“You all heard at some point there’s an Asian man running for president who wants to give everyone $1,000 a month,” the 44-year-old New York Democrat said to laughter and cheers inside a packed union hall this month in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Then he turned serious: “We’re in an era of economic change, and we need to think differently.”
That way of thinking has propelled Yang, the Ivy League-educated son of Taiwanese immigrants who would be the country’s first Asian-American president, from what many considered to be an entertaining diversion to a mainstream contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.
Now Yang’s campaign, which began in 2017 but has seen its fortunes rise sharply in recent months, is rushing to catch up with rivals.
He stands near 3% in the latest public opinion polls, putting him in sixth place in the 19-candidate field ahead of numerous sitting lawmakers. His $10 million fundraising haul in the third quarter was the sixth-most among Democrats and more than triple his total for the second quarter.
Most importantly, he continues to inspire a fervent following known as the Yang Gang, supporters who wear blue “MATH” hats - a tribute to Yang’s devotion to data that has since become an acronym for “Make America Think Harder” - and revel in his “nerdy” campaign.
When Yang promised to become the first president to use PowerPoint in a State of the Union address, the Las Vegas crowd chanted, “PowerPoint! PowerPoint!”
Yang’s central message – that automation is destroying U.S. jobs and that his “Freedom Dividend” is the best way to mitigate the damage – has particularly resonated with young, male Democrats, independents and some Republicans, according to Reuters/Ipsos polls.
In that sense, Yang appears to be drawing many of the same types of voters U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders did in his unexpectedly strong outsider run for the White House in 2016.
According to Reuters polling data, Sanders supporters are three times as likely to choose Yang as their second favorite than backers of either U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren or former Vice President Joe Biden, the other two leading contenders.
Las Vegas resident Kelsey McCormick, 30, said she “fell in love” with Yang after hearing about his universal basic income proposal.
“It’s refreshing for a politician to say he’ll give people what they need without telling them how to use it,” she said.
Source: Reuters News