I gave up on Andrew Yang too quickly. Six months ago, I wrote a less than favorable article for the News about the way he addressed identity. Since then, however, I’ve seen Yang grow as a candidate in every way. He’s refined his speaking, streamlined his points and shown great passion and vulnerability. Too bad he’s no longer in the race.
Still, the fact that Yang was able to make it to this point is incredible. He outlasted his counterparts with more traditional resumes, like Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke. The devout support he gained speaks to the enduring power and impact of his campaign. While I still question many of his ideas, I can’t doubt the value of his candidacy. In the course of his campaign, Yang brought a math-driven data-heavy approach to the table, grounding the political dialogue in fact, not just narrative.
Across the campaign trail, candidates use anecdotes to connect with real people. But while these stories are essential to balance and broaden our perspectives, a politics saturated only in pathos can be empty. Yang changed this.
Candidates commonly stress the severity of today’s problems and state general solutions. But what they often lack are the specific details for their prescriptions. The American people don’t simply want to clap in collective agreement. They want to hear the exact details. How will the plan be funded? Will my taxes go up? Can I keep my private insurance? We want to buy into dreams but fear their unforeseen consequences.
Few candidates addressed the economic feasibility of their policies with as much enthusiasm and rigor as Andrew Yang. He would explain the many reasons why a universal basic income (UBI) is needed, the specific details of a value-added tax and the economic effects of such proposals.
Values are important in guiding policy. But the results of policies matter just as much. Yes, many other candidates have this attitude, too — but Yang has been instrumental in making sure this remains one of the driving focuses of the primaries.
Yang’s facts drove his anecdotes, not the other way around. When Yang was making a point about the millions of stay-at-home parents who don’t get paid or recognized for their contributions, he talked about his wife Evelyn and caring for their autistic child. The policy supported experience. Numbers and analytics alone aren’t enough to determine how we should think about political issues, but Yang pushes the scales in a healthy direction.
Apart from his statistical focus, Yang adopted a uniquely nonpartisan approach. Slogans like “Humanity First” and “Not Left, Not Right, Forward” emphasized unity through agreement on basic common values from those on both sides of the political aisle. Even as a Democratic candidate, he chose to appear on Fox News, where he engaged in a respectful exchange of ideas.
Despite being firmly progressive, his emphasis on an empowering economic system rooted in freedom, as shown from his signature UBI proposal, was appealing to a good number of conservatives. It overcame the usual tropes that push those on the right away from centralized government and welfare programs. Granted, those on the left and right disagree on how UBI would coexist with current welfare programs, but the idea still serves to illustrate the unity that can be reached. Yang’s ideas are already making waves. This past Saturday, a California lawmaker introduced a bill for a universal income program.
When Bernie Sanders lost the presidential nomination in 2016, his ideas still lived on. His relentless support for a $15 minimum wage propelled the idea into the mainstream, and has since pushed a wave of states to enact the policy. Sanders’ vision for Medicare for All has also grown hugely in popularity, becoming one of the defining issues of the upcoming election. Sanders advanced the debate on these issues and many more. While Andrew Yang’s contributions may not reach the same magnitude, his ideas and message will definitely linger with many Americans, on the debate stage and in their homes.
When I first encountered value-added taxes and UBI in a high school debate, I remember thinking they were just interesting thought experiments that would never come to fruition. Now, against all expectations, these ideas have reached the mainstream. And this was only possible due to Andrew Yang’s approach to politics, defined by unrelenting empirical analysis and ideas over partisanship.
EDWARD SEOL is a first year in Berkeley College. His column runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .