Andrew Yang (D-New York) might be the first true presidential candidate of the 21st Century; he’s running against robots and for Universal Basic Income.
Yang’s platform is a simple one that has the potential to attract a lot of votes. He wants to give every American between 18 and 65 $1,000 a month. He also preaches that technology is bad because it kills jobs.
Yang is the first national political candidate I have seen who is explicitly targeting technology and unapologetically promoting basic income. His campaign website features a slick; and professionally-produced, YouTube video that warns that 46.2 million Americans will lose their jobs because of automation.
The video goes onto warn that self-driving cars, the Amazon Go automated stores, and delivery drones are coming to take your jobs. Yang himself chimes in and warns that technology will enrich the elite and impoverish everybody else.
The video effectively manipulates emotions by playing to fear, patriotism and plain-old fashioned greed; by offering voters $1,000 a month a month – if they vote for Yang. It uses a Trumpesque mix of scary images, machines doing working-class jobs, homeless people, abandoned factories, empty neighborhoods, and heartwarming pictures of flags, cute kids, former president Barrack Obama (D-Illinois), and Shark Tank persona Daymond Garfield John to push all the correct buttons.
Meet the Democrat Trying to Out Trump the Donald
Even though he’s a Democrat, Yang is trying to beat President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) at his own game.
Like Trump, Yang appeals to fear, but in a more sophisticated way by demonizing a group that does not vote machines. Like Trump, Yang is willing to talk about unpleasant realities most candidates deliberately ignore. Few American politicians want to face the ugly truth of technological unemployment because it is unsettling and scary.
Just like the Donald, Yang crafts a dystopian nightmare vision of America then offers a simple solution for it. Yang does Trump one better by playing directly to voters’ greed, offering them $1,000 a month – if they vote for him.
Like Trump, Yang has a catchy and easy to remember slogan “Fight for Humanity.” And like the Donald he wraps his campaign in the flag while promising to protect middle and working-class America from the evils of the postmodern world and the big bad elites.
Yang even has a scary book with the cheery title; The War on Normal People: The Truth about America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future scheduled for release on April 3. It looks as if Yang has figured out how to disguise class warfare, anti-intellectualism, bread and circuses, and Luddite attacks on technology as nerdy technocracy.
Also like the Donald, Yang talks about his “business success” but it is hard to figure out what either the business or the success is. Yang claims to have created jobs but does not say in what business. Nor does the candidate mention any specific businesses he has created or industries he has worked in.
Is Andrew Yang a Kindler Gentler Trump?
Yang has a few attributes that might make him more appealing than the Donald. He appears to be a nice guy; he comes off like Mr. Rogers rather than an aggressive New Yorker. Unlike Trump, Yang is friendly, down to Earth, wonky, nerdy, and cerebral. There’s nothing visibly threatening or offensive about Yang.
An added plus is that Yang is not white, he is of Chinese descent. He touts his family’s immigrant roots and displays pictures of his suitably Asian wife and kids on the website. There’s even a picture of Yang and his parents standing outside of a church.
His racial heritage might give Yang the freedom to engage in fearmongering and class warfare without being denounced as a bigoted. The nerdy veneer provides a suitable; and probably false image, of postmodern intellect, competence, and merit. In other words, Yang comes across as a kinder and gentler Generation X version of Trump.
Another similarity with the Donald is that Yang presents a false image of himself as a Silicon Valley tech mogul. His business experience consists of something called Venture for America, which is apparently nothing but a catchphrase. That’s reminiscent of Trump who falsely portrays himself as a successful real estate mogul.
Why we should Take Andrew Yang Seriously
Andrew Yang should be taken seriously because his website effectively utilizes the digital marketing tactics that helped elect Trump. It looks as if Yang is using sophisticated AI-driven marketing similar to the Cambridge Analytica campaign Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner helped orchestrate.
The marketing pushes all the right buttons without being scary. The added appeal of something for nothing; $1,000 a month, might make Yang irresistible to voters. The website shows that Yang has some big money and sophisticated marketing behind him.
Those prepared to dismiss Yang as a complete nobody; should remember that Barrack Obama was a total unknown to most Americans in 2006, by 2009 he was president. The truth is that Yang is no more improbable today than Donald J. Trump was in 2014, or Barrack Obama was in 2006.
Did anybody in 2015 believe that a racist, buffoonish, corrupt, philandering and blatantly incompetent failed businessman turned reality TV star could be elected president? Trump won, largely because he was not taken seriously by his opponents, Yang might have a similar advantage.
Nor is Yang’s lack of experience or visible accomplishment, a bar to the Presidency. Trump’s three predecessors; Obama, George W. Bush (R-Texas), and Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas), all basically did nothing outside of holding political office before the White House. Trump himself has no government or military experience, and his “business career” was a slow-moving train wreck of failures, bankruptcies, sleazy deals, and dubious marketing.
Is Yang a Breakout Candidate?
Andrew Yang should be watched carefully because he might be a force to be reckoned with in the Democratic primaries. He stands poised to attract U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vermont) true believers with appeals to Medicare for All.
The talk of job loss, promises of $1,000 giveaways each month, and attacks on machines and parasitic elitists should play well in the Rustbelt. One reason why Yang will be popular is that his $1,000 a month giveaway plan will attract a lot of attention among poor and desperate residents of rural America.
Yang will be in a perfect position to appeal to all the disillusioned Trump voters looking for a new savior in 2020. He goes Trump one better by promising something for nothing to voters.
Media elitists will be shocked by Yang’s success because they do not realize how poor and desperate a lot of Americans are. They simply have no idea of the levels of economic stagnation and unemployment in many communities. Andrew Yang’s basic income will have a strong appeal in the crumbling cities, forgotten cities, and decaying industrial areas of the country where hope and jobs disappeared long ago.
Yang might be the breakout Democratic candidate of 2020. Even if he does not win, Yang is certainly in a position to disrupt the Democratic primaries; and possibly knock out some serious mainstream contenders like former Vice President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) or U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-California) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York).
Watch Yang closely, he’s likely to go far and upset more than a few apple carts with a slick marketing campaign, old-fashioned fearmongering, and blatant greed disguised as the basic income. Like Donald J. Trump, Andrew Yang is a sophisticated but improbable candidate that has a strong chance of reaching the White House.