No clear home for Yang Gang

Andrew Yang sticker
"Yang for Us" sticker, as seen on College of Charleston campus.

Seb Peltekian
Medill Reports

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Venture capitalist Andrew Yang announced the end of his run for the Democratic presidential nomination after mustering minimal support in the first two contests of the year, Iowa and New Hampshire.

So where will his supporters, affectionately known as the Yang Gang, turn?

“My heart’s broken but I’m probably going to have to support Tulsi because she supports UBI also,” said Nate Gallian, 19, a student at the College of Charleston, referring to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Universal basic income, or UBI, was Yang’s proposed “freedom dividend” — $1,000 a month to everybody in the country. Yang said that it would combat economic stagnation caused by automation.

While Yang, 45, who holds a law degree from Columbia University, was considered to be a dark horse candidate for the Democratic ticket, he managed to attract supporters with his outside-the-box approach to politics. “Make America Think Harder” (or “MATH”) was a favorite campaign slogan, and he captured many hearts and minds with Internet memes, social media sites and viral marketing. 

His radical economic policy proposals, such as UBI and the so-called human-centric capitalism — an economic approach with an emphasis on ethics and human well-being — were big hits with supporters and helped earn him a spot on the debate stage alongside better-known mainstream Democrats.

Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, founded the nonprofit Venture for America. He served as an entrepreneurial advisor to former President Barack Obama but has never held public office. Despite his unconventional biography, Yang’s campaign managed to raise more than $30 million and outlasted the candidacies of such Democratic notables as Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California).

Andrew Yang sticker
Andrew Yang speaks at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake, Iowa. (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

In fact, Yang’s $16 million in donations for the fourth quarter of 2019 placed him among the top Democratic presidential candidate fundraisers. Many of these donations came from individuals donating an average of $30, according to the New York Times. No Asian-American has had a more successful run for the presidency.

What happens to his loyal backers? Forty-two percent of Yang supporters told Emerson College pollsters in late January that they would not back any other Democratic candidate. The Yang Gangers, more than 70% of whom are under the age of 45, according to the Morning Consult, are sure to be a sought-after voting bloc by the candidates who remain in the race.

Gallian said that UBI was attractive to him partly because the money would be “pretty sweet” but also because his father, who is ill, has difficulty qualifying for federal disability payments.

“He still has to work a job even though he’ll be 60 this year, and he’s an old man and he’s sick,” said Gallian, who believes that the additional money that his family would get from a UBI plan would help pay some bills. Despite his disappointment at Yang’s departure, and his interest in Gabbard, Gallian said that he will vote for whomever the Democratic nominee for president ends up being.

Gallian, whose Facebook profile image features him standing with Yang, is active in the Charleston Yang Gang Facebook group. Group members ranged from Libertarian-leaning to those considering switching their support to Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent and socialist.

All, however, expressed an interest in candidates outside of the American political establishment.

Sally Broderick, 34, a marketing professional who is also a member of the Facebook group and volunteered at the group’s now defunct office, said she is undecided about who to support now that Yang is out of the race.

“It depends on who plans on picking him up and where they plan to put him” in their administration, she said. If nobody appoints Yang to their team, Broderick says, she will likely still vote for Yang regardless or possibly Sanders or Vermin Supreme, the anarcho-libertarian performance artist and repeat presidential candidate. Supreme won the Libertarian party’s primary race in New Hampshire on Feb. 11.

Chase Baker, 20, a College of Charleston student, first said that he might not support anybody after Yang’s departure, although he quickly amended his statement, saying, “Maybe Vermin Supreme.” Baker said that Yang had gotten his support because “he seemed like he had reasoning. He wasn’t virtue-signaling.”

Photo at top: “YANG FOR US” sticker placed on sign pole on the College of Charleston campus. (Seb Peltekian/MEDILL)