Longshot 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang is using an online meme army to raise millions

  • 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang‘s sudden surge of online popularity helped him raise $US1.7 million in two months.
  • Yang is a political outsider, but he’s making waves in the primary by drawing on his unique expertise as an entrepreneur and businessman to sound the alarm about the rise of automation.
  • Joseph Anthony, branding and social media expert and CEO of New York-based marketing agency the HERO Group, told INSIDER he believes Yang’s simple but unique message is driving his sudden online popularity.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

A few months ago, Andrew Yang was a relatively unknown venture capitalist and entrepreneur running a longshot campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, with low name recognition and little footprint in the polls.

But thanks to appearances on the Joe Rogan Experience and the Breakfast Club – one a hugely popular podcast and the other a highly-rated radio show, both with diverse audiences – the political newcomer gained traction and a large following across social media, seemingly overnight.

And since then, Yang has made multiple appearances on Fox News and on conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s podcast – neither of which are usually frequented by Democratic presidential contenders.

Those appearances helped expose Yang to audiences who might not have otherwise heard of him, namely, the so-called “meme masters” of Reddit, 4Chan, and other forums.


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Searching #YangGang on Twitter, Reddit, or Facebook, you’ll see a slew of memes about Yang accompanied by the slogan “secure the bag,” which refers to Yang’s signature policy proposal of giving every American adult $US1,000 a month – a universal basic income program which he’s termed the Freedom Dividend.

Some of Yang’s loyal base of online support comes from liberals, but also from a sizeable contingent of former Trump supporters who are disappointed in Trump not fulfilling his campaign promise to bring jobs back to economically downtrodden areas, and are now latching on to the Freedom Dividend as the only viable solution any 2020 contenders are presenting to those problems.

https://twitter.com/yang1k/status/1111673885823586305?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

The Yang Gang not only made Yang the dominant presence on many online meme forums but funneled their enthusiasm into the real world by mobilizing among themselves to give a surge of small online donations to Yang’s campaign.

This unexpected windfall of contributions driven almost entirely by the Internet, which no other 2020 candidate has experienced, helped Yang secure the required 65,000 individual campaign donations to guarantee him a spot on the stage for the first Democratic primary debates in June in Miami.

Read more: Democratic candidates are fighting to get enough attention and money to make the first debate stage – here’s everyone who’s qualified so far

Yang’s campaign announced on April 2 that he raised $US1.7 million from 80,000 donors who gave an average of $US17.92 in February and March of 2019, more than twice the amount he raised between October 2017 and December 2018. Yang also said he raised 95% of his total haul after February 11, the day he appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience.

“An outsider candidate raising nearly $US2 million in two months in entirely small contributions is unheard of,” Yang’s campaign manager Zach Graumann told The Daily Beast. “Andrew Yang has proven he can build an online fundraising army from scratch, the Yang Gang effect is real.”

Yang is a political outsider, but he’s making waves in the primary by drawing on his unique expertise as an entrepreneur and businessman to sound the alarm about the rise of mass automation in America – a problem that in his view, few other 2020 candidates or politicians have substantively addressed or tacked.

“We’re in the midst of automating away the most common jobs in our economy. We automated away four million manufacturing jobs in all the swing states … and we’re about to do the same thing to millions of retail jobs, call-center jobs, fast-food jobs, truck-driving jobs, and on and on,” Yang recently told INSIDER.

According to a new analysis from the Washington Post,a full 65% of Yang’s social media postings have pertained to the issue of economic inequality, compared to 22% of postings from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and 19% of Sen. Bernie Sanders – two candidates who are also running campaigns based on promoting economic equality and reigning in corporate power.

His message is striking a chord with a wide variety of communities, in particular, those whose communities were upended by the decline of manufacturing jobs and may have voted for Donald Trump in 2016.


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Drawing on his experience working in cities affected by automation, the former CEO and entrepreneur’s campaign slogan is “humanity first,” and he wants to subsidise his universal basic income plan and other social welfare programs to invest in human capital by taxing the companies that benefit most from automation.

“We’re in a race right now that we cannot win, and our only path forward is to start reshaping our economy around us – make it so that the economy serves us instead of us being inputs into the machine,” Yang recently told INSIDER of his human-centered capitalism vision.

Joseph Anthony, a branding and social media expert and CEO of New York-based marketing agency the HERO Group, told INSIDER in a March phone interview he believes Yang’s simple but unique message is conducive to memes, which is helping to drive his sudden online popularity.

“If you can find a policy and an agenda that is broad enough to appeal to a specific constituency, and you can deliver that message in a unique way endemic to how that community engages content, eventually you’ll break through – especially if the message is authentic,” he said of Yang garnering support for his campaign by focusing on economic inequality.

Anthony argued that while it may not seem like an obvious comparison, he believes Yang is tapping into the similar not-a-politician approach that Presidents Barack Obama and Trump employed in their own campaigns.

They both took advantage of their respective parties not being united around a singular message or candidate to break through the fray with a unique and clear message, whether it was “hope & change” for Obama, “draining the swamp” for Trump, and now, “humanity first” for Yang.


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While Yang has never held elected office before, his campaign website lists well over 90 highly-detailed and unique policies he supports and would enact as president – far more than any other candidate.

Anthony added that Yang could gain an edge over the rest of the field by “letting the traditional politicians fight it out” while he emphasises “sound economic principles and business practices that are about getting things done” instead of having to spend much of his time defending his political record.

“Democrats are not going to win with a message about resentful or angry….their ideas have to be presented in compelling and simple ways to drive the narrative organically,” Anthony predicted, adding that if Yang “continues to refine that message tap into specific communities’ self-interests, he could start making some noise.”

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