Now This! Andrew Yang’s Intimate Health Care Moment with Iowans
DES MOINES, Iowa — Last weekend, 12,000 Iowans swarmed the Polk County Democrats annual Steak Fry fundraiser. The largest Steak Fry in history hosted 17 Democratic candidates for President, and apparently, things got a little crazy. I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there.
Instead, I chose to spend my afternoon in a much less crowded – and less wet – space. Minutes after stepping off of the stump at the Steak Fry, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang made his way over to Raygun in the East Village where he met about twelve potential caucus-goers to talk about health care (myself and two other Iowa Caucus Project staffers included).
Before the event started, we had a casual conversation with Yang. We talked about everything, his plans to square off against Senator Ted Cruz in a one-on-one basketball game, his plans for the weekend, and how delicious the fried steak was at the Steak Fry.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect upon walking in. I figured that since the event was streamed, there would be some sort of question-vetting process. Many large-scale political events (like a CNN town hall or the AARP Candidate Forums this summer, for example), will accept question submissions from the public and to select the best questions. That way, the candidates have something substantive and critical to respond to.
But, this event wasn’t like that at all. We all took a seat on folding chairs in the Mars Café attached to Raygun, and we were briefed on the format. Yang would sit, he would be introduced by a moderator, he would say a few words about his campaign, and then the room would begin asking whatever they wanted to ask him. As long as the questions pertaining to health care, the organizers didn’t seem to care what we talked about.
The hour-long event was live-streamed by NowThis News and is publicly available for streaming. You can watch the entire meet-and-greet here. If you fast-forward to the six-minute mark, you can see me ask Yang the first question of the event (!!!). I opened the conversation by asking Yang how he as President would work to make basic contraceptive care more widely available to women in low-income communities.
The room was split about 50/50 as far as gender goes, so I was rather surprised by the sheer number of questions asked about women’s health care. Other people asked about abortion access, pre-, and post-natal care, paid parental leave, and why women of color tend to have worse health outcomes after giving birth. Overall, I perceived Yang’s answers to be thoughtful and sympathetic while making a clearly conscious effort to hold tight to his talking points.
He was also asked about a number of other topics in regard to his health care policy. He was asked about diet and nutrition, holistic health care, prescription drug prices, the legalization of marijuana, and the opioid crisis. The room didn’t hold back, and neither did he. He was candid in his responses and he relied on his casual style to drive home the issues. It was very easy in moments like this to forget that he started this primary season as a millionaire venture capitalist and tech mogul.
I’m not necessarily convinced that anyone in that room changed their mind about Andrew Yang. If you went into the event a fan, your beliefs were confirmed. If you walked in a skeptic, you left just as skeptical. While Yang can still be considered a wildcard candidate, he has done very little in the campaign that is particularly surprising. He is very true to his brand, and his supporters love it. At the end of the chat, he posed for pictures, distributed copies of his book, The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income is Our Future, and personally signed each copy. Mine says, “To Kiley, thanks for all you do! Andrew Yang,” and I think that’s pretty cool.