Andrew Yang officially announced on Feb. 11 that he has dropped out of the 2020 presidential race.
Although many Yang supporters are very upset over the news, we must not fail to recognize that the strides Andrew Yang has made for the Asian American community are absolutely unprecedented. His campaign brought something special to the table — a new voice in American politics. He created national visibility for the Asian American community, a community that has historically been misrepresented and underrepresented. He proudly introduced the world to the complex dual-identity that is Asian America.
Not only did his campaign help make the Asian American community more visible, but it also unified the community. He became what we fought for. His run was something that the community could stand behind and fight for together. Similar to how Obama’s 2008 run unified the Black community resulting in the largest Black voter turnout up until that point, Yang’s run activated Asian Americans, particularly young Asian Americans, to become more involved in politics. He led Asian Americans into an arena that we are relatively unfamiliar with.
That being said, his run was not without controversy. Throughout the duration of his campaign, he was often criticized for feeding into Asian stereotypes, which at times polarized the Asian American community. One of his campaign slogans was “Make America Think Harder,” which when abbreviated, is referred to as “MATH”. However, at the end of the day, it is undeniable that he brought Asian American issues to the forefront of American politics.
His campaign sparked new conversations around Asian American issues. For example, there were several instances where the press called him the wrong name, or where he was outright omitted from media coverage of the presidential race. He publicly spoke on these issues which sparked some much-needed dialogue around Asian American representation in the media. Even though there are debates over whether his campaign was unifying or polarizing, he has created a new dialogue around Asian American-ness.
Also, there has never before been an Asian American power couple to the caliber of Andrew and Evelyn Yang in America. Evelyn Yang used her spotlight to come out to CNN with her story of sexual assault by her gynecologist back in 2012. Her decision to become vulnerable and to share such a dark part of her story to the world encouraged other women with similar experiences to come forward about their stories of abuse from the same offender.
Something so unique about his campaign is that rather than running on supporting or speaking against existing institutions, he brought his own solution to the table: his “freedom dividend.” He has a clear vision of what he believes the future will be, and his solution was genuinely to create a better future for the people.
For those who are unfamiliar, Yang’s freedom dividend is essentially his own version of the age-old idea of a “universal basic income,” or UBI, which is a form of social security that guarantees every citizen a recurring lump sum of money for each designated period of time, regardless of any external factors such as employment status. The motivation for this policy is what Yang predicts will occur in the future — technology, automation, and artificial intelligence taking over jobs leading to skyrocketing unemployment rates and leaving a widening gap between the rich and the poor. He wanted to give every American who is 18 and over $1000 per month, and as he described, this will lead to a society where capitalism doesn’t start at zero. At the very least, he has left America with new ideas for the future.
Yang is also unique because, throughout his campaign, he remained very grounded and connected to his community. It was clear that a large part of Yang’s identity, unlike other presidential candidates, was tied to his community. He was unafraid to showcase his personality on national television, and people loved him for that — he was authentic.
The best part about his campaign, arguably, is the fact that he has inspired the next generation of Asian American politicians. There is a young man or woman out there who, because of Andrew Yang, now believes that it is possible — that they can become the first Asian American president of the United States. We only ever advance as a community because of pioneers like Andrew Yang.