2020 Democratic hopeful Andrew Yang was unknown in the political sphere until this election cycle. Yang is a businessman who has served in leadership positions, however, his political experience is defined by one number — zero.
Over the course of his candidacy, however, he has outranked established Democratic contenders such as Julián Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, and Cory Booker. Yang has qualified for the fifth round of Democratic debates in November, while O’Rourke and Castro have yet to meet the Democratic National Committee’s polling threshold to appear on stage.
Yang’s candidacy isn’t an anomaly, given who won the presidency in 2016, and is important to watch as Democrats teeter between embracing a full-blown anti-establishment agenda or following the lead of the so-called moderate “sleepy Joe” Biden.
It turns out a mix of both has led to the relative success of Yang’s campaign. Yang is an anti-establishment candidate, who embraces much of the agenda of the progressive left. He attempts to work within the boundaries of the DNC and has yet to criticize the party or its leadership. Additionally, the success of Yang’s campaign is most evident in the following he has gained from passionate supporters who call themselves the #YangGang.
The Yang Gang has rallied around his every move, wearing his “MATH” hats, purchasing merchandise, and attending events named “Yangapalooza.” It appears the young audience Yang attracts is not interested in his political agenda — which is not too deviant from that of frontrunner candidates — but, in his ability to relate to people. Here are five things other politicians can learn from Yang’s campaign:
1. Discuss Subjects Other Than Politics
Yang’s Twitter feed and interviews are very telling of his likes and dislikes. He’s a long-time New York Knicks fan and avid NBA supporter. He tweets his NBA predictions and claims life is better when the NBA is on.
My NBA Predictions: 🏀
Clippers over Lakers in WCF
Sixers over Bucks in ECF
Clippers over Sixers for the title.
Surprise Teams: Pacers, Mavs
Down Year: Celtics, Blazers
— Andrew Yang🧢⬆️🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) October 9, 2019
Yang is also open about his family. He discusses his family life, wife, and two sons, one of whom has autism. The man is relatable, and he understands that political Twitter is not relatable to the average voter. Voters love to watch sports, they love their families, and they want a candidate who can understand and relate to that.
2. Do Not Succumb to Identity Politics
As Democrats nationally have pushed for identity politics to define our perceptions, Yang has not fallen prey to this trend.
“I understand the impulse, but identity politics are a great way to lose elections. We need to bring people together. I believe we can get more done for different kinds of people by emphasizing what we share in common rather than what distinguishes us from each other,” Yang said.
I understand the impulse, but identity politics are a great way to lose elections. We need to bring people together.
— Andrew Yang🧢⬆️🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) June 8, 2019
In fact, Yang did an interview with Dave Rubin, the classically liberal podcaster and YouTuber, in which he discussed why identity politics is terrible.
Yang also faced routine backlash from the mainstream media and other critics for his use of Asian stereotypes in campaign messaging. His stump speech consists of calling himself an Asian man who likes math. He also claimed Asians know a lot of doctors. While he said he understands the sensitivity of racial issues, he also said that making fun of ridiculous stereotypes helps to rid the world of identity politics, instead of perpetuating its divisiveness.
Meanwhile, other candidates have submerged themselves and their campaigns in identity politics, calling for reparations for slavery, focusing on issues by race and sex, and more. Many candidates blame America’s problems on white men. Who are white men going to vote for when all of the 2020 candidates are ridiculing white men? Yang hopes to be that candidate.
3. Be Comfortable And Relatable
Remember when Sen. Elizabeth Warren tried to drink a beer on camera to project her coolness to voters? It’s hard to forget such a cringe-worthy moment on the 2020 trail.
Instead of being as uncomfortable and unrelatable as Warren, Yang is a much more natural figure to watch on camera. Whether he’s skateboarding through an event or hugging a cardboard cutout of himself, Yang is a relatable figure to watch.
— Tyriq Jackson (@TyTarrell) October 24, 2019
Democrats have largely struggled to find a candidate who fits this mold. Hillary Clinton was a notoriously unlikable candidate to whom many Americans struggled to relate. Some of the most successful up-and-coming candidates, in both the Republican and Democratic parties, relate to their voters naturally.
4. Provide a Grassroots Community For Supporters
Whether it be the “MATH” T-shirts, #YangGang signs, or the blue baseball cap emoji in his Twitter bio, Yang is not just running a campaign, he is fostering a passionate community of supporters.
Does this sound familiar? Think red hats and “MAGA” flags. Yang has simply mimicked the grassroots nature of the Trump campaign.
Young voters are no longer interested in nitty-gritty policy details, but in identifying with a political group and fostering a community. Whether you consider this good or bad, it was a winning campaign strategy for Trump and has helped Yang to garner a larger following than some established Democratic candidates.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to the Other Side
Yang has a far-left agenda, there is no disputing that. He is in favor of overhauling the economy in the name of climate change, he’s in favor of “Medicare for All” plans to socialize medicine, and wants to create a Universal Basic Income welfare handout to everyone through a value-added tax that has failed in European nations.
Despite his far-left agenda with a record of failure, Yang has been one of the few Democratic candidates bold enough to discuss his policy ideas with conservative leaders. Yang has appeared on the Ben Shapiro Show, the Rubin Report, the Joe Rogan Experience, and countless others.
Meanwhile, front runners like Sen. Bernie Sanders ostracize themselves from moderate voters by criticizing any media outlet or individual that supports non-left politics. It is tough to win an election when you ostracize 50 percent of the country solely based on partisan ideology. By willingly appearing on conservative news outlets, Yang is doing a service to his campaign.