Why Andrew Yang's Campaign Mattered

Andrew Yang and his "Yang Gang" fundamentally changed the Democratic lineup seeking for the nomination in 2020. Yang, a lawyer and entrepreneur, became "one of the first and most recognizable East Asian-Americans in history to run for president," according to BBC

Yang is a first-generation American whose parents are from Taiwan. After attending Brown University and Columbia Law School, he served as the CEO of Manhattan Prep and became a millionaire. In 2011, he launched a nonprofit and startup accelerator and was named a "Presidential Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship" by President Barack Obama in 2015.

In November 2017, Yang officially launched his presidential campaign with the slogans "Make America Think Harder" (MATH), "Not Left, Not Right, Forward," and "Humanity First."

Since then, Yang consistently reminds voters of the difference between himself and President Donald Trump by saying, "What's the opposite of Donald Trump? An Asian guy who's good at math." And numbers truly matter to Andrew Yang.
Meme used by the Yang campaign

The Freedom Dividend:
The Freedom Dividend, a form of Universal Basic Income, was one of Yang's signature campaign promises. The Freedom Dividend is a $1,000 monthly allowance for all US citizens over the age of 18, regardless of income or employment status. According to a 2019 poll, 43% of registered voters support a UBI. More Democrats than Republicans support the idea of a Freedom Dividend.

Breaking the numbers down by age group, younger voters support a UBI more than older voters.
  • 18-34yo: 55%
  • 35-49yo: 53%
  • 50-64yo: 34%
  • 65+yo: 21%
According to Yang, the benefits of the Freedom Dividend included "healthier people, less stressed-our people, better-educated people, stronger communities, more volunteerism, and more civic participation."

This idea is not new, however. In the 1960s, over 100 economists signed onto a plan proposed by Martin Luther King, Jr. that supported a UBI. A bill proposed by Richard Nixon actually passed the US House of Representatives. Unfortunately, it died in the US Senate.

One reason Yang proposed the Freedom Dividend is because of automation and artificial intelligence. These disruptors will cause a major shift in the job market and economy of the United States. Studies show that by 2015, automation had already destroyed four million manufacturing jobs and predictions are that a third of all working Americans will lose their jobs to automation in the next 12 years. 

Yang predicts that up to half of all jobs over the next three decades will be lost of automation and artificial intelligence. But, according to the Roosevelt Institute, a UBI would create 4.6 million jobs and grow the economy by 12% continuously.

Each political party has differing views on how much should be done to address automation in the workplace. More Democrats believe the government has an obligation to take care of displaced workers, while fewer Republicans believe the same.

Andrew Yang brought attention to the struggles of automation of artificial intelligence, which few other presidential candidates have done. I believe this will be his lasting legacy as a presidential candidate.

Democracy Dollars:
Another interesting idea that Andrew Yang promoted was "Democracy Dollars." This is a policy that gives each citizen $100 each year to donate to a political candidate.  The goal of this idea is to get corporate money out of politics and essentially overturn the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC

"The big problem right now with running for office is that you have to get the money on your side and the people on your side," admitted Yang. "We'd all be better off if politicians just needed to worry about representing the people that elected them rather than hustling for money all the time."

$100 for each US citizen 18+ amounts to approximately $23 billion nationwide per election. This would allow citizens to out-fund corporations and "Dark Money" that accounted for $6.5 billion in 2016.

Mobilizing Voters:
Andrew Yang became popular with several groups of voters that turn out in low numbers. Because of his Asian heritage he was able to engage many Asian-Americans voters. While few of them were able to cast a ballot for Yang because he dropped out after only two states (Iowa & New Hampshire), he still brought that group into the political fold and gave them an opportunity to donate, campaign, canvas, and promote him on social media. Endorsements by Asian-American actors Ken Jeong and Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) helped give him additional credibility.

Young voters also rallied around Andrew Yang. Not only did his endorsements from Chance the Rapper, Donald Glover, and Ryan Higa help catapult his candidacy, but Yang's efforts on social media, especially Twitter and Snapchat, gave his supporters access on a daily basis. 
Source: Iowa Secretary of State

Promoting the Future:
On February 11, 2020, as the results began coming in during the New Hampshire primary, Yang announced he was suspending his campaign. 

In an email he sent to his supporters after making the announcement, Yang said "Donald Trump is not the cause of all of our problems. He is a symptom. We must cure the disease that got him elected, and in order to do that we must address the real problems that affect our people and offer solutions to actually solve them."

The following morning, during an interview on CNN, Yang added "We never anticipated that technology would come along that could do the work of thousands of people in the matter of minutes...We have to try and push our market economy to a point where it is actually built around making us and our families stronger and healthier and not maximizing the bottom line of these companies. I don't know if that's a moderate, centrist idea of a left-leaning idea, but to me that's the future."

Yang didn't rule out the idea of being a VP on the Democratic ticket, should the nominee tap him. He also didn't rule out a future run for office. We'll have to wait and see what the future holds for Andrew Yang (without $1,000 in our pockets).

Other Resources:
Freakonomics Podcast, 12/18/19
Real Time with Bill Maher, 7/7/19
The Breakfast Club Radio Interview, 3/8/19
The Joe Rogan Experience, 2/12/19

Josh DeLozier

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