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Andrew Yang’s Campaign for President of the United States

Andrew Yang’s Campaign for President of the United States

[Second Revision][1]

Peter T. Knight[2]

Andrew Yang is the first candidate for President of the United States to advocate a Universal Basic Income (UBI) – that he calls a Freedom Dividend: US$1,000 per month for all U.S. citizens 18 years of age or older. This paper introduces Yang and key elements of his extensive set of policy proposals, analyzes his campaign strategy, and argues he has a good chance of securing the Democratic Party nomination and beating Donald Trump in the 2020 elections, if Trump is still President, or any other Republican candidate that may be nominated.

Who is Andrew Yang and why is he running for President?

Yang is 44 years old, son of Taiwanese immigrants who met at the University of California, Berkeley. There his father got a PhD in physics, and his mother a masters in statistics. Brought up in Schenectady and Westchester County, New York state, where his father worked for General Electric and IBM, he graduated from an elite boarding school (Philips Exeter) in New Hampshire, received a B.A. in economics and political Science from Brown University, and a J.D. degree from Columbia Law School.

After five months working in a corporate law firm in New York city, where he still lives, he quit and became a serial entrepreneur – started a dot com enterprise that failed, worked in another startup in the health field, and then ran a national educational company that was acquired in late 2009 by Kaplan, leaving him with several million dollars in earnings.[3] Yang then began to work on creating a new nonprofit fellowship program called Venture for America (VFA), which he founded in 2011, with an initial donation of $120,000 of his own resources and another $80,000 from other donors. By 2017, VFA had an annual operating budget of $6.4 million. It recruits and trains young entrepreneurs graduating from elite universities to work in start-up companies launched in economically depressed rust belt cities including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis. As he wrote later,

For years I believed new business formation was the answer—if we could train a new generation of entrepreneurs and create the right jobs in the right places, we could stop the downward spiral of growing income inequality, poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness. [4]

VFA grew to operate in about 20 U.S. cities. Yang traveled extensively to these cities and to Silicon Valley, where he engaged in fundraising. In the process he got to know many leading hi-tech entrepreneurs. But as Russell Brandon [2019] put it in The Verge, “Yang was shaken by the social disintegration he saw in the cities VFA was trying to help. Detroit was still dying, and more cities were joining it each year, collapsing into drug addiction, poverty, and despair.” Yang began to think VFA’s efforts were like pouring water into a bathtub with a gaping hole in it.

Then came the 2016 election of Donald Trump, who won with the support of many of the blue-collar workers in the cities and states where VFA was working. Trump had courted these workers, displaced by globalization but more importantly by automation. They were either unemployed or working in much lower-paying jobs than previously. Trump told them he could bring their jobs back and Make America Great Again (MAGA). Red MAGA hats became common among Trump’s supporters. Yang frequently has said that Trump won because 4 million jobs were automated away in the very states that Trump carried.

In March 2017, Yang stepped down as CEO of VFA.

As an article in the Washington Post Magazine [O’Connor, 2019] put it,

During his six years at Venture for America, Yang met “three of the last four presidents, senators, governors,” tech moguls, billionaires and people who participate in “think tank sessions.” He became convinced that nobody was addressing what he believed to be a jobs crisis: “Middle-skill jobs” in manufacturing and retail are already in decline, and technology could threaten call centers and truck driving next. Artificial intelligence could replace “high-skill jobs” that involve repetitive tasks such as accounting, administration and some medical diagnoses; Yang’s go-to example is an AI system that can find brain tumors in radiological imaging faster and more accurately than highly trained radiologists.

Yang says he decided to run for president after a lunch with Andy Stern at a Manhattan restaurant in the summer of 2017. Stern is a former president of the then 2.2-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and author of a book advocating UBI [Stern, 2016]. He told Yang that no one was running for president on a platform of UBI. Yang’s interest in UBI developed by reading both Stern’s book and an earlier one on impact of robots [Ford, 2015] as well as by contact with high-tech entrepreneurs and UBI specialists such as Scott Santens.

The problems Yang saw are summed up in the abstract of an important National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper [Charles, Hurst, and Schwartz, 2018]:

Using data from a variety of sources, this paper comprehensively documents the dramatic changes in the manufacturing sector and the large decline in employment rates and hours worked among prime-aged Americans since 2000. We use cross-region variation to explore the link between declining manufacturing employment and labor market outcomes. We find that manufacturing decline in a local area in the 2000s had large and persistent negative effects on local employment rates, hours worked and wages. We also show that declining local manufacturing employment is related to rising local opioid use and deaths. These results suggest that some of the recent opioid epidemic is driven by demand factors in addition to increased opioid supply. We conclude the paper with a discussion of potential mediating factors associated with declining manufacturing labor demand including public and private transfer receipt, sectoral switching, and inter-region mobility. Overall, we conclude that the decline in manufacturing employment was a substantial cause of the decline in employment rates during the 2000s particularly for less educated prime age workers. Given the trends in both capital and skill deepening within this sector, we further conclude that many policies currently being discussed to promote the manufacturing sector will have only a modest labor market impact for less educated individuals.

Yang argues that advances in exponential technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) that are driven by computing power evolving according to Moore’s Law (a doubling of computing power at the same cost every 18-24 months) will result in much more massive job loss in the coming five to ten years than during the previous two decades and affect increasingly sophisticated types of jobs.

Yang repeatedly says that the U.S. is in the early stages of the greatest economic and technological transformation it has ever experienced, what many analysts have called the Fourth Industrial Revolution.[5] He believes that these technologies will also create new job opportunities, but that they will for the most part be for different people, in different places, and with different skill sets from those people being displaced. He argues that, while UBI is not the solution to these problems, it is a powerful tool to help people adjust to this transformation and also has many other benefits.

In November 2017 Yang filed his papers to be a candidate in the Democratic Party primary elections. He publicly launched his candidacy in February 2018. In April that year, he published his second book, The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future [Yang, 2018] setting forth his arguments for UBI and many of his other policy proposals.

Yang qualified for the first two primary debates in June and July of 2019. That required having at least 65,000 unique donors, including at least 200 in each of at least 20 states, and at least 1% support in three qualified polls. On August 8 he qualified for the next debates in September and October, meeting the polling criterion of at least 2% support in four qualifying national polls released between June 28 and August 28. He has also qualified for the November and December debates, meeting even more stringent criteria, one of ten candidates to do so in October and only eight (one of whom dropped out before the debate) in December. In the third quarter of 2019 Yang raised $10 million, with 99% of the donations coming from small donors.

On October 21, 2019, Business Insider ranked Yang as the fifth most likely to be nominated out of 18 candidates still running [Hickey and Panetta, 2019a] and the most favored Democratic candidate among undecided voters for the 2020 general election [Hickey and Panetta, 2019b], using a recurring survey that seeks to assess:

  • The percentage of Democratic voters who are familiar with each candidate.

  • How Democrats rate each candidate's chances of beating President Donald Trump in a general election match-up.

  • If a given candidate were to drop out of the race, who their supporters would flock to next.

Business Insider used its own polling and results of Morning Consult's daily survey of the 2020 Democratic primary voters[6] to create its ranking of declared and potential 2020 candidates [Panetta and Hickey, 2019]. As of December 28, 2019 Business Insider still ranked Yang fifth, this time above Pete Buttigieg, and Michael Bloomberg, but below Amy Klobuchar [Hickey and Panetta, 2019c].

Yang now has both momentum and significant financial resources. In the third quarter, his campaign raised $10 million, representing a 257% quarterly increase—the highest growth rate of all candidates. The average donation was around $30 and 99% of the donations were $200 or less [Stevens, 2019]. According to the Federal Election Commission [2019], Yang’s the campaign has raised a total of $15.2 million in 2019 through September 30, 12th among the Democratic Candidates, but with $6.3 million of cash unspent ranked sixth. But Yang is the candidate with the highest percentage coming from small (less than $200) donations, at 68%, compared to Bernie Sanders’ 64% and Elizabeth Warren’s 58%. Of the other candidates, only one, Pete Buttigieg, broke 50%.[7] Yang’s campaign expects to raise at least $20 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The Freedom Dividend

UBI, that Yang calls a Freedom Dividend, is the first priority of his top three policy proposals and over 170 other policy planks in his platform – all oriented to solving 21st century problems with 21st century solutions rather than trying to turn back the clock with 20th century failed solutions like Trump’s wall, trade wars, and tax cuts. “We’re seeing unprecedented changes in the economy and returning to 20th-century frameworks and solutions will not serve us” he argues (Kroll, 2019). Yang asserts that the Freedom Dividend would help displaced workers transition from the old economy to the new one while at the same time stimulate local economies.

Yang’s team used focus groups to test various names for his UBI before choosing Freedom Dividend. This choice agrees with leading US specialist on UBI Scott Santens’ research in a survey of 500 people who were asked what word best describes why they support UBI – freedom had twice as many mentions as the next ranking word, dignity [Santens, n.d.].

In a nutshell, here are the main characteristics of the Freedom Dividend:

• US$1,000 per month to all adults aged 18 and above

• Opt for the Freedom Dividend or keep some existing social welfare benefits, but not both, unless the existing benefits are less than $1000, in which case the Freedom Dividend would be the difference between the existing benefit and $1000 if the recipient wants to retain the existing benefit

• People retired on Social Security (including disability insurance) or receiving unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, all continue to receive them plus the Freedom Dividend

• It is totally unconditional, no reporting, monitoring, or other requirements

How much would it cost, and how would it be financed? Yang’s campaign website explains in some detail:[8]

1. Current spending. We currently spend between $500 and $600 billion a year on welfare programs, food stamps, disability and the like. This reduces the cost of the Freedom Dividend because people already receiving benefits would have a choice but would be ineligible to receive the full $1,000 in addition to current benefits.

2. Additionally, we currently spend over one trillion dollars on health care, incarceration, homelessness services and the like. We would save $100 – 200+ billion as people would take better care of themselves and avoid the emergency room, jail, and the street and would generally be more functional. The Freedom Dividend would pay for itself by helping people avoid our institutions, which is when our costs shoot up. Some studies have shown that $1 to a poor parent will result in as much as $7 in cost-savings and economic growth.

3. A VAT. Our economy is now incredibly vast at $19 trillion[9], up $4 trillion in the last 10 years alone. A VAT at half the European level would generate $800 billion in new revenue. A VAT will become more and more important as technology improves because you cannot collect income tax from robots or software.

4. New revenue. Putting money into the hands of American consumers would grow the economy. The Roosevelt Institute projected that the economy would grow by approximately $2.5 trillion and create 4.6 million new jobs. This would generate approximately $800 – 900 billion in new revenue from economic growth and activity.

5. Taxes on top earners and pollution. By removing the Social Security cap,[10] implementing a financial transactions tax, and ending the favorable tax treatment for capital gains/carried interest, we can decrease financial speculation while also funding the Freedom Dividend. We can add to that a carbon fee that will be partially dedicated to funding the Freedom Dividend, making up the remaining balance required to cover the cost of this program.

Yang’s arguments in favor of UBI are listed in detail on his site in the answers to a FAQ.[11] For those not familiar UBI, the arguments pro and con, and who, across the political spectrum and time, has supported UBI see [Reddit, n.d.]. Here are the arguments he lists, without the details:

• UBI encourages people to find work (not withdrawn if you earn more).

• UBI reduces bureaucracy.

• UBI increases bargaining power for workers.

• UBI increases entrepreneurship.

• UBI improves mental health of recipients.

• UBI helps people make smarter decisions (economic insecurity reduces cognitive ability equal to 13 IQ points).

• UBI improves physical health.

• UBI increases art production, nonprofit work, and caring for loved ones.

• UBI improves labor market efficiency.

• UBI improves relationships.

Support for universal basic income (UBI) is on the rise, according to a Hill-HarrisX poll released on September 25, 2019. The nationwide survey found that 49 percent of registered voters are in favor of a government-issued basic living stipend, which marks a 6-point spike compared to a similar survey in February [The Hill, 2019]. This suggests that Yang’s campaign has been effective. The same poll found that support for UBI was strongest among young people. Seventy-two percent of those between the ages of 18 to 34 favor the idea.

Other planks in Yang’s platform

Yang has more than 170 separate policy proposals in addition to the Freedom Dividend, over twice as many as Elizabeth Warren, who supposedly has a plan for everything. These proposals are listed on his site[12] and have been grouped into 11 categories: Economy and Jobs (23); Environment Voting Reform (17), Criminal Justice Reform (11); Healthcare (13); Education (11); Family/Social Cohesion (17); Foreign Policy (17); and Immigration (4). For each policy proposal there is a web page that is broken into at least five sections (some of the most important have an additional policy paper page).

  1. The policy

  2. Problem to be solved

  3. A quote from one of his speeches

  4. Goals

  5. What Yang will do as President to implement the policy

  6. For some policies, a quote from his book, The War on Normal People

These proposals provide more detail than most of the other 14 remaining Democratic Party presidential candidates (as of December 28, 2019 13 others had dropped out of the race) and showcase Yang’s data-driven and problem-solving style. Most U.S. presidential candidates tend to be vague about what exactly they would do as President, or to spell out only a few of their policy proposals, preferring ambiguity to avoid attacks on specific proposals. Yang has adjusted some of his proposals in response to suggestions and criticism.

After the Freedom Dividend the other two of Yang’s “Big Three” policy proposals are

· Medicare for all (a single-payer system currently in use for people aged 65 and above and very popular), but those happy with private health insurance plans will be allowed to keep their plans. Yang proposes 13 separate policies to bring down the cost of health care and expand coverage.

· Human-Centered Capitalism, that Yang would implement by changing “the way we measure the economy, from GDP and the stock market to a more inclusive set of measurements that ensures humans are thriving, not barely making it by. New measurements like Median Income and Standard of Living, Health-adjusted Life Expectancy, Mental Health, Childhood Success Rates, Social and Economic Mobility, Absence of Substance Abuse, and others will give us a much clearer and more powerful sense of how we are doing both individually and as a society.” .… “The government’s goal should be to drive individuals and organizations to find new ways to improve the standards of living of individuals and families on these dimensions”.[13]

Anyone wanting to know more about Yang’s policy proposals can read about them on his site[14] or get a summary of the most important ones on a page about him on the Business Insider website [Panetta, 2019]. Here are a few examples.

Campaign finance/election reform:

· Propose a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Citizens United v. FEC decision[15], as well as banning Super PACs[16] and expanding public funding for elections.

· Limit Supreme Court Justices to 18-year terms

· Modernize and secure the existing election infrastructure by using blockchain technology to allow online voting

· Provide every eligible American voter with 100 Democracy Dollars for each federal election cycle, a voucher that they can use to support candidates of their choosing.

· Support automatic voter registration, making election day a national holiday, extending statehood to Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, lowering the voting age to 16, and reducing partisan gerrymandering.

Gun control:

· Create a new, multi-tiered licensing system for firearms similar to the different levels of automobile licenses. These would require universal background checks. He would create a clear definition of “assault weapon” and prevent their manufacture and sale.

· Introduce a federal weapons buyback program for those who want to surrender their weapons. He wants to create uniform federal safety standards and incentivize gun manufacturers to innovate new gun safety technology.


· Build a sustainable economy by transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, upgrading our infrastructure, and improving the way we farm and use land.

· Build a sustainable world. Activate the American imagination and work ethic to provide the innovation and technology that will power the rest of the world.

· Mitigate unavoidable impacts of climate change, for example by moving people to higher ground.


· Create a new cabinet-level position of Secretary of Technology and a Department of Technology to work with private industry and Congressional leaders to monitor technological developments, assess risks, and create new guidance. The new Department would be based in Silicon Valley and would initially be focused on Artificial Intelligence.

· Incentivize healthcare and medical device companies to develop new, innovative medical technologies.

· Bolster federal regulation and standards for cryptocurrency trading and digital assets and enact new encryption standards.

Women’s rights:

  • Appoint judges who support a woman’s right to choose.

  • Support a woman’s right to choose in every circumstance and provide resources for family planning and contraception.

Yang’s political strategy to win the Democratic Party nomination and the presidency[17]

Yang was virtually unknown outside the Venture for America and hi-tech business community when he decided to run for President. The first element in his electoral strategy was to file his papers and declare early so that he would have time to accumulate supporters and achieve name recognition to qualify for the primary debates. He was the second of 25 candidates to file. Like Trump as a candidate, Yang cast himself as an outsider and businessman who could shake up the system and break through the partisan deadlock that has paralyzed America.

His first break came with a long, favorable New York Times article on his candidacy, with two photos of Yang, and published on February 10, 2018 [Roose, 2018]. The article was based on an interview with Yang and considerable research by the author, who cited Yang’s book and described the Freedom Dividend in some detail as well as providing information on some of Yang’s other policy proposals. Roose quoted Yang as saying, “If you look at the voter data, it shows that the higher the level of concentration of manufacturing robots in a district, the more that district voted for Trump.” That data was reported in another New York Times article a month earlier (Edsall, 2018).[18]

But for the most part, the mainstream media ignored him, and as of October 24, 2019, he still was in 11th place in weekly news coverage despite ranking sixth in the polls [Lee, et al, 2019]. An important article on Yang published in Rolling Stone on June 19, 2019 [Kroll, 2019] noted:

He needed an alternative path to get the word out and found it in podcasts. One of his earliest appearances was a June 2018 interview with Sam Harris[19]…. An episode of Harris’ podcast can reportedly draw a million or more listeners. As it turned out, Yang’s wonky message was well suited to the long-form, conversational style of podcasts. He had all the time he wanted to dispense one alarming factoid after another about the labor-force participation rate, artificial intelligence, and truckers.

The Harris interview brought in new social media followers and donations, and so Yang agreed to appear on any podcast that invited him. And with each appearance, Yang began to amass an online following that his upstart campaign christened the Yang Gang.

Unlike almost any other candidate, podcasts have been a key element in Yang’s strategy. His most successful one occurred on Episode 1045 of “The Joe Rogan Experience” (Rogan explores topics such as bodybuilding, hunting your own meat, standup comedy, and psychedelics) on February 12, 2019, and as of December 28, 2019, it had been viewed on YouTube by 4.7 million times [Rogan, 2019]. According to Kroll [2019]:

“For Yang’s campaign, it was a turning point. His Twitter following skyrocketed. Donations flooded in, including one from Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey. (Actor Nicolas Cage had given $1,000 in early February.) Within weeks of the Rogan podcast, Yang hit the 65,000-donor threshold needed to qualify for the first debate.

On March 8, 2019, Yang was interviewed on The Breakfast Club, a radio program recorded on video and addressing a largely black American audience. As of December 28, it had 1.5 million YouTube views.

As Andy Kroll (2019) noted, a major question was whether Yang could translate his online support from the Yang Gang, or “Yangsters”, into something tangible.

If he held rallies, would anyone come? If he asked for volunteers, would anyone sign up? A series of big-city speeches in April and May, dubbed the Humanity First tour, settled those questions. Two thousand people showed up to see him at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, followed by 3,000 in Los Angeles, and 4,000 in Seattle. For the tour’s final stop, 2,500 people turned out in the pouring rain at New York City’s Washington Square Park. These crowd sizes exceeded those of some of the senators and governors in the race. The mainstream media tuned in as well: Yang got requests to appear on Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.

Since the Rogan podcast, Yang has been interviewed by all the most important television networks, spanning the U.S. political spectrum (NBC, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business, CBS, ABC, HBO, PBS, and CNN) and national newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal). A YouTube playlist for Yang had 267 live entries as of December 28, 2019 [YouTube, 2019].

In June and July, 2019, the months of the first two nationally-televised debates between the top 20 Democratic Party candidates, highly positive articles on him were published in leading magazines: by Maureen O’Connor [2019] in the Washington Post Magazine, Grace Panetta [2019] in Business Insider, Emily Witt [2019] in The New Yorker, and Andy Kroll [2019] in Rolling Stone, Sy Mukherjee [2019] in Forbes – and Jennifer Elias [2019] headlined on CNBC that “Silicon Valley has found its presidential candidate in Andrew Yang”.[20]

Long-form interviews by aggressive journalists on PBS’s Firing Line (by conservative anchor Margaret Hoover) and Washington Post Live (by Roberto Costa)[21] demonstrate well Yang’s capacity to answer tough questions in detail and with good humor. On October 18, 2019 he even went online for over 10 hours of Q&A streamed over seven different online platforms discussing a wide variety of topics, without knowing the questions in advance, something no other candidate has dared to do.[22]

Other important elements of Yang’s strategy are his non-ideological, data-driven, problem-solving approach to policy, his rejection of identity politics, and the strength of the Yang Gang, his army of energetic social media-savvy supporters who are active on the all the principal social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit. This has allowed him to attract younger voters, independents, and disillusioned Trump supporters as well as progressives. Yang often says he is running for President in order to solve the problems that got Trump elected. While supporting the progressive objectives of fellow candidate Elizabeth Warren, he says he wants to go beyond correcting recognized abuses. He argues that 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, 40% can’t afford an unexpected $400 bill, and many live only one medical emergency from bankruptcy. Critical reviewers on the right say they can live with him [Markovicz, 2019] and that his campaign has much to teach other candidates [Clark, 2019]

When discussing the “good” performance of the economy under Trump, he asks why life expectancy has fallen for three years in a row, driven by suicides and drug overdoses, concentrated in geographic areas won by Trump in the 2016 election. Yang then regularly notes that this is the first time that life expectancy has fallen since the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. His American Scorecard would combine real indicators of welfare – including median income, health-adjusted life expectancy, mental health, childhood success rates, social and economic mobility, absence of substance abuse, and access clean air and water – rather than focus on such metrics as per capita GDP and stock market indexes.

As Emily Witt [2019] puts it in her New Yorker article,

Yang is a centrist, not…by not diverging too far from the status quo, but in that he presents his policy proposals in language that disorients voters from the known ideological maps of their political platforms. His technocratic populism attracts podcast listeners, tech-industry venture capitalists, libertarians, Trump supporters, proud Asian-Americans, and white men who feel they have been unfairly blamed for the perpetuation of inequality.

Yang says that he is focused on bringing Americans together to solve 21st century problems, and that Trump is the symptom of these problems, not the disease. He argues that prosecuting Trump after he has left the presidency would not contribute to healing the left-right polarization that characterizes the U.S. (and many other countries). This approach has been effective in peeling off Trump supporters and attracting many libertarians and conservatives who now turn up at his rallies. He has been interviewed or featured sympathetically at least six times on Fox News and twice on the Fox Business Network, considered hardline supporters of Trump [YouTube, 2019].

Yang also refrains from attacking other contenders for the Democratic Party nomination in interviews and the nationally televised debates, concentrating instead on introducing himself and his top policy proposals.

Can Yang Win?

When I first became aware of Yang’s candidacy in 2018, I supported him because he was the first presidential candidate to support a UBI as a primary plank in his platform. I did not think he had a chance to win the Democratic nomination but did believe he could introduce UBI into the campaign discourse.

Now, not only has Yang successfully done this, but he has qualified for six nationally televised debates and looks likely to qualify for the seventh in January, 2020. As of December 28, Yang ranked seventh in the in the Real Clear Politics (RCP) average of polls, seventh in RCP betting odds (though sixth in betting odds if Hillary Clinton, who has not declared her candidacy, is excluded)[23] but fifth in PredictIt markets (where candidates can be bought and sold like stocks), above Bloomberg, Klobuchar, and Clinton.[24] Many analysts believe betting odds and PredictIt markets, that require participants to put their money on candidates rather than just reply to landline phone calls[25], are a more accurate indication of voting preferences [Holden, 1019; Zeke 2019], especially early in the election cycle [Rothschild, 2009].

It used to be the case that pretty much everyone had a landline phone and a fairly representative sample of folks would answer when the polling firm called at 6pm.

Not anymore. The people who are not on the national do-not-call registry and willing to spend 10 minutes at 6pm answering the questions of a stranger about politics are not a representative cross-section of the electorate.

Lots of young people only have a mobile phone. Plenty of others are unwilling or unable to spend time answering a polling firm’s questions. [Holden, 2019]

One analysis using betting market odds shows that Yang is the candidate most likely to beat Trump in a general election, assuming he is the Democratic nominee [, 2019]

Younger people are the demographic group that are most supportive of UBI – 72% of the 18-34 cohort [The Hill, 2019] and Andrew Yang – (40.5% of the 18-29 cohort vs. 34.6% for Sanders, 13,9 % for Harris, 12.2% for Warren, 9.9% for Biden, and 9.2% for Buttigieg, who is the youngest candidate [Politico, 2019]. Furthermore, the polls do not include unregistered voters (who are frequently young), first time voters, independent voters who can vote in Democratic primaries in some states or change their registration to Democratic, or registered Republicans, some of whom may change their registration to vote for Yang [Markovitz, 2019; Stevens, 2019a; Ashuka, 2019]. All these factors suggest polling, at least at this stage of the campaign, under-estimates voter support for Yang.

As pointed out above, Yang is ranked fifth by Business Insider’s power ranking as of December 20. And almost nobody even knew who Yang was until 2019. That is momentum. And there is a lot of room for growth – 23% of registered voters who indicated they may vote in the Democratic primary or caucus in their state had never heard of him according to a poll of 15,431 such voters conducted over the period October 21-27, 2019, with a margin of error of +/- 1% [Morning Consult, 2019]. In the December 23 Morning Consult poll, Yang had the lowest unfavourability ranking of the top ten candidates, and he was the second choice of 10% of voters favoring Sanders [Morning Consult, 2019b].

Now consider some of the negatives for the other leading candidates and their rankings as of December 28, 2019.

· Joe Biden. While still leading in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, his momentum is negative to stable in polling, and he may be affected by the charges that his son profited from Chinese and Ukrainian deals. Furthermore, for a leading candidate, his debate performances have been lackluster, and his fundraising is lagging [Federal Election Commission, 2019].

· Bernie Sanders. He ranks second in RCP’s polling. betting odds and PredictIt markets. But he is the oldest candidate at 78 and has recently suffered a heart attack. Some of his supporters have already switched to Yang.

· Elizabeth Warren. She ranks third in RCP’s polling and betting odds as well as PredictIt markets. But many doubt that she would be able to best Trump in the general election.

· Pete Buttigieg. He is fourth in RCP’s polling and betting odds but third in PredictIt markets, though his fundraising lagged in the third quarter of 2019. He is an attractive candidate, but there is good reason to believe that an openly gay man would not do well against Trump in the general election despite his impressive achievements including military service.

· Michael Bloomberg ranks fourth in RCP polling and betting odds, but sixth in PredictIt markets, below Yang. However, he has the highest unfavourability rating of any candidate and Business Insider ranks him seventh as of December 20, 2019.

Yang ranks lower in polling in early primary/caucus states as of October 29 according to the RCP averages. But he only beginning in October has he had the resources to establish more than a few offices in these states and buy TV time to become better known. Interestingly, one poll shows him as the candidate most preferred by undecided voters in the 2020 general election [Hickey and Panetta, 2019b].

Yang has said that if he wins the nomination, he would prefer a woman as his running mate [My Youtube Channel, 2019]. This should help attract female voters as this becomes more broadly known. As of October 27, Politico’s polls show women were only 44.4% of Yang’s supporters, lower than the five candidates polling higher than him [Politico, 2019].

If Yang does not get the Democratic nomination, there is a good chance he could be the winner’s running mate, since he has not attacked the other candidates, would bring along his social media-savvy Yang Gang army of supporters, his cross-party appeal, his non-ideological pragmatic approach, and strength among younger voters [Panetta, 2019b]. In a long video interview with a Washington Post journalist, he refused to say who would prefer to run with in this capacity, but did say that he has discussed this possibility with Joe Biden [Costa, 2019], provoking speculation about an age/experience-balanced Biden/Yang ticket [Kilgore, 2019; Problem Solver Politics, 2019].


Yang’s campaign is a work in progress – the state level primary elections and caucuses only begin in February 2020 and the Democratic Party convention that will select the nominee is nine months away. When Yang began his campaign in November 2017, he was virtually unknown in U.S. politics, and that was still largely true at the beginning of 2019. But as of December 28, Yang ranks seventh among the Democratic Party candidates in RCP’s average of national polls, sixth among declared candidates in both RCP’s average of betting odds and fifth in PredictIt markets, has raised $10 million in the fourth quarter with $6.2 million of cash on hand, and is still unknown to 19% of likely primary/caucus voters. He has not attacked other candidates and has the lowest unfavourability rating of the top ten candidates. He has qualified for the first six Democratic Primary debates and is likely to qualify for the January 2020 debate. He has introduced UBI to the U.S. electorate and advanced many other pragmatic steps to address 21st century problems. He has bridged the left-right divide and pointed out ways to unify a polarized nation. Yang is the man to watch in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. He can win or be a running mate for another Democratic candidate. At a minimum, if another Democrat wins the general election, he could be a member of the Cabinet.


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[1] Updated and extended version of a paper prepared for the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) 19th Congress, Hyderabad, India, August 22-25, 2019. This draft was completed December 28, 2019. [2] Coordinator, Sufficiency4Sustainability Network, a founding member of the Fernand Braudel Institute of World Economics, and a member of Singularity University’s Rio de Janeiro Chapter. [3] For a much more detailed account of Yang’s life up to this point, see Sullivan [2019]. [4] Retrieved December 28, 2019. [5] The term was coined by Klaus Schwab, organizer of the World Economic Forum. See [Schwab 2016]. See also Retrieved October 29, 2019. See also [6] See Retrieved October 26, 2019. These results are based on 15,521 survey interviews with registered voters who indicate they may vote in the Democratic primary or caucus in their state and conducted October 16-20, 2019. [7] Calculations by the author based on data in Federal Elections Commission [2019]. [8], retrieved October 29, 2019. [9] This figure is for 2017. The estimate for 2020 is $22.2 trillion according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database ( Retrieved October 29, 2019. [10] Social Security tax of 6.2% is only applied for the first $132,900 of income in 2019. [11] Retrieved October 29, 2019. [12] Retrieved December 28, 2019. [13] Spelled out in detail at Retrieved October 29, 2019. [14] See Retrieved October 29, 2019 [15] Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court on January 21, 2010, ruled (5–4) that laws that prevented corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds for independent “electioneering communications” (political advertising) violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. [16] A Super PAC is a type of independent political action committee which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals but is not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates. [17] For a comprehensive, detailed, and continually updated reference on Yang’s campaign, see Wikipedia b [n.d.]. Wikipedia a [n.d.] also has good information on Yang’s life and campaign. [18] Edsal’s article includes a detailed map entitled “Where Robots Live” prepared by Daron Acemoglu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Pascual Restrepo, Boston University. [19] Harris [2018]. [20] According to Wikipedia b [n.d.], Silicon Valley entrepreneurs supporting Andrew Yang include Elon Musk (Tesla and SpaceX, among others), Sam Altman (Chairman of Y Combinator, a venture capital company, and Co-Chair, Open AI), Jack Dorsey (Founder and CEO, Twitter), Tony Hisieh (CEO, Zappos), and Eliot Horowitz (Co-Founder, MongoDB). Mark Zuckerberg (Co-Founder and CEO of Facebook), Chris Hughes (Co-Founder of Facebook and Co-Chair of the Economic Security Project – see Hughes [2018] for his book on the subject), Richard Branson (Founder, Virgin Group), Stuart Butterfield (Co-Founder of Slack), Pierre Omidyar (founder of EBay), and Tim Draper (venture capitalist), also support UBI (see Clifford [2017] and Wikipedia d [n.d.] ) though they have not endorsed Yang as of October 29, 2019. Sam Altman is holding a fundraising lunch for Yang at his San Francisco home, and two more Silicon Valley fundraisers have been scheduled [Russell, 2019]. [21] See PBS, Firing Line with Margaret Hoover [2019] and The Zach and Matt Show [2019]. [22] See Neon [2019] and #AskAndrew [2019]. [23] and, both retrieved October 29, 2019. [24], retrieved October 29, 2019. [25] [26] All links shown in blue below were retrieved October 29, 2019 unless otherwise noted.


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