Opinion: 20 Out of 20: Andrew Yang needs to be more than a meme to win

The internet-centric entrepreneur is having a relatively strong presidential campaign, but still lacks a real chance of becoming the Democratic nominee.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Democratic presidential-nomination candidate Andrew Yang speaks during a Political Party Live event at the Yacht Club in Iowa City on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. During the event, presidential-nomination candidate Yang spoke about his background in the technology industry, and his plans if he wins the presidency.

Elijah Helton, Opinions Editor

I first heard about entrepreneur Andrew Yang the way a lot of people do: on Twitter. What started as a very longshot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination has since turned into one of the top 10 campaigns in a primary cycle that has featured more than 20 candidates. He’s fueled by a small but devoted group of supporters based largely online — known as the “Yang Gang” — and has a loud albeit minor voice thus far.

He’s done well relative to the vast number of presidential also-rans, but Yang hasn’t polled much higher than the low single-digits and he doesn’t have an obvious path forward. What would it take for him to jump into the top tier of the Democratic primary, and what would it look for him to take on President Trump?

How could Yang win the nomination?

The obscure tech entrepreneur threw himself into the pile of Democrats running for the party’s presidential nomination in November 2017. Back then, Yang’s candidacy looked like some sort of publicity stunt, but now, he’s sharing the debate stage with top contenders such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden.

His platform is probably the most unique in the drove (the scientific term for a group of donkeys). In Yang’s words, he’s “not left or right, but forward.” Instead of settling into progressive or moderate lane, his plans for America are zeroed in on policies that look to the future, such as what to do about the rise of automation. The proposal that gets the most attention online and elsewhere is a universal basic income, which would give every American adult $1,000 per month.

I would say that the income plan is the key to him somehow breaking into the truly competitive realm of the primary. But given that strategy hasn’t worked so far, nor have any of his fellow Democrats bought into it, it looks unlikely that plan is Yang’s ticket to become the first Asian American nominated for president.

What Yang lacks in governmental experience, he makes up for in enthusiasm. He promises to have a genuinely fresh take on policy making even if he is dismissed by most Washington types as someone who isn’t worth serious consideration.

How could Yang beat Trump?

Let’s suppose Democrats decide the way to unseat Trump is to nominate their own eccentric millionaire from Manhattan who has never held elected office before. What happens then?

Well, Yang has already made one of his taglines “the opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math,” and he’ll surely get good use out of the phrase should he become the Democratic nominee. More than most other presidential hopefuls, Yang’s best plan of attack is painting the incumbent as an incapable leader who doesn’t think things through.

Although he’s never been elected to public office, he has  published more policies on his campaign site than most political junkies care to read. What Yang lacks in governmental experience, he makes up for in enthusiasm. He promises to have a genuinely fresh take on policy-making, even if most Washington types dismiss him as someone who isn’t worth serious consideration.

I don’t know if Yang could necessarily beat Trump, but if both men are on the ballot next November, anything could happen.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.