Meet the Candidates 2020: Andrew Yang

DSC_0364.jpg

If you’ve spent much time at all thinking about the Yang Gang, then you’re definitely a millennial so congrats on having no assets or retirement savings. It’s no wonder that Yang’s marquee proposal, a universal basic income that he calls the “Freedom Dividend,” appeals to you. If you’re not part of the doomed generation, your first thought about Andrew Yang was probably, “What on earth?” and then your second was probably, “Who is this guy on the debate stage wearing no tie?” It’s been a long time since somebody dazzled the overly coiffed candidate field with such a dashing display of casualness. 

Yang began his campaign from waaaaaay behind, a long shot within a long shot, but his jarring ability to get onto the debate stage and general meme-worthy-ness (this is a man who crowd-surfs at campaign rallies) has made Yang’s campaign one of the more exciting and unexpected narratives of the 2020 cycle. Also, too many people apparently also love the intense discomfort of watching one of the only Asian-Americans on the national political stage make self-deprecating(?) jokes(?) about Asian’s being good at math.

Like every overachiever who bailed early out of the success funnel, Andrew Yang has a law degree but didn’t really practice law much before going to work elsewhere, eventually landing at a test prep company where he presumably helped other overachiever burnouts get their parents’ hopes up only to crush them with their plans to leave the tie-wearing class. When his company was bought out by Kaplan he started a VC-type firm aimed at funding non-profits and then...decided to run for president. As one does.

While Yang doesn’t have a typical candidate background, nor a typical platform, he’s captured the hearts and minds of a lot of people excited to see a nerd, a son of immigrants, an Asian person, and/or a “random opinionated guy” on the debate stage. In the Yang Gang there’s something for everyone but also something annoying to everyone and a few things confounding to everyone. As far as who exactly is in the Yang Gang, nobody knows for sure but it seems like a truly bizarre assortment of people that includes internet trendsters, 4chan idiots, lost lefties, and Silicon Valley types.

Yang’s website lists about a trillion policy proposals, some of which are jokes (his policy page literally has a “Miscellanous/Fun” section), but Yang’s campaign has focused intensely on three primary proposals: the aforementioned Freedom Dividend, Medicare-for-All, and something called “Human-Centered Capitalism,” the meaning of which isn’t super obvious at first glance but sounds, let’s be honest, better than the kind of capitalism we have now. As a larger work the platform is a confusing mix of wonkishness, sometimes naive common sense, Silicon Valley bullshit, and true far left radicalism, but the theme is combating the effects of growing automation in the job market. Yang believes automation will diminish economic opportunity and ultimately spell economic disaster if we don’t deal with the fallout proactively. If he were better at articulating that from the debate stage, it’d be a really valuable point.

Yang is basically running his campaign in a silo - he doesn’t tweet about Trump, he doesn’t do much to engage the rest of the Democratic field, and because of that he sometimes gets left out of the policy conversation. That said, he does have endorsements from Elon Musk and Tommy Chong’s so in at least one sense he’s winning. Or we’re losing. Hard to know.