MATH vs Trump: the unexpected rise of Andrew Yang, internet king

MATH vs Trump: the unexpected rise of Andrew Yang, internet king
Andrew Yang. (Reuters)

“I am the opposite of Donald Trump,” says the candidate for the Democratic primary at the rallies. “An Asian guy who likes math”

The Asian community in the United States is small and has the lowest levels of political participation in the entire country. It is rare to see a candidate of Chinese or Indian origin, as it is also difficult to see the big parties trying to court their vote, as they do, for example, with Latinos. This was so until a prophet emerged from the desert. His name is Andrew Yang, and if you have heard about him, it is because he has launched a campaign so original that it even seduces a few Republicans.

“I am the opposite of Donald Trump,” says Yang at the rallies. “An Asian guy who likes math“. With his navy blue cap that says “MATH,” an acronym in English for “Making America Think More Intensely,” and his “Humanity First,” anathema of Trump’s “America First,” Yang has become a growing space in the Democratic race Last Thursday he was the only candidate of color on the stage of the seven-party debate. “I know what you are thinking,” he said at the close. “How do I stay on stage with them?”

The 44-year-old businessman and philanthropist, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, has been challenging the general predictions of analysts, who try to fly a story that explains Yang’s presence alongside the heavyweights. And the fact that the next day, his campaign raised $ 750,000 from 20,000 donors; the third part of them was the first time they donated to Yang.

The king of the Internet and his band

In retrospect, we can say that his campaign has managed to take down several birds with one stone. One is the originality of marketing. Yang Gang’s passion, “Yang’s band,” has made “The New York Times” qualify him as “the king of the internet.” A campaign oiled on social networks, with his hip hop videos and his memes, and the recent incorporation of singer Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, as an advisor. This arsenal of jokes and innocent provocations gave Yang a place in the most-watched talk shows in the United States; and, with it, an opportunity to present itself to a large part of the electorate.

Andrew Yang says he feels great empathy with the common and defenceless man. As a child he was a victim of bullying, a “skinny” student, according to his words; the only Asian from his school in Westchester, New York state. At age 12 he got such good grades that he was selected to participate in a program for young talents at the University of John Hopkins. He later graduated from Brown University and did his master’s degree in Columbia.

His work ethic, as in so many other cases, in view of the oversized Asian representation in all academic competitions and competitions in the United States, comes from his family. His mother is an internationally recognized painter and his father, a doctor of physics, generated 69 patents working for IBM and General Electric. Among them, a liquid crystal touch screen.

But, above all, Yang has managed to occupy the coveted position of ‘outsider’: the new, renegade politician. His case recalls that of Bernie Sanders in 2016; a campaign for which no one had bet and that had the newest proposals, such as “Medicare for all” or the free public university. These measures have become popular since then and it is Yang who, this time, embodies the rebel.

Proposes a universal basic income

Beyond its proposals for a Democratic manual, such as expanding public health, reforming criminal justice or raising corporate taxes, the Taiwanese-American is the only one who proposes to implement a universal basic income. The so-called “Freedom Dividend” would be a monthly payment of one thousand dollars to all Americans of legal age, regardless of their employment or family situation. According to Yang, this public salary without hardly any conditions would heal the wound of populism.

The frustration experienced in many regions of the country, the lack of economic expectations of millions of families and the perception that a way of life is in decline, are the partial fruit of automation. Many of the solid manufacturing jobs, for example in the automobile industry, have gone to less developed economies or have been replaced by robots. And this is where the basic income would come in: an economic mattress for these families to invest in other things, in training or in the care of their loved ones. A balm that would protect consumers and cushion the impact of technological changes yet to come.

The idea has generated much debate; To start, how would it be paid? The campaign says it would be financed with more corporate taxes and its own dynamics. “In total, the cost of the Freedom Dividend will be offset by new income, tax savings and economic growth,” said Yang, as well as a “reduction in health costs, lower rates of incarceration, fewer homeless people and a reduction in homelessness bureaucracy”.

Not everyone shares their optimism. The Freedom Dividend would cost public coffers between 2.1 and 3.4 billion dollars a year, according to different estimates. That is, between half and 80% of the entire federal budget of the United States. Conservative critics believe it would be impossible to pay, and also counterproductive; a subsidy from which no one can guarantee that it will not be spent on alcohol or tucked under a mattress. From the left, it worries that this income is accompanied by a large cut in social programs, as Yang has already advanced, and therefore undermines public instruments for welfare.

The identity left has also had words for Yang, accused of perpetuating some racial stereotypes. “I’m Asian, I know a lot of doctors,” he joked once. Stereotypes that would cloud the diversity of the term “Asian”: from Chinese, Filipino and Indian, to Bangladeshi or Tibetan minorities.

A growing but minority base

The applicant himself has encountered potholes of difficult justification. Despite adding more electoral support and donations than other well-known candidates, such as Julián Castro or the punctured balloon Beto O’Rourke, his figure has often been absent from the television rankings of the electoral race. Yang’s band has reacted with a hashtag, #YangMediaBlackout, the “Yang information blackout”, which managed to generate some waves on its main battlefield, the internet.

Yang’s band has grown strongly; It has dominated some electoral districts, especially male, Asian and youth, one of the reasons why it also proposes to lower the age of voting to 16 years, and defends as a Numantine its valuable niche in the consciousness of the United States. Still, bets are still against him. The “skinny” who left behind his classmates and many of the Democratic candidates, is still clinging to a 3% intention to vote.