Washington (AFP) – Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang may not become the next US president, but the clear-headed futurist has mounted a surprisingly vigorous White House bid centered around his plan for universal basic income.
For the past year, the son of Taiwanese immigrants has crisscrossed early voting states like Iowa, calmly but convincingly telling whoever will listen that the automating away of some four million jobs in America’s heartland helped elect President Donald Trump.
Yang’s message is part dark warning — the rise of the machines is real — and part clarion call for solutions to cushion the blow in an era of massive transformational change.
His campaign has gone from a long slog convincing skeptical voters about his pledge to provide every American adult with $1,000 a month, to a solid run for the Democratic nomination that few saw coming, and which puts him in the next nationally televised debate with nine other Democrats.
Yang, 44, has seen his crowds, once numbering a few dozen people or fewer, nudge into the hundreds, sometimes 1,000-plus, and readily sits for interviews with conservative commentators, leading to broad cross-party exposure.
While he has described himself as the opposite of Trump — “an Asian guy who likes math” — he is eager to woo Trump supporters, especially working-class white men anxious about their diminishing socioeconomic status.
Come September 12, Yang will be the only non-politician on the debate stage, standing alongside political giants like former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.
People have taken notice, including SpaceX and Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk.
“I support Yang,” Musk tweeted August 10, a succinct seeming presidential endorsement from a highly visible global entrepreneur.
Yang, whose go-to outfit is a sport coat, dress shirt and no tie, has never held elected office. He is relaxed and direct, a skilled explainer beholden to no political camp.
One year ago he was a political nobody. By February he was the novelty candidate. Today he is outpolling three sitting US senators, a current and former congressman, and the mayor of New York.
“People started catching on to the fact that I was proposing solutions, not sound bites, and that we can actually start solving the problems on the ground,” Yang told AFP in Iowa at a Democratic dinner.