“Of all the candidates I’ve seen on the trail, you seem to be having the most fun,” notes Daily Show host Trevor Noah at the top of an interview segment with Democratic candidate Andrew Yang. The former tech company executive nods with a bit of a sheepish grin, responding, “Oh it’s a very low bar you’ve set Trevor.”
Perhaps the reason that Yang is having so much fun is that he knows that he isn’t projected to make it far into the primaries at all by anyone. But this cheeky exchange displays his individuality and his sense of humor, which is exactly what has kept Andrew Yang’s campaign running surprisingly strong through the first three debates.
Yang, if for anything, is known for being the candidate that wants to give every single American $1000 a month. Regardless of whatever other policy that Yang includes in his platform, no matter how far left it could be, it is his universal basic income (UBI) plan, dubbed the Freedom Dividend, upon which his campaign for the Democratic nomination will live and die. As a member of the technology industry, Yang asserts that he got to see just how close the United States is to automating away millions of jobs and thus leaving many American’s with limited skills jobless and in a tough financial situation. UBI is his answer to this crisis. Yang has a wide range of policies that are fleshed out to a degree which rivals that of heavy hitters like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but the policy that distinguishes him and makes him a dark horse contender is his commitment to a radically new idea.
One of the major tools which Yang uses to endear himself with his voters is his self-awareness and self-deprecating humor. A 44-year-old Asian man of Brown and Columbia law education, Yang is always mentioning “the math” behind his policies and justifies his knowledge of healthcare in America by frequently bringing up how many doctors he knows — making light of racialized stereotypes about Asian-Americans. He often positions himself as the antithesis of Donald Trump as he recites, “the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.” While many of his supporters find his racialized humor to be charming, there are also many who find it to be problematic and regressive. Even if the criticism has made him rethink his persona, Yang has not shown it publicly, continuing to sport his campaign’s MATH hats, a reaction to the Trump campaign’s “Make American Great Again” (MAGA) hats that stands for “Make America Think Harder.”
It is obvious, when one looks at a debate stage where seasoned politicians like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren stand next to Andrew Yang, that Yang isn’t cut out for political fistfights in the same way the other candidates are. Yang has openly admitted that he doesn’t desire to be a politician in the way that it is understood now, but rather says his reason for running is, “I want to solve the problems, and the easiest, most straightforward… way for me to solve problems is to run for president and win.”
While he probably will not succeed in gaining the nomination, his decidedly humanistic approach to politics and the economy should not be entirely written off by the other candidates. Each of the 10 individuals that stood on the debate stage for the third debate had some collection of aspects that the American people are looking for, and it would be best for those that remain for the fourth to take note of, rather than write off, those that are eliminated.