Andrew Yang, a fringe Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential election, called for universal basic income—providing $1,000 a month to every American over the age of 18—at a campaign rally on Boston Common on April 10.
As Yang’s first stop on his “Humanity First” tour, he focused on economic reforms to offer a solution to rapid automation, or the replacement of human jobs by machine counterparts. Yang’s website details over 80 other policy proposals he plans to run on, such as reducing student loan burdens, lowering the voting age to 16, and making the NCAA pay student athletes.
Yang hails from New York and most recently founded Venture For America, an organization that helps entrepreneurs create jobs in cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, according to his website.
Yang garnered 1 percent of Democrats’ support in Massachusetts according to an April 7 poll of 371 individuals by the Emerson College Polling Society. The same poll showed Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic pool in Massachusetts with 26 percent of the vote.
“If you’re out here tonight, you’ve probably heard that there’s an Asian man running for president who wants to give everybody $1,000 a month,” Yang said during the rally. “All three of those things are correct.”
Hundreds of spectators gathered around the Parkman Bandstand in 48-degree weather holding posters with slogans “Not Left or Right but Forward” and “Welcome to Math-Achusetts,” referencing Yang’s tendency to focus on numbers in his arguments.
Sophomore Antonio Camasmie attended the rally after hearing about Yang from a friend in January and listening to podcasts, such as The Joe Rogan Experience, featuring the presidential candidate.
“He’s a super transparent candidate,” Camasmie said in a phone interview. “Everything he wants to do is super clear, and he’s very vocal about it.”
Yang’s humanity-first policy platform focuses on alleviating the effects of automation on various manufacturing and retail jobs, according to his website. Yang acknowledged during the rally that many of his supporters come from varying political backgrounds, including some who voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
“We got so desperate we just elected a narcissist reality TV star,” he said. “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.”
The crowd included mostly college students and young adults—a testament to Yang’s younger demographic that he gained through the use of memes and social media.
“I think that millennials have been hungry for someone to try and actually improve their lives and undo some of the damages that have been done over the last number of years,” Yang said in an interview after the rally. “[Millennials] see in my candidacy a set of proposals and policies that are actually centered around the world they live in.”
Christine Donohue is one of the lead organizers of a group of supporters called the Massachusetts Yang Gang and spoke at the rally. Donohue said she often votes Republican but views Yang as the most qualified candidate running in either party.
“He was so genuine when I saw him speak,” Donohue said in an interview. “He’s going to fix things in a way that they stay fixed, and he’s also very open to hearing other ideas. If a year into UBI, it’s not working out the way he thought it would work out, he’s going to say, ‘It’s not—let’s sit down and figure this out.’”
Camasmie similarly said that he believes Yang’s ability to engage and sway a wide array of voters makes him a promising candidate.
“He’s definitely reaching a large variety of voters that a lot of other liberal candidates haven’t been doing,” Camasmie said. “It’s sort of telling how confident [Yang] is in his policies.”