Andrew Yang, the businessman turned presidential aspirant whose bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination became a quirky, enchanting, then politically potent phenomenon, announced Tuesday that he will end his campaign.
Yang had been hoping for a fourth-place or better finish in the Granite State, but early returns suggested that he would fall short of those expectations and the decision was made to drop out rather than continue to drain the campaign of resources. His exit from the race leaves only one candidate of color in the primary field: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Samoan-American.
“I’m a numbers guy and if we are below a threshold where we are going to get delegates here in New Hampshire, if we are unlikely to hit that threshold in Nevada and South Carolina, it doesn't seem like we are actually furthering the goals of the campaign by staying in the race longer,” Yang told The Daily Beast in an interview on Tuesday evening. “I’m not someone who wants to take people’s donations, support, time and dedication if I don’t think we have a chance to win or advance our goals in the right direction.”
Yang never became a serious threat to win the party’s nomination. But the strength of his bid surprised national Democrats and raised questions—and tantalizing possibilities—for how the party could restructure its approach.
A newcomer to politics, Yang spent much of the early part of the campaign appearing on podcasts and embracing Internet meme culture to expand his popularity. His platform of giving Americans $1,000 every month as a form of fending off transformational economic trends like automation, along with his demand that tech companies pay people billions of dollars for monetizing their data, proved to be a major draw. And while several establishment candidates struggled to hit the donor threshold numbers needed to qualify for the debates, he exceeded them with ease.
On the debate stage, Yang kept promoting his Universal Basic Income platform, even arguing that a monthly paycheck would prove to be a remedy for climate change, in that families could take the money and move away from increasingly flooded coastal cities. But what defined his candidacy was the carefree, unconventional style of campaigning, which helped draw the endorsements of celebrities like comedian Dave Chappelle and actor/musician Donald Glover. He made self-referential jokes about being Asian and liking math—both used as a contrast to Donald Trump—and genuinely appeared to be having fun on the trail.
By the end of the campaign, Yang had built a veritable political machine. His campaign amassed more than 850,000 people on its email list, roughly 430,000 donors, 1.2 million Twitter followers and more than 577,000 Instagram followers. Those figures give him the type of organization tools that few seasoned national politicians enjoy. What he plans to do with it is not clear. But Yang said he was not ruling out a future run for elected office, in hopes of advancing universal basic income as a policy outcome.
“I think electoral politics will definitely be a part of this because we need to win races. We need to have candidates who support universal basic income be in positions of power in order to pass it,” he said. “I would be very open to running again. It would be a lot easier the next time. We have, now, a very large mailing list that is not my gmail contact list and a lot more public support and recognition. We could hit the ground running and I believe I could be a contender for virtually any race under the sun.”
More immediately, he pledged to do what he could to help elect whoever became the Democratic nominee to the White House. On that front, Yang has his work cut out for him. His unorthodox approach drew non-traditional voters. And in public surveys, many of the self-described Yang Gang said they had no plans to vote for another candidate in the field should Yang not end up the nominee. Yang acknowledged this issue and pledged to do what he could to convince his supporters to back the Democratic nominee.
“I think it is a positive thing that I’m energizing people that have not traditionally been a part of our politics,” he said. “Certainly I’m going to make very clear that my agenda is to defeat Donald Trump and I hope the people that supported me join me in that.”
He said he would endorse a candidate under the right conditions. “What I will say,” said Yang, “if any candidate wants my endorsement they could come out for universal basic income and the odds of my endorsing them the next day would be very high.”
The son of immigrants from Taiwan, Yang got his first taste of national politics when the Obama administration made him a “Champion of Change” in 2011 for his work with Venture for America, a non-profit focused on bringing jobs to recession-hit cities. But he had not run for any electoral office before announcing his presidential bid in 2017. His campaign was staffed by business and tech types. And they leaned heavily on popular podcasts, like Joe Rogan’s, reddit forums, and well-trafficked Twitter accounts —like “Andrew Yang Dank Meme Stash”—to expand his appeal and raise $1 donations. It worked, far better than they could have imagined. Yang raised $40 million from more than one million contributors.
But those funds didn’t translate into success at the polls even after Yang turned brought on board seasoned political operatives who had helped Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016. His campaign spent heavily at the end of 2019 but garnered around one percent of the delegates in Iowa—a dismal showing that prompted him to lay off dozens of staffers. Efforts to right the ship proved futile in New Hampshire and by Monday morning, a determination had been made that they lacked the cash to continue on successfully. Looking back, he took a few lessons from his run.
“I learned a lot. I learned the Iowa Democratic Party needs a better technology consultant,” he said, before switching to macro lessons he he had learned. “I learned the American people are hungry for a different kind of conversation, a different set of solutions and a different approach to solving the problems of our time.