Robots I’m a conservative — and I could live with Andrew Yang as president


  • If primary elections were decided on likability, Andrew Yang would be running away with the 2020 Democratic primary.
  • Yang’s Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income proposal, isn’t perfect, but it’s preferable to a lot of other plans proposed by Democrats such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
  • Yang is genuine and does not come off as condescending to conservatives and Trump voters.
  • Karol Markowicz is a writer in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The presidential candidate you’d most like to have a beer with is typically the one who wins in the head-to-head general election. But the candidate you’d most like to have a beer with does not necessarily win a crowded primary. If that were the case, Andrew Yang would be the runaway favorite in the Democratic field.

Affable, jokey, and armed with numbers and statistics, Yang has managed to make all four Democratic debates, a feat that plenty of established candidates have failed to accomplish. He’s used his time in a meticulous way, banging the drum for his key proposal: universal basic income, or, as he calls it, the “Freedom Dividend.”

Yang’s plan isn’t especially compatible with conservatism, and yet he frequently gets praise and approval from people on the right. His personality is a big draw. In an especially divided time, he doesn’t lob the insults that many of his fellow candidates do nor talk down to voters who aren’t part of the Democratic-primary constituency.

Yang’s hallmark plan falls short

Frankly, Yang’s plan is mostly absurd. He’s correctly concerned that many jobs are being replaced by computers and robots, but his doomsday predictions are somewhat farfetched. He predicts a mass replacement of human workers by robots will happen far sooner than most experts predict.

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Yang points out again and again that the most common job in a majority of states is “truck driver” and warns self-driving trucks are coming. He says it will cause “riots in the street.”

To counter this coming disaster, Yang’s Freedom Dividend would give every single adult American $1,000 a month.

This plainly makes no sense. Those truck drivers who are imminently about to be replaced make about $50,000 to $80,000 a year, according to Yang. What is $12,000 going to do for them?

But it’s not meant to replace income, Yang says: It’s supposed to supplement it. The frequently asked questions on his connection about the Freedom Dividend answers the question about whether people will still work like this: “In our plan, each adult would receive only $12,000 a year. This is barely enough to live on in many places and certainly not enough to afford much in the way of experiences or advancement. To get ahead meaningfully, people will still need to get out there and work.”

Work which jobs? We were just told that the truck drivers would be summarily fired when self-driving trucks became the standard and would riot in the street. And as Yang himself said on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast in February, most of these drivers are high school educated. Yang said they didn’t love school 25 years ago; they’re not about to go and get recertified for some other job that probably doesn’t exist.

Yang’s charisma stands out

While Yang’s signature plan may not pass muster, the proposal is mostly irrelevant to his draw.

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What Yang has — which so many of the other Democratic candidates lack — is a real perspective that the US is not actually divided into left and right. Yang isn’t on the stage to take from some people and give to others. Even his UBI would pay the same $1,000 to everyone, whether they need it or not. He’s not there to sow resentment or to insult half the country.

It’s this that makes him so likable and such an important presence on the stage. When Beto O’Rourke called Elizabeth Warren “punitive” during the last debate, he could have been talking to any one of the other candidates.

Yes, Warren’s wealth tax takes the idea further than the others, but each leading Democratic candidate has a clear group of supporters who get the majority of the benefit from the candidate’s major plans. When Bernie Sanders says he wants to cancel all student debt, it’s clear that it’s a gimme for his young fan base. It’s “tuition should be free” not “electric bills should be free” or any number of things that would have an effect on a wide variety of people.

By contrast, Yang is trying to reach all types of people. When speaking with Rogan, Yang told the story of Dennis the trucker in Iowa, telling him that he “doesn’t feel that Democrats care about people like me.” Yang seems as if he cares about all of us.

Another part of the appeal is Yang says things that Democrats are not really allowed to say.

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“The media is not being honest about all the economic drivers,” Yang told Rogan. “They’re blaming racism, Russia, Facebook, the FBI. And if you look at the voter-district data on the district-by-district basis, there’s a straight line-up between the adoption of industrial robots in that voting district and the movement toward Trump.”

And while Yang’s plans might be far-fetched, he’s also standing alongside candidates such as Sanders and Warren, who want to scrap the entire private health-insurance industry in support of their “Medicare for All” plan. Suddenly, $1,000 per person per month doesn’t seem crazy.

For conservatives, if we have to pick an expensive, ridiculous plan, Yang’s seems like the best of the bunch. For most people it would translate to keeping more of their own money. For the rest it would replace certain welfare programs.

And he doesn’t seem to hate us. That’s the biggest plus of all.

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