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Opinion A foreign policy discussion with presidential candidate Andrew Yang

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang takes a picture while surrounded by fairgoers at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 9. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
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I spoke with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang about how he would address our most pressing international challenges. Yang is best-known as the candidate who proposes a “universal basic income” for all citizens, but his positions on key foreign policy questions are less clear.

A successful foreign policy should identify and address threats and opportunities. Right now, though, the Trump administration is challenging long-held assumptions about how to define U.S. national interests and how to wield U.S. influence.

Many believe the presidency of Donald Trump is an aberration, a temporary departure from decades of foreign policy norms that will again stabilize once he leaves office. Yet that may be overly optimistic. Trump’s handling of our international affairs will have a deep impact on the U.S. role in the world for decades.

One potential positive byproduct of the Trump era, though, seems to be encouraging many would-be policymakers, including Yang, to take a fresh look at foreign policy.

It’s still early in the campaign, and, so far, it’s been dominated by domestic issues. On those challenges, Yang has a vision that he has expressed well, but it’s clear that he’s still learning about our biggest foreign policy challenges.

During our conversation, I spoke to him about the importance of press freedom and protecting the rights of Americans unjustly detained abroad — two issues particularly close to my heart. Following our discussion, he tweeted the following about imprisoned Post contributor Austin Tice:

The 2020 election probably won’t be won or lost on a foreign policy issue. Yet the current turmoil in U.S. diplomacy means leaves friend and foe alike struggling to understand which America will prove most enduring: the one they came to know over its first 240 years, Trump’s vision for it, or something else entirely.


Jason Rezaian: How would you protect against foreign meddling in U.S. elections and is this a phenomenon we’ll face for generations to come?

Andrew Yang: We need to be able to trust our own democracy. I’ve spoken with many people in the technology world about this, and it’s very hard to protect the infrastructure. First, we need to let other countries know that any interference in our elections will be seen as an act of aggression and hostility and we will respond accordingly. We’ll work with technology companies and our own agencies to try and secure our voting infrastructure from the social media networks and the bots to the actual voting machines. This is an area where we should be investing significant federal resources.

How can we return to immigration patterns that honor the core American value of embracing newcomers while extending economic and employment opportunities to all Americans regardless of where they came from and when?

Most Americans don’t think of these two things as mutually exclusive and I think we can do better on both counts. We’re making it very difficult for people to come here and stay who could be big contributors.

We should continue to create pathways for people to immigrate to this country and do it in a rational way. For example, if you are a graduate from one of our universities and from another country we should make it easier for you to stay here, build a career and a family and perhaps start a business.

What is your position on Trump’s travel ban and how will you address it?

I would reverse the travel ban very early on because restricting travel doesn’t make Americans any safer. All it does is cut us off from various people and countries, increasing mistrust. It’s counterproductive and it many ways not even designed to make us safer, but rather to amplify xenophobia.

Watch the video for more of the interview.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang says he'll build a "dream team" of "tremendous people" to solve U.S. and international problems. (Video: The Washington Post)

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