Outsider presidential hopeful Andrew Yang’s latest idea is both literally and figuratively his most unorthodox yet: He’s taking a strong public stance against circumcision.
The Democratic candidate revealed in a little-noticed tweet last week that he was against the ritualized practice of cutting a newborn’s foreskin. But in an interview with The Daily Beast, he said that if he were elected he would incorporate that view into public policy, mainly by pushing initiatives meant to inform parents that they don’t need to have their infants circumcised for health reasons.
“It’s sort of pushed on parents in many situations,” Yang said, describing pressure to circumcise a child as a “cultural onus” imposed on families.
Yang, an entrepreneur whose candidacy is fueled by grassroots donations, appears to be the first presidential candidate in history to take a public position on circumcision. But that’s not a terrible surprise to those who have followed his upstart presidential campaign. There are dozens of position statements on his campaign website, ranging from the obscure to the existential.
Of those, Yang is best known for his endorsement of $1,000 monthly payments to every American. That proposal helped him recruit more than 65,000 individual donors to his candidacy, which will likely guarantee him a spot on the Democratic debate stage and has generated a lot of online buzz.
But Yang’s coalition seems to be comprised of a hodgepodge of groups with offbeat interests beyond just universal basic income. And he now has his eye on a new demographic: circumcision opponents who call themselves “intactivists”—a reference to their desire to keep penises “intact.”
“I’m highly aligned with the intactivists,” Yang said. “History will prove them even more correct.”
Yang said he had initially planned to have his sons circumcised, fearing they’d be “self-conscious” if they still had their foreskins. But his wife convinced him otherwise.
“From what I’ve seen, the evidence on it being a positive health choice for the infant is quite shaky,” said Yang, who did not address whether he’s circumcised himself.
If elected, Yang said he wants to “inform parents that it is entirely up to them whether their infant gets circumcised, and that there are costs and benefits either way.”
“The more choice we give parents, and the more we diminish the possible preconceptions or misinformation various parents are receiving, then the better off we’ll be as a society,” Yang said.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the upsides of circumcision—including a reduced chance of sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections—are worth any risks. But the AAP and other medical groups say the decision should still be left up to parents.
Intactivists oppose the practice, often saying that being circumcised as infants has interfered with their adult sex lives. Georganne Chapin, the head of intactivist group Intact America, compared removing a baby’s foreskin to taking off a child’s lips or fingers.
“I’m not optimistic that [Yang] coming out against circumcision will make him popular, but I think it’s wonderful,” Chapin said.
Yang’s anti-circumcision platform has also been a hit with the racist 4Chan posters who have embraced Yang’s call for a monthly $1,000 payment to every American, which they’ve dubbed “Yangbux.” After Yang tweeted about circumcision, his fans in the alt-right took it as a jab at Jews, who perform ceremonial circumcisions on their newborn sons on the eighth day of their lives.
“Holy shit,” wrote one 4Chan user. “A candidate actually redpilled on circumcision?”
Yang has said that he rejects support from white nationalists and anti-Semites. He also told The Daily Beast that while he wants parents to have more information about circumcision, he wouldn’t support a ban on practice.
But even just his recommendation that parents be told that they don’t have to circumcise their sons has won over intactivists. Chapin said Yang’s anti-circumcision stance is a perfect fit for his campaign motto, “Humanity First.”
“I think there’s nothing more inhumane than tying down a baby or a child and amputating a healthy, normal part of his body,” Chapin said. “So I just think that his campaign slogan is awesome.”