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The Once and Future Yang

by Chris Hedgpeth

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New Hampshire’s Democratic primary marked the end of Andrew Yang’s 2020 presidential campaign, but it also marked the beginning of something bigger. Yang brought universal basic income (UBI) to the table and pushed the idea of unconditional government assistance back into the national spotlight. After announcing the suspension of his campaign on February 11th, Andrew commented that he would only endorse another presidential candidate if they came out in favor of UBI. Of the remaining candidates, only Tulsi Gabbard has shown interest in a basic income for all Americans.

Throughout his campaign, the media consistently mislabeled Yang as a billionaire and omitted him from graphics, polling statistics, and news coverage. MSNBC omitted him so often that his campaign boycotted the news organization in late 2019. On January 6, 2020, a CNBC broadcast showed an image of Geoff Yang instead of Andrew (the same graphic replaced Tulsi Gabbard with a picture of Kirsten Gillibrand). I highly recommend reading Scott Santen’s article “A Visual History of the #YangMediaBlackout” to see for yourself how systemically Yang was erased from the news.

Many conservative commentators declared Yang’s departure a victory for Donald Trump. To them, and to many in the center and on the left, Andrew was the only presidential candidate who had a chance at depolarizing the country. Yang almost never mentioned Trump by name, and when he did, it was to explain that the current president was a symptom, rather than a cause, of our societal ills. The Yang Gang openly welcomes former Trump supporters instead of shaming them. What better way to win than to take support directly away from your opponent?

I fear that with Yang’s absence, we’re heading into one of the most partisan elections in our nation’s history that will further push Americans into opposing political factions. Ideally, the primary process allows each party to hone its pool of candidates down to one who best represents the people of that party. This Democratic primary feels more like a disintegration process, where one bloodied survivor will face a well-rested and recently-exonerated Donald Trump. Regardless of who wins in November, it’s likely that most of America will be unhappy with the outcome.

On the bright side, the fact that a non-politician outlasted two mayors, three governors, six U.S. representatives and five U.S. senators in a presidential race is inspirational to say the least. Andrew was (surprisingly to me) the first Asian American to ever run for president as a Democrat. He has also inspired many people to run for political office, like congressional candidates Arturo Watts of New Hampshire and Ryan Blevins of California. Blevins is the founder of the UBI caucus, a coalition of candidates who support universal basic income. Even though Yang’s time in the 2020 race is over, the momentum of the Yang Gang is still going. Not left, not right, but forward.

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