Unicorn Puppet Hand
The moment I stepped into the Olmsted building on Drake University’s campus, I was faced with a sea of entrepreneur Andrew Yang supporters and MATH hats. I did not expect such a large amount of attendees, especially the large portion that was planning on caucusing for Yang. Holding the event on a college campus most definitely increased the overall attendance, but that was not the only reason so many people showed up. The Yang Gang is notorious for showing up and showing out for their candidate, whether it be virtually or in person.
As the crowd began to shuffle in, the staffers asked us to scan a QR code in order to enter the room and check-in. I recognized the strategy in this, for everyone who scanned this code had to fill out each box, or else they were not supposed to sit down. This meant that the Yang campaign retrieved a hefty load of data to sort through and new phone numbers to contact as the caucus draws closer. I spoke with people sitting around me before the event began almost 30 minutes later than it was listed. Next to me was someone deeply involved with the Iowa Democratic Party. I asked him what he thought about Andrew Yang and the way that he is running his campaign. He told me that as far as he was aware, there are zero seasoned staffers in the Yang Gang. This was nothing short of fascinating to me. Andrew Yang has run a mildly successful campaign for months and has prevailed past several qualified candidates with a staff who is, logistically, unsure of what they are doing.
As we continued to wait for the event to begin, it became clear that this would potentially be the largest Andrew Yang event ever held. The Des Moines Register clocked the attendance at around 700 people. This is dramatically different than what I was expecting.
The crowd was the most surreal aspect of this event. Andrew Yang does an incredible job of mobilizing people that are not typically active in political spheres, especially younger people. The caucus-goers that Yang particularly seems to interest are younger couples, men in fraternities, and middle school boys. His Yang Gang is dominated by men, yet a very racially diverse group of men. Upon entering the room, I spotted a white man with dreads, a group of college skater boys, at least seven young couples with their children, a man drinking a Monster energy drink, exchange students from Iowa State University, almost the entire Drake men’s tennis team and a woman with a unicorn puppet on her hand. The crowd was ecstatic. As soon as Andrew Yang took the stage, they immediately started singing him “Happy Birthday” for his 45th birthday. There were even supporters that brought him a cake.
At the end of the event, Yang Gang volunteers and staff were perusing the crowd to see if anyone would commit to caucus and sign up for volunteer shifts. The problem with mobilizing a crowd of caucus-goers is that they do not necessarily want to volunteer due to their lack of confidence. College students and young families also do not have the time to donate to a campaign. I watched as the staffers walked around and asked people to volunteer, to which everyone I saw said that they would not.
Once a staffer approached me and asked me if I would commit to caucus for Yang, I said no. He then asked me if I knew I was supporting, to which I responded with the name of a different candidate. Normally after I explain this to them, I am left alone. However, this particular staffer wanted to know more. He then said, “Really? Not even Bernie?!” I was shocked by the statement and did not know what to say. An Andrew Yang staffer just confronted me not about his own candidate, but about why I would not caucus for Bernie Sanders. I took my picture with the presidential hopeful and went directly to bed.