, they maintain that their organizing is multi-dimensional. And they’ve amassed a sizable war chest. The Black Lives Matter Global Network, armed with more than $90 million in fundraising following last summer’s protests, has channeled those funds into initiatives and campaigns. One, launched in February, targets police unions and police budgets–efforts that have the most heft at state and local levels.

They’ve also used that funding to publicize their assessment of Joe Biden’s performance as he passed the 100-day mark. A recent advertisement paid for by the Black Lives Matter Global Network, criticized the administration’s handling of police reform. The ad, which aired in Washington, D.C., for a limited time, specifically condemns what they see as Biden’s lack of action on the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement.

“We are the people who elected Biden,” the ad says. “It’s time he started acting like it.”

When asked for comment, a White House official did not specify where talks with movement leaders stand. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly explain the administration’s stance, said there is an “open and ongoing dialogue” between senior White House officials and leaders of the movement as well as with legacy civil rights organizations.

Movement leaders also met with members of Congress early in the planning stages for the Justice in Policing Act last summer and asked for a platform to outline the BREATHE Act, several activists said. However, even those they view as allies on the Hill — including Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who is spearheading police reform discussions — were unwilling to diverge from the bill’s core tenets.

As members of Congress continue to hash out a bill to pass with enough Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, activists say they have not been included in any of those discussions.

Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and one of the movement’s first lead organizers, said movement leaders have not abandoned their national advocacy work.

She pointed to a number of allies in Congress like Bass with whom she and other leaders have had “critical conversations” in the past about the movement’s role in policymaking.

“One of the things we’re looking at moving forward is having a better relationship [with lawmakers],” Abdullah said. “So rather than lawmakers making laws without the input of a movement that gives traction to them, we want to do a better job of coordinating on the front end.”


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But complicating things is the fact that movement leaders stand vehemently against the Justice in Policing Act, which Congress drafted as a response to their protests. They argue that instead of holding officers accountable, the bill — which passed the House in March — actually gives more funds to law enforcement. Moreover, activists say, police de-escalation training, universal body cameras and data to track use of force, all provisions of the Justice in Policing Act, don’t go far enough.

The bill “requires that police be the fixers of their own problems,” said Karissa Lewis, national field director for the Movement for Black Lives. “And we know that that just has not been a successful strategy.”

Still, the Movement for Black Lives has come out in favor of some national policies that have implications for the work they do on the state level. Activists point to both the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act as critical to their work. If passed, the bills would curb a number of the provisions in state laws that limit access to the ballot.

Organizers said they were happy to hear Senate Majority Leader ´ say that he would like to pass a major voting rights bill by August, though it’s not clear how he would do so without reforming Senate rules.

And there are activists who are continuing their work locally. A national platform, they say, was never one of their chief goals. Following an unsuccessful effort to reallocate police funds in Minneapolis last summer, activists there say they’re doubling down on their push for more comprehensive public safety plans that give community members more power.

“We know the history of the failure, where we’re expecting [police] to reform themselves,” said D.A. Bullock, a lead organizer with the Minneapolis-based group Reclaim the Block. “We know that’s not possible. We’re looking to a more fundamental change in the way we do public safety.”

Nor do they see Derek Chauvin’s conviction as the final chapter following last year’s organizing against police violence and systemic racism under the umbrella of a “racial reckoning.”

“People are still asking this question of, ‘is anything coming?’ Yes, it’s coming. It’s happening on the local and state level,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and lead organizer with the Movement for Black Lives.

Still, Mitchell added that he and other lead organizers feel they are “duty bound to ensure that [police reform] happens on the federal level.”

Mitchell called for Biden to issue more executive orders and make full use of the bully pulpit to pressure Congress to act quickly on criminal justice reform as discussions around the Justice in Policing Act seem unlikely to conclude in time for Biden’s May 25 consensus deadline.

Federal legislation, activists argue, should address the root causes of the issue: A system of law enforcement that disproportionately harms communities of color. And that means they’ll continue to push for a public safety overhaul — and lobby those members of Congress willing to hear them out.

“We’re not interested in easy solutions, and we’re not interested in nibbling around the edges,” Mitchell said. “This is an urgent and real crisis for us.”

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Palestinians, Israel trade new rocket fire and airstrikes





In recent weeks, tension has been soaring in Jerusalem, marked by clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in the walled Old City, located in east Jerusalem which Israel captured and annexed in the 1967 war.

One of the flashpoints in the Old City has been the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site of Judaism. Another driver of Palestinian anger has been the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in an east Jerusalem neighborhood by Israeli settlers.

Monday was a long day of anger and deadly violence, laying bare Jerusalem’s deep divisions, even as Israel tried to celebrate its capture of the city’s eastern sector and its sensitive holy sites more than half a century ago. With dozens of rockets flying into Israel throughout the night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top security officials and warned that the fighting could drag on, despite calls for calm from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, fired dozens of rockets Monday evening, setting off air raid sirens as far as Jerusalem. The barrage came after Hamas had given Israel a deadline to withdraw forces from the Al-Aqsa compound.

By Tuesday morning, Hamas and other Gaza militants had fired more than 200 rockets. That included a barrage of six rockets that targeted Jerusalem, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. It set off air raid sirens throughout Jerusalem, and explosions could be heard in what was believed to be the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war.

There appeared to be some first signs of de-escalation in Jerusalem early Tuesday. Palestinian worshippers performed the dawn prayer at the mosque without confrontations as Israel apparently limited the presence of its police officers around the compound. Amateur videos showed dozens of faithful marching to the mosque and chanting “we sacrifice our blood, soul for Al-Aqsa.”

In Gaza, an Israeli drone strike killed a man in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis early Tuesday, according to local media reports. In another strike, a woman and two men were killed when a missile struck the upper floors of an apartment building in the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City, according to Gaza Health Ministry and rescue services.

Hamas’ armed wing said it intensified the rocket barrages following the airstrike on the house.

The Israeli military said it had carried out dozens of airstrikes across Gaza overnight, targeting what it said were Hamas military installations and operatives. It said a Hamas tunnel, rocket launchers and at least eight militants had been hit.

Dozens of rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. But one landed near a home on the outskirts of Jerusalem, causing light damage to the structure and sparking a brush fire nearby. In southern Israel, an Israeli man was lightly wounded after a missile struck a vehicle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem.”

He said fighting could continue for some time and that “”whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price,” he said, warning that the fighting could “continue for some time.”

Gaza health officials gave no further breakdowns on the casualties. At least 15 of the 22 deaths in Gaza were attributed to the airstrikes. Seven of the deaths were members of a single family, including three children, who died in a mysterious explosion in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It was not clear if the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike or errant rocket. More than 100 Gazans were wounded in the airstrikes, the Health Ministry said.


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In a statement issued early Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the rocket attacks would continue until Israel stops “all scenes of terrorism and aggression in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque.”

Tensions at the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, have triggered repeated bouts of violence in the past.

In Monday’s unrest, Israeli police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in clashes with stone-throwing Palestinians at the compound.

More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the mosque as police and protesters faced off inside the walled compound that surrounds it, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene. Smoke rose in front of the mosque and the golden-domed shrine on the site, and rocks littered the nearby plaza. Inside one area of the compound, shoes and debris lay scattered over ornate carpets.

Over 600 Palestinians were hurt in Jerusalem alone, including more than 400 who required care at hospitals and clinics, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Palestinians and police reported renewed clashes late Monday. Israeli police also reported unrest in northern Israel, where Arab protesters burned tires and threw stones and fireworks at security forces. Police said 46 people were arrested.

Monday’s confrontations came after weeks of almost nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The month tends to be a time of heightened religious sensitivities.

Most recently, the tensions have been fueled by the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Israeli settlers have waged a lengthy legal battle to take over properties.

Israel’s Supreme Court postponed a key ruling Monday in the case, citing the “circumstances.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned “in the strongest terms” the rocket fire on Israel and called on all sides to calm the situation.

“More broadly, we’re deeply concerned about the situation in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including violent confrontations in Jerusalem,” he said. He said the U.S. would remain “fully engaged” and praised steps by Israel to cool things down, including the court delay in the eviction case.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by thousands of flag-waving nationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to mark Jerusalem Day.

The annual festival is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. But it is widely seen as a provocation because the route goes through the heart of Palestinian areas.

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Vatican warns U.S. bishops about rebuking Biden, other Catholic pols





Ladaria, in his letter, said any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

Ladaria made several other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action:

— He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.

— He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”

— He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”


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— He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

Among the leaders of the campaign to rebuke Biden is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who recently issued a pastoral letter arguing that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive Communion. A few days later, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego published an essay saying such an initiative “will bring tremendously destructive consequences.”

Ladaria’s letter was dated May 7. It was first reported Monday by Catholic News Service and the Jesuit magazine America.

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