Entrepreneur and Venture for America founder Andrew Yang, the technocratic Silicon Valley bro candidate in the 2020 Democratic primaries, is out after scoring just three percent in the New Hampshire primaries.
Amid early returns in New Hampshire that boded poorly for his campaign (the New York Times placed him at seventh place on Tuesday evening), Yang told the Daily Beast that he no longer had a path to victory and would prefer to redirect his supporters’ effort and resources towards another candidate. That likely leaves Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard as the only person of color still running a Democratic primary campaign (former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has said he will “make some decisions” on Wednesday, i.e. almost certainly dropping out).
“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. “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 ran as a data-oriented candidate who focused on internet organization and whose message leaned heavily on his universal basic income (UBI) plan, the Freedom Dividend, which would distribute $1,000 a month to every adult ages 18-64 and be paid for by a value-added tax (VAT). Yang pitched the Freedom Dividend as a way to help workers displaced by automation. The idea of starting a UBI program has generally lurked at the margins of U.S. politics but has attracted pockets of support from across the spectrum, including libertarians, progressives, and tech CEOs worried about backlash to, well, inequality caused by tech companies.
Some top UBI advocates warned that Yang’s version of the policy might end up replacing rather than supplement social welfare programs. Progressive economists generally consider VATs regressive because lower-income people tend to spend more of their money on basic goods and services, which could mean that funding the Freedom Dividend via VAT might end up wiping out many of the benefits. Politico contributing editor Bill Scher argued that Yang never became an effective UBI advocate and in failing to do so lost an opportunity to bring the policy into serious consideration.
Other Yang positions that seemed tailored to appeal to the Silicon Valley set included verifying elections through blockchain, creating a “Legion of Builders and Destroyers” infrastructure program that could overrule state and local authorities, automatically sunsetting old laws, and “streamlining” federal bureaucracies. In one of his weirder turns, he also pitched the idea of a Department of Attention Economy to regulate the negative effects of smartphones and apps.
Yang also relied heavily on eccentric internet-focused campaigning and was known for a small but passionate following of meme-makers called the Yang Gang. That unfortunately came with some white supremacists, though to be clear, it’s not clear how many Yang-supporting Nazis actually existed or whether they were all that serious about it. (As the Nation noted, Yang’s “blend of serious policy ideas and attention-seeking lolz leaves voters at a loss to tell the two categories apart,” and the same could probably be said of some of his supporters.) Yang disavowed these people and explained to the Intercept that his best guess as to why some of them supported was that his economic platform would benefit working people, including working class whites.
Finally, on the climate, Yang had some doomer energy. His approach took the idea that humans are decades too late to prevent climate catastrophe as a given. Alongside some more conventional emissions-reductions ideas, he offered up shaky alternatives like investing $4.87 trillion in unproven, long shot technologies and $800 million to research geoengineering. (Geoengineering, or large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural processes like spewing aerosols into the atmosphere to deflect light, could come with major consequences.)
Also out with Yang is Senator Michael Bennet, who was expected to win well less than one percent of the vote. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer slightly beat out Yang at four percent in New Hampshire. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s campaigns had bad showings at eight percent and nine percent respectively. None of these candidates placed high enough to win any Democratic National Convention delegates from the race.
Moving up the ladder, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar placed third at 20 percent, while former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg placed second at 24 percent. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders eked out a victory at 26 percent, shoring up his frontrunner status. Not in the race was billionaire plutocrat and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is pouring hundreds of millions into ads.