Andrew Yang’s Quest to ‘Make America Think Harder’
PLAISTOW, N.H. ― Meet Andrew Yang supporters and they often have a confession to make: When they first heard about Yang, they thought his plan to give every American adult $1,000 a month was a little crazy. But then, they will inevitably tell you, they heard him explain it, and it all started making sense.
“He was a meme ― his campaign was a joke,” said Ben Longchamp, 20, a college student from Atkinson, New Hampshire, who first saw Yang speak in May, at a restaurant in Portsmouth. “I’ve seen 14 candidates at this point, and what I like about him is he has this one policy proposal, and he has the data to back it up.”
Shannon Jeanes, 44, a construction worker from Bedford, New Hampshire, said he was drawn to Yang because he seemed to care about ideas like a $1,000 “universal basic income” more than personal ambition. “He’s not running because he wants to be president,” Jeanes said. “He’s running because he feels he needs to be.”
One of the most surprising developments of the 2020 presidential race has been the intensely loyal and passionate following for Yang, a former entrepreneur and tech executive making a bid for the Democratic nomination. Armed with numbers, history lessons and the occasional self-deprecating joke, he has been preaching a grim gospel about how automation will lead to mass unemployment and how corporate profits are warping the economy. Enough Americans have started to take him seriously that Yang has emerged as the surprise qualifier for a slimmed-down third Democratic debate, which will be held Thursday in Houston.
Yang, 44, remains one of the least known candidates in a group that includes senators, mayors, a governor and a former vice president. He is far from the only one with policy chops. And he is, as ever, a long shot for the nomination, as evidenced by the fact that he is still polling in the low single digits.
But voters who attended his campaign events during a swing through New Hampshire last month rarely described him as a futurist fringe-candidate pitching a pie-in-the-sky plan. Instead, many said they had come to regard him as a smart, substantive and affable political outsider offering a thoughtful solution to an existential problem that other candidates have largely ignored.
More broadly, Yang’s supporters said they found his almost apolitical approach refreshing. Rather than participate in daily brinkmanship over immigration and gun control or level attacks on President Donald Trump, Yang has used his platform to gently lecture the country about the “fourth industrial revolution” ― which he fears will put truck drivers, call-center workers and retail clerks out of work ― and to offer universal basic income as a way to soothe the pain he says such a revolution will assuredly cause.
Yang has attracted an ideologically eclectic coalition that includes progressives, libertarians, disaffected voters and Trump supporters who have swapped their red MAGA hats for blue ones that say MATH ― “Make America Think Harder.” Those who have come into his camp say his presence on YouTube, on podcasts and in the nationally televised debates helped them begin to see the logic behind giving people free money.
His performance in Houston could be crucial to sustaining his campaign’s newfound momentum. In the days immediately after the July debates, Yang’s campaign raked in about $1 million ― more than a third of what his team had raised during the entirety of the second quarter. About 90% of the people who gave were new donors.
More and more, Yang and his advisers have allowed themselves to flirt openly with the idea that they have achieved something that long eluded them: mainstream recognition.
“I’ve been coming to New Hampshire every month for the last year-plus,” Yang, standing atop a soapbox, told a room packed with supporters at the christening of the Nashua office. “When I first showed up, honestly no one knew who I was. The growth from then to now ― it’s staggering.”
Indeed, as recently as May, Yang strutted into a park in Lebanon, New Hampshire, to find only a few dozen voters waiting to meet him. Back then, those who showed up conveyed more curiosity than commitment.
Three months later, the situation had changed. Yang would ask his audience questions ― Which state has passed universal basic income? ― and a chorus of supporters would yell back the answer on cue: “Alaska!”
At his events in New Hampshire, those fans tended to skew largely white, slightly male and very young. Many of them were in college or had just graduated; a noticeable share described themselves as liking both Yang and Trump.
Still others leaned libertarian and praised Yang for his plan to give people money and then get out of the way. Some professed to be former supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, saying that they saw in Yang a newer, fresher champion of progressive causes who was advancing ideas that might prove to be ahead of their time.
Yang’s big-city rallies can draw thousands and tend to attract more diverse crowds, including an unusually high share of Asian Americans.
On the trail, Yang, like many of his rivals, likes to paint his campaign as one powered primarily by grassroots enthusiasm and modest donations. An analysis by The New York Times bore that out, finding that about 70% of donations he received in the second quarter of the year came from people giving $200 or less.
A separate analysis of Yang’s approximately 133,000 total donors through June 30 showed that the average contribution to his campaign was about $27. Because approximately 20% of his donors gave multiple times, the average amount received from each person was about $40.
The donor data also reinforced a demographic trend apparent at Yang’s campaign events: Less than 30% of his donors were women, according to estimates by OpenSecrets.com and The Times.
The crowds at Yang’s New Hampshire meet-and-greets also noticeably lacked older voters. Some who did attend said they wanted to hear Yang out, even though they professed to preferring someone who had logged more experience working in Washington.
Ann Engelkemeir, 67, of Epsom, New Hampshire, said she was leaning toward voting for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. But she and others said they found Yang personable and acknowledged that a core part of his appeal was that he was not a career politician.
67岁的安・恩格尔凯米尔(Ann Engelkemeir)来自新罕布什尔州的埃普索姆，她说自己倾向于投票给马萨诸塞州参议员伊丽莎白・沃伦(Elizabeth Warren)或明尼苏达州参议员艾米・克洛布查尔(Amy Klobuchar)。但她和其他人说，他们觉得杨安泽很有风度，并承认他的魅力核心来自于他并非职业政治家。
“Some of the candidates, when they’re asked a question, they give the response they’ve practiced that is closest to the question,” Engelkemeir said at one event. “I do think he answers questions much more directly than I’ve heard.”
During that event, hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, Yang found himself in front of an audience full of voters who, like Engelkemeir, were largely unfamiliar with him.
He ticked off a comedic and at times ungenerous retelling of his backstory: unhappy corporate lawyer; founder of a business that experienced a “mini rise and maximum fall”; and eventually the leader of a test-preparation company that was bought by Kaplan in 2009.
Yang told The Washington Post Magazine this year that he “became a millionaire” after he sold the company, but stipulated that “my net worth is probably much lower than speculation would lead one to believe.” In financial disclosure forms filed this summer, Yang reported assets worth as much as $2.4 million, putting him on par with many other candidates in the race.
Amid the recession, Yang moved on to develop Venture for America, a nonprofit entrepreneurship organization for college graduates that created jobs in underserved cities.
在经济衰退期间，杨安泽创办了“为美国创业”(Venture for America)，这是一个面向大学毕业生的非营利性创业组织，在服务不足的城市创造就业机会。
When Trump was elected president in 2016, Yang says he started digging into data to try to understand why, and he found that millions of manufacturing jobs had been wiped out in swing states because of automation. It dawned on him that his good-faith effort to create jobs was wildly insufficient. A more sweeping solution was necessary: $1,000 a month for every American.
“Universal basic income is an amazingly hard policy to demonize,” said Matt Clark, 36, a college adviser from Massachusetts who supports the idea and believes Republicans will get behind it. “It’s super simple, and it directly addresses so many Americans.”