By Joe Badalamenti
On Tuesday February 11th, presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced that he would suspend his presidential campaign. Despite a loyal base of #YangGang supporters, Yang’s campaign was ultimately finished by low poll numbers and a lack of votes in the early Democratic primaries. So how did a candidate with such a loyal base of supporters fail to perform come election time? Well, the reality of this situation is that the perception of Yang’s political viability was inflated by the vocal minority of diehard Yang supporters. Speaking in terms of political strategy and viability, Yang never stood a chance.
On November 6th 2017, Andrew Yang officially filed to run for President of the United States. As someone with no previous political experience, Yang’s announcement did not draw much attention. However, Yang would eventually gain support following a number of strategic actions. Yang has appeared on multiple podcasts, such as the Joe Rogan Experience and the Ben Shapiro show. Not only are these shows widely viewed, but their audiences are young and internet savvy, meaning that they can efficiently spread information about Yang’s candidacy. Yang was also strengthened by his website which contains dozens of his detailed policy proposals that would be implemented if he were to become president. Some interesting policies proposed by Yang include legalizing online gaming (gambling), supporting the growth of nuclear power plants, and Yang’s signature policy, UBI. UBI, or Universal Basic Income, is the policy of giving every adult citizen a guaranteed income of one thousand dollars each month in order to grow the economy, as well as lift people out of poverty. While other candidates did endorse this policy, UBI would become inseparable from Andrew Yang. Given the current low confidence of the public in politicians, seeing an outside candidate with a working plan would be enough to gain plenty of support. Eventually this support would permit Yang to participate in multiple debates and earn appearances on mainstream television programs. However, despite this initial boost of momentum, Yang would fail to keep up with his competitors.
The main reason why Andrew Yang’s campaign didn’t live up to the expectations of the #YangGang is because of lackluster appeal. While Yang did have plenty of young supporters, he did not account for older generations of voters. Older voters not only make up a larger portion of the voting population, but also have a higher turnout rate than their younger counterparts. This, of course, means that older voters are a much more important demographic than younger voters. Establishment candidates, such as Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar, are much more popular among older Democrats than non-establishment candidates like Yang. The reason why Yang is unappealing to these voters is because he supports outside policies, like the aforementioned UBI. The main problem with UBI (in terms of the DNC) is that it’s a radical policy. While the establishment left has strayed away from the free market, they still generally support the system of capitalism. In addition, the policy is estimated to cost 3.2 trillion dollars a year, which means that taxes would be greatly raised to pay for this program, which is against the interests of establishment Democrats. As stated before, Yang has attracted a number of younger followers who support UBI, but most young voters are likely to support a more populist candidate such as Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.
Another issue with Andrew Yang is the optics. How the voters perceive you can build or destroy a candidate. Take, for example, the tragedy of Howard Dean. Howard Dean was a 2004 Democratic candidate who lost all of his momentum due to a cringeworthy scream in a speech addressing a crowd after an impressive turnout. A month later Dean would drop out of the race proving the elasticity of political support. This phenomenon is exemplified by the mass spread of information via the internet. Let’s begin with Yang’s debate performances: they were pretty bad. This was not because of some media black out as the #YangGang would have you believe, but because of poor performances by Yang himself. This is primarily the result of a lack of debate preparation or experience which lead to him having less speaking time during the debates. What’s worse is that during these precious seconds of speaking time, Yang only talked about UBI or standard liberal policies, while forgetting to mention any of his smaller policies that would make him stand out among the crowd. Yang did try one interesting move, debating without a tie, however this move produced mixed responses from the general public. In the end while Yang tried to be a unique candidate, it was not enough to rise to the top.
What happened next is pretty obvious. Andrew Yang’s poll numbers stagnated between 5 and 1% and once the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries came around, Yang was unable to win a single delegate.. As of writing this, Yang is currently still out there meeting fans and following the rest of the primary election, despite dropping out. While he did not win the current nomination, if he takes a different approach maybe he’ll perform better in the future.