Hanging With the Yang Gang
DES MOINES, Iowa – The night before the final Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses, hundreds of people flooded to Drake University to see a candidate that did not qualify for the CNN debate. While entrepreneur Andrew Yang had met the individual donations requirement, he fell short of the polling thresholds that the DNC had set. Still, Mr. Yang has persisted in his campaigning and pushing of his flagship policy idea – universal basic income. It’s worth noting that Mr. Yang is not a politician, and his event reflected such. Mr. Yang himself took on a much more casual tone with the audience throughout the event.
The first notable instance of Mr. Yang’s nonchalance came as he was announced. He threw away the curtain blocking him from the audience’s view and raised his hands high above his head. He then proceeded to dance up to the stage. During this time, he came close to where the seats started and involved fans more than a typical candidate. It was more reminiscent of a pop star preparing to perform than a candidate ready to answer the tough policy questions on the audience’s mind.
The tone continued with Mr. Yang’s speaking style. He didn’t command authority or exude what media pundits could call the “presidential quality.” He commonly used filler words such as “like” or “um.” He would laugh when the crowd laughed or when the crowd said something funny. Finally, he had a signature hand gesture. He kept his fingers loose and would hold it in front of his chest. This gesture was continuous. Overall his speaking style was conversational.
It was Mr. Yang’s content that added most to the tone of the event. For one, he involved the crowd much more than other campaigns. He started by asking why President Trump was elected. After collecting answers ranging from Russia to Hillary Clinton to immigrants, he continued with his own reasons: automation and the inability of the Democratic Party to address the root issues that have plagued the average American. He would routinely ask the audience more questions such as “How many people are here tonight?” He would always patiently wait for the audience to get their answers in and repeat the ones he heard into the microphone.
At one point during the town hall, someone asked a question about health care. They prefaced the question by saying that they had been personally affected by cancer. Mr. Yang immediately asked who it was that she knew who had cancer. In this case, it was a family member and a friend. Mr. Yang didn’t use the woman’s response in his answer. He genuinely seemed interested in how she was affected.
It’s this feeling that I believe Mr. Yang shoots for in his events. He painted himself as a candidate that can celebrate when we celebrate and cry when we cry. It all led to his main points. He’s the candidate who correctly diagnosed the problems and has the solution. He’s the candidate that truly understands the people. He’s the anti-Trump candidate.