The current presidential debate in the USA has sparked many thoughts on how to change the political narrative that is currently dividing the nation. The candidates have radically different approaches to the burning question that defines the future of their country: How can they bring people together again and heal the wounds the Trump administration has left?
One of these candidates is Andrew Yang. Initially, his chances to establish himself as a democratic candidate appeared to be slim compared to those of candidates like Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. But his abundance of proposed policies and popularity online have made him compelling to the American voter; especially the young and technology-affine millennials that often feel underrepresented in politics.
Yang, who studied law at the Columbia Law school and later worked at start-ups, definitely has the credibility to make himself heard. His core ideas are rather radical and perfectly cater to the democratic young voter. By proposing a universal basic income of $1,000 a month for every American citizen over 18, he has hit the mark of the radical change that so many democratic voters currently anticipate. He calls it the, ‘Freedom Dividend’.
The dividend is the appropriate action to the threat of automation, Yang claims. Automation, robots and artificial intelligence are to be made responsible for the loss of jobs and economic distress. These factors have ultimately led to immigrant discrimination and the dangerous scapegoating that is currently impairing the political debate. And he does have a point, automation is one of the main threats to the average citizen in the near future. The list of jobs that could vanish into thin air in the coming years is sheer endless. In this election, it is especially important to focus on visionary topics and not only on ‘damage-control’, even if the current political climate also asks for that. Better citizens’ welfare and higher income rates could curb conflicts and aggression in society.
Yang appears authentic when addressing technical topics. Contrary to many of the other candidates, the 44-year-old seems like he has grown up with the technologies he is referring to. This also shows itself in his online popularity and success on social media platforms such as Twitter or even Reddit. His supporters call themselves the ‘Yang Gang’ and ensure that the hashtag is trending as often as possible. This is a new form of campaigning, one that is appealing and inclusive to younger generations.
He presents an approachable and diplomatic personality and makes use of every opportunity of getting exposure. His talks with the podcaster Joe Rogan — and the YouTubers Ethan and Hila Klein on their H3 podcast — made him known in many sectors of the online community. Using platforms like YouTube can reach millions of viewers and possible voters. This is sometimes even more effective than appearing on TV and has become a new way of reaching young audiences.
His supporters, often young men, like his rational but idealistic approach to politics. Yang has previously called himself the opposite of Donald Trump, an ‘Asian man that likes math’. His idea of capitalism is that it should be human-centred and be subject to the citizen’s goals and values. Meanwhile, he backs ideas such as having the right to a universal basic income, with his mathematical skills lending these progressive policies credence. After all, the man has ‘done the math and it makes sense’.
In a way, he also plays on the Asian-American stereotype of the highly ambitious and technology-affine man. His parents immigrated from Taiwan and are highly successful in their careers. Nevertheless, Yang has often talked about being subjected to racist attitudes when he went to school in New York. Today, he is one of the best examples for a child of a successful immigration story. His presidential posters and hats say ‘Math’ to celebrate the significance of facts and numbers in politics. The acronym stands for ‘Make America Think Harder’. In a way, this is a light-hearted way of dealing with stereotypes and transforming them into something empowering. Nevertheless, he has been criticized for strengthening model-minority stereotypes and relying on them.
Yang supports many different policies and ideas. He proposes Medicare for all, climate protection in the form of a carbon tax, anti-discrimination laws, stricter gun legislation, reducing student loans, lowering the voting age to 16, legalizing marijuana and much more, In total, Yang lists over 100 proposals. Though his policies are mostly in line with those of the other democratic candidates, they do notably cater to millennials who are apprehensive about their future, especially in times of changing job prospects. His way of campaigning goes along the saying of ‘go big or go home’, which is also why he has been relatively successful with it. With his many policy changes affecting almost every social and private sector of life, he is aiming to revolutionize, not just change things around a bit. And this is something that appeals to many American voters who have been demanding a radical change in politics, especially democrats that are frustrated with the Trump administration.
There are also many critical voices. His long list of policies is often used to deem him an illusory politician. Some of his proposed policies are also somewhat utopian. But this presents a general question in politics: why not shoot for the moon and have visionary ideas, even if it is only to inspire change? Especially in times of social despair and aggression, this idealistic approach could set an example for the future of campaigning. However, it could also be Yang’s downfall.
Andrew Yang’s story is a good example of great campaigning in the 21st century. He effectively uses social media, he is liberal but decisive, technology-affine but automation critical; a proposer of many policies but still loyal to his most important goals. Evidently, and especially with young voters supporting him, this could mean great success. And even though a chance at the presidential post is currently unlikely, Andrew Yang can certainly change the way we look at campaigning.
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