Entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang joined the Johnston Area Democrats for breakfast Saturday, his eighth visit to the state. It was part of a three-day tour around Iowa.
Yang spent a lot of time emphasizing that, from his experience and career as an entrepreneur, he sees his unique campaign platform to provide each and every American adult $1,000 per month as a critical next step for the country. Universal basic income (UBI) is Yang’s flagship policy proposal.
Yang says this policy idea, which he calls the “Freedom Dividend,” has resonated with voters more because of the mentality behind it, rather than the specifics.
“I’ve found that Iowa Democrats and progressives are attracted to a really forward-thinking, problem-solving approach,” Yang said. “So, when people talk to me, what I realize is that their focus is less on the particular policy, and more on the mindset. And I think people like that I don’t seem particularly ideological or partisan. I just want to get the job done.”
Yang is also hoping to attract more independent and Republican voters with the UBI proposal.
“There are a lot of independents and Republicans and conservatives who are very attracted to this policy,” Yang said. “I’ve actually had many people here in Iowa come up to me and say ‘I’m a Republican, but I like you a lot, I’m considering caucusing for you. I voted for Donald Trump and I’ll vote for you.’ I get comments like that all the time.”
Yang theorizes because supporters of President Trump’s campaign cast their votes hoping for an entrepreneurial president, he can win many of their votes.
“Real entrepreneurs build organizations, treat people well, try and build institutions that will stand the test of time,” Yang said. “They’re very results-oriented, they don’t rely on bluster or appearance or ego, and that’s the type of entrepreneur that I think more Americans hoped that they were getting when they took a chance on Donald Trump.”
And despite having a “very, very progressive” agenda, Yang believes he can build a broad base of voters from all parties.
“I believe I’m going actually to be able to galvanize not just Democrats and progressives…but I can also get independents and Republicans because they see that I’m just trying to solve the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place,” Yang said.
However, Yang emphasized that he’s got more to offer than just a universal basic income proposal.
“I’m certainly not just about one thing,” Yang said, citing his lengthy list of policies on his campaign website, something he made a point of to highlight to the audience Saturday.
Even without an inauguration-sized launch in Oakland or an announcement on late night TV, Yang feels he can stand out amongst the crowd.
“What we’ve seen is that when anyone declares, our traffic goes up, we get new fans and followers,” Yang said. “More people start paying more attention to the race, so [candidates] coming in is actually very good for us. And also, in a fragmented field, there’s a greater chance for someone like me to stick out.”
And he pointed out that his campaign is boosted by small donors, and that they’re not taking any PAC money.
“Our average donation is only 19 dollars, so I joke that our fans are even cheaper than Bernie’s,” Yang said. “But this is very much a campaign of the people, and it has to be. There’s no other way for it to succeed.”
Cecille Thompson of Johnston attended, and although hopeful for Yang, wondered about his viability as a candidate.
“He had a good message,” Thompson said. “How do you think you can win? Can you win the nomination, and how?”
Yang stated he has several more Iowa visits planned this month, and hopes to bring his family along with him to Iowa in March.
“I have to say, I love spending time in Iowa, because you all have the future of the country in your hands, and you know it, and you take the responsibility very seriously,” Yang said. “And I tell people around the country that Iowa is the only place where democracy actually functions the way it was originally intended, the voters of Iowa are very savvy and passionate and they want to meet with candidates and size them up, so it’s a joy to be here.”
by Jake Bullington