Asian Reporter, V29, #24 (December 16, 2019), pages 7 & 13.
Andrew Yang having fun, but Democratís message
By Sara Burnett
The Associated Press
CHICAGO ó Of all the many Democrats running for president,
Andrew Yang is having the most fun.
Unburdened by expectations and unbothered by political
convention, the tech entrepreneur has spent months cruising
around the country, mixing his dark warnings about Americaís new
tech economy with doses of humor and unscripted bluntness.
He has crowd-surfed, skateboarded, and made memorable quips
at nationally televised debates. At a new office opening in New
Hampshire, he sprayed whipped cream from an aerosol can into the
mouths of hyped-up supporters. Over the weekend in Las Vegas, he
was raising money for his campaign at a high-roller poker
tournament featuring World Series of Poker champions.
The formula has made him one of this 2020 campaignís
phenomenons. His outsider bid is fuelled by policy, personality,
and technology. Itís outlasted the White House campaigns this
year of some governors and senators, and seems to be following
the advice of a former state party chairman who said voters can
tell whether candidates are enjoying themselves.
Yangís campaign may not have him on track to winning the
nomination, but it may be delivering sober warnings to
conventional Democrats about the kinds of voters theyíre leaving
"You can tell if someoneís like gritting their teeth or if
theyíre genuinely happy to be there and want to talk to you,"
Yang said between events at two Chicago universities, including
a rally that drew about 1,500 people. The former state
chairmanís guidance, he said, has "made it easier for me to lean
into just how I would naturally be as a person."
"I think if people dig into my campaign they see itís a very,
very serious message," Yang said. "We are going through the
greatest economic transformation in our countryís history and we
need to rewrite the rules of this economy to work for us. So
people, I believe, are savvy enough to know that you can have a
very, very serious message and actually enjoy yourself while
youíre delivering it."
Yang was on the bubble to qualify for this monthís debate
after appearing in the first five. He has hovered in the low
single digits in polling along with several candidates who trail
former Vice President Joe Biden, senators Elizabeth Warren of
Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and mayor Pete
Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.
But what started out as an overwhelmingly online fan base of
predominantly male techie types has broadened its appeal. After
initially self-funding, Yang raised $10 million in the third
quarter. Thatís more than most rivals, and he said that "we are
going to beat that by a mile" in the final three months of this
His supporters, known as the Yang Gang, often say the other
Democrats in the race to take on President Donald Trump arenít
speaking to them or their fears. Many of these backers are young
people who say they donít feel aligned with either party.
Several who attended the Chicago events said they supported
Sanders in 2016 but grew disillusioned after he didnít win the
nomination. Many supported third-party candidates or just stayed
home that Election Day, when Hillary Clinton led the ticket. And
if Yang isnít the partyís nominee, they may do so again in 2020.
"A lot of people arenít trusting the mainstream political
candidates and pundits on TV. Yang is kind of like a breath of
fresh air," said Ethan Daniels, 23, who supported Sanders in
2016 but voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson in the general
election. "I think thatís the reason why Trump won the election,
because a lot of people are kind of getting tired of the
staleness of these politicians who come through, and then
nothing in their life changes."
Daniels finished college with degrees in sociology and
criminal justice but is still looking for a job in his field. He
said he first learned about Yang on a podcast hosted by comedian
and former TV host Joe Rogan; that interview has more than 4.5
million views on YouTube. Daniels likes what Yang has to say
about artificial intelligence, universal basic income, and video
game addiction, topics he says other Democrats "donít want to
Daniels was among the supporters at the rally wearing blue
caps and other items with MATH ó for "Make America Think Harder"
ó on them. Itís Yangís twist on Trumpís "Make America Great
Again" slogan. Yang says itís aimed at getting people to blame
job losses across the Rust Belt on the changing economy, rather
than immigrants. He argues Americans just need to "think harder"
Yangís parents are Taiwanese immigrants. He says he was a
"nerdy Asian kid" who skipped a grade in school and was
especially scrawny. He was called racial epithets and got in a
lot of fights, "which I generally lost."
After college at Brown University and law school at Columbia,
Yang worked in the tech industry before starting a nonprofit
that provided money to entrepreneurs. As he became focused on
the toll of automation, he decided the best and necessary policy
solution was a universal basic income. He decided that the
fastest way to promote the ideas was "to run for president and
The "Freedom Dividends" that are now the signature policy of
his campaign would provide every adult $1,000 per month, no
strings attached, through a new tax on the companies benefitting
most from automation. Yang says the money would give people
breathing room to pay off debt, care for a sick family member,
or buy things, and would improve Americansí mental health by
alleviating financial stress.
His campaign has been trying it out, giving the $1,000
monthly checks to about a dozen people, That plan, announced
during a debate this fall, led to questions about whether he was
trying to pay for votes.
Joy McKinney, a Republican and evangelical, said she
carefully researched universal basic income and Yangís other
policies before joining the Yang Gang. The 50-year-old financial
planner didnít vote in 2016 because she didnít like either Trump
or Clinton. But sheís been moved to tears by videos of the
people receiving those first $1,000 checks.
"Can you imagine a U.S. where everybody matters?" McKinney
said. Thatís whatís compelling to me."
Presidential campaigns have long been a stage for new
personalities or novel ideas that may catch on for a time. The
2012 cycle had Herman Cain and his "9-9-9" tax plan. The 1992
campaign had Ross Perot and his debt charts. Still, Yangís
durability has caught many people by surprise. That may be a
product of Yangís tech and marketing savvy, said presidential
historian Mike Purdy.
"I think for most people heís still an aberration," he said.
But Yang said he sees the race in terms of odds. His odds of
winning, he says, are better than the odds he had of getting
"Weíve already done the hard part," he said.
Associated Press writers Hunter Woodall in
Manchester, New Hampshire, Emily Swanson in Washington, and
Michelle L. Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report.