In his words, Andrew Yang is the “Asian man running for president who wants to give everyone $1,000 a month.”
Of course, the huge crowd of “Yang Gangers” at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza Sunday afternoon already knew that.
You’d never know Northern California was simultaneously being ravaged by a destructive windstorm, several wildfires, massive power outages and smoke-filled air. It was all blue skies and optimism for 2,500 or so gathered to see Yang, the only presidential hopeful to ever use the word “math” as a campaign slogan.
The entrepreneur turned candidate urged his loyal supporters to dial phones and send emails to spread word to their not-so-in-the-know long-lost friends and distant family. Yang suggested they start with obligatory small talk and segue into:
“Have you heard about Andrew Yang?”
There’s something different about Yang. His rally speeches are more loose than what we tend to hear from politicians — he communicates conversationally, like he’s chopping it up with friends over a beer or two. His style seems to resonate with people from various walks of life and political affiliations.
The mix is something Yang welcomes, but also attributes to his fairly low polling numbers. According to the Real Clear Politics average, Yang is polling at 2.5 percent as of Oct. 22, which in the 13-candidate field, puts him in sixth place. For context, Amy Klobuchar is currently sitting at a 2 percent average.
As Yang pointed out on stage, pollsters at this point in the race rely on party registration, which means polls fail to capture data from Independents, Libertarians and Republicans who support him. It may be why his crowd sizes continually surprise the establishment and pundits.
“A lot of people supporting our campaign are not registered Democrats.”
Yang’s platform is heavily centered in policies designed to mitigate modern-age problems. He is recognized for his stance on automation, or what he calls the “fourth industrial revolution.” The candidate recognizes the value of technology while proposing ways to help workers who, increasingly, are being replaced by it.
Another cornerstone of his campaign is the “freedom dividend,” or universal basic income. According to his campaign website, Yang promises to give $1,000 per month to “all Americans over the age of 18, independent of work status or any other factor.”
He says he plans to pay for the benefit by implementing a 10 percent value-added tax. A value-added tax is like a sales tax, except it gets collected at each stage of the supply chain, not just the final, retail purchaser. The impact of the tax system is a matter for debate, but supporters at Sunday’s rally seem to be on board with the concept.
Kevin Cadogen of Third Eye Blind, who opened the rally with some of the band’s more popular songs and an original debut inspired by the candidate’s “awesomeness,” is all for what Yang is offering. He touted the freedom dividend as the “best thing for the arts.”
Between songs, Cadogen told the crowd:
“I’m so grateful he opened my eyes to a new paradigm, a new way of thinking. I can’t go back. We can’t go back.”
Yang realizes some call his basic income proposal a form of socialism, but he calls it a “deeply American idea.” He draws comparison to the “citizen’s dividend” Thomas Paine championed, and the “guaranteed income” Martin Luther’s King, Jr. was fighting for before he died.
While he invokes the old, Yang unapologetically embraces new ways of thinking to deal with today’s issues. He wants to use heat-sensitive ground monitoring devices and drone technology to detect wildfire risks. He wants tech-savvy elected officials who can hold the likes of Mark Zuckerberg accountable in Congressional hearings. He wants to “legalize weed immediately.” He wants a “government for 2019” that proactively plans for a future where robots are serving drinks and driving trucks.
He wants to measure the country’s economic health not on the GDP, but on the mental health of citizens.
“Capitalism is failing us and it’s up to us to do better.”
He outwardly acknowledges that Donald Trump won, in part, because he tapped into some voters’ genuine fears.
“Donald Trump got elected because he got some of the problems right, but his solutions were the opposite of what we need.”
He stressed that it’s technology and automation, not the immigrants, that threaten America’s workforce. Yang posits that his “freedom dividend” and other innovative ideas are not only the right solutions but that his presidency would stand starkly opposite to Trump’s.
“If this were a game of rock, paper, scissors, Trump is the scissors and I’m the fucking rock, San Francisco.”