At a town hall meeting in Windham, New Hampshire, Andrew Yang runs onto the stage with what seems to be his favorite song, “Return of the Mack,” and a crowd filled with his Yang Gang and on-the-fence voters.
Andrew Yang comes into New Hampshire finishing sixth in Iowa, and polling sixth overall. There’s little chance for a big win this Tuesday, but his Yang Gang has high hopes. Yang has invested a lot in New Hampshire. He has been able to attract Republican voters and believes that he is the only Democrat who can defeat Donald Trump this fall.
Yang calls himself a “numbers guy” and has explained how automation and technology have pushed jobs away. To combat this issue, Yang’s most prominent idea is his Freedom Dividend – or universal basic income.
“Personally, I wanted to be an artist and I decided not to just because of the financial burden and instability,” says new voter Francis Rose. “For that reason, I think universal basic income is really fantastic because it rewards jobs that are essentially not rewarded by the economy currently.”
Yang’s plan would give $12,000 a year to anyone over the age of 18, no questions asked. During his town hall at Windham High School on February 8th,, Yang mentioned occupations like artists and child care workers that would be able to take the most advantage of this plan. It would provide individuals to have financial freedom and the ability to invest in their communities, therefore boosting local economies.
Another “tech guy,” Javier Coindreau believes that automation will result in “three or four massive, ultra-rich cities and the rest of the country in ruins.”
Coindreau, another young voter, believes that the country is headed in a bad direction. One out of three Americans will lose their jobs in the next twelve years due to technologies that will force humans out, and robots in.
“We can see his solutions as moderate. His solutions are meant for the 21st century.”
A concern of a prospective voter at Yang’s town hall was that this plan would be abused, and people will receive the money and purchase drugs or television sets.
Yang’s response? “ If you take this money and buy a TV, that’s fine, it was your money, and we should empower people to make their own choices. People know best how to improve their own lives and situations… certainly better than any government or bureaucrat.” He continues, “that is the issue within the democratic party today, we need to trust people, we need to give power and decision-making to the people.”
Nursel Riley, a New Hampshire science teacher, would use the extra money to provide for her students and her classroom. An immigrant from Turkey, Riley recently received citizenship status this past November. The first thing she did when she gained her citizenship was researching all of the candidates so she can be knowledgeable of all her choices before her first time voting in a presidential election.
“He is the only forward-looking candidate, we are living in the 21st century. I am an educator. I know what we need to do to make sure our children are really prepared for the future,” she says. “He is the candidate most in touch with our problems, he is not stuck in the past.”
Riley believes that the freedom dividend would enable poor people to make better decisions for their own lives and situations. It is a more empowering plan than Warren’s. She says, “With Warren’s 2 percent wealth tax, we don’t want to see the country saying the rich pays for the poor, instead we’re all doing it and it’s a very unifying concept.”
“New Hampshire is ‘Live Free or Die’, sure, but how free are you if you don’t have enough resources to really live a meaningful life.” She says. “We are the richest country, but we still have people living on the streets.”
Other voters believe that not only is he the only candidate in touch with America’s harsh realities, that he is the only transparent candidate. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2019 only 17 percent of Americans said that they can trust the government to do what is right. The Freedom Dividend would give more power to the people, says a Yang supporter.
“I never really believed in that many people in the government. I think his basic universal income plan is a fantastic strategy to overhaul that.”
A common theme among Yang supporters is that they believe he unites everyone. Republicans are looking for an alternative to Trump, but not sure if they are ready to take that leap. Some first-time voters have been eager to cast their vote for a candidate they believe will speak for them.
Coindreau says, “He’s a unifier – he’s younger and relates much more closely to normal people and has solutions that we can see as moderate. His solutions are meant for the 21st century.”