2020 presidential book club: Andrew Yang latest to tout political book at Prairie Lights

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang returned to Iowa City to share his messages through a book tour at Prairie Lights on March 13.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang signs an attendee’s copy of his book “The War on Normal People” following a campaign event at Prairie Lights on Wednesday.

Julia DiGiacomo, Politics Reporter

Andrew Yang is among a number of Democratic presidential candidates promoting their political ideas with book tours.

The entrepreneur described his 2018 book, The War on Normal People, at Prairie Lights to a group of around 100 on March 13 and iterated many of his principal campaign goals, such as to give every Americans $1,000 per month and the importance of preventing automation from replacing human jobs.

Book tours by politicians have become common over the years in Iowa City, said John Kenyon, the director of the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

“Iowa City long has hosted prominent authors, with Prairie Lights and the university’s writing programs serving as a magnet for readings,” he said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “By the same token, politicians are drawn to Iowa City because the large student body and particularly active community members guarantee a high-energy event.”

Yang follows in the footsteps of other candidates, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.. At that time, running for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Sanders read from his book at Prairie Lights in 2015 and, after the election, drew a large crowd at Hancher for his reading of Our Revolution in 2017.

2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson also participated in a reading at Prairie Lights on Feb 2.

RELATED: Andrew Yang hosts rally in Iowa City over a year ahead of presidential 2020 caucuses

Outside of Iowa, other candidates use the same approach to promote their ideas. U.S. Sen. and presidential candidate Kamala Harris, D-Calif., released her book and went on tour early this year. Other candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren, Julián Castro, Cory Booker, and John Hickenlooper, also have released books since 2016.

Yang’s book sold out at Prairie Lights, but he said book sales overall make up a small portion of his campaign fund.

“The campaign has been growing by leaps and bounds,” he said. “We’re getting thousands of campaign donations every day now online, and the average is only $19, so I think the book is a relatively small part of that, to be honest. It’s much easier for people now, especially young people, to get information in other ways now instead of by reading a book.”

The Prairie Lights talk was Yang’s seventh visit to Iowa since August 2018. His most recent local stop was a rally at the IMU on Nov. 16, 2018. He said he has been drawn to the area because of the University of Iowa community.

“Also, this area is very progressive,” he said. “It’s important for me to introduce myself to all the progressives and the young people in the state.”

After finishing up book signings at Prairie Lights, Yang held a rally at the Yacht Club.

RELATED: 2020 Democratic hopefuls aren’t changing their small venue campaign style after Trump’s rally-style campaign

Recent UI graduate and Iowa City resident Katie Marqusee said she was especially enticed by Yang’s plan of $1,000 per month for all adult Americans. She also said she appreciates his message of fighting climate change — he earlier announced his support of the Green New Deal and the Paris Climate Accord.

“[$1,000 basic income] is a new idea I hadn’t heard of, and it seems like if it falls into place, it would allow a lot of problems to be solved,” she said. “Just $1,000 a month is not going to change everything, but for many people, it’s a really good start.”

Despite remaining an overall lesser-known candidate, Yang qualified to join the first Democratic presidential debate. Yang met the mandatory 65,000-donor mark and raised more than $350,000 in March, according to a March 12 news release from the Yang campaign.

“I believe the Democratic Party could use some new ideas and energy, and I hope I can provide that,” Yang told the audience at Prairie Lights.