As the 2020 Presidential Election marches forward, The Riveter plans to invite all of the candidates to speak at Riveter locations nationwide. This June, Andrew Yang came to The Riveter Capitol Hill in Seattle to talk about his platform.
Yang is a millionaire tech entrepreneur whose candidacy has gone viral. His enthusiastic fanbase, the Yang Gang, appeared in full force at the The Riveter. Yang addressed the excited room of supporters—whom he called “early adopters”—and instead of launching into his usual campaign speech, he shared what his campaign had planned for the month ahead, including a slew of national media appearances on Bill Maher, Dave Rubin, Pod Save America, the Daily Show, and a cover story in the Washington Post.
His press barrage was timed to the first Democratic debate at the end of June, and as he said, “Unlike you all, the vast majority of Americans have no idea who’s running for President in 2020,” he says. “It’s one reason why the field looks the way it does, because they’re glomming onto the names they recognize—Joe Biden. Anyone who’s keeping track knows that this field is going to be very, very fluid,” he said. “Who was leading the Republican field this time in 2015? Jeb with an exclamation point. That’s right. It was Jeb Bush.”
“Who was leading the Republican field this time in 2015? Jeb with an exclamation point. That’s right. It was Jeb Bush.”– Andrew Yang
Yang flashed a sense of humor, much of it self-deprecating, all night, pointing out that though he was still polling at one or two percent, so was Trump at this point in the race in 2015. “The joke I tell is they’re going to tune in, and they’re going to say, ‘Who’s the Asian man standing next to Joe Biden?’ They’re then going to Google ‘Asian man standing next to Joe Biden’, and they’re going to see Andrew Yang, and it’s like, ‘Oh, wait a minute. I heard something about this. This guy wants to give everyone $1000 a month. That’s a real thing? We can actually do this?’”
Yang was referring to the big centerpiece of his campaign: Universal Basic Income, or what he has dubbed, the “Freedom Dividend.” UBI is a controversial proposal to give every American $1000 a month. (To read more about UBI—see here and here). Yang’s proposal, which is controversial because it would come with a VAT (Value Added Tax) of 10% and would cut into welfare programs, is a way of addressing the fear that as more jobs are automated, many Americans will not be able to make ends meet as their jobs and skill sets will become obsolete.
One person asked if critics would equate his plan with socialism. He quipped that if his plan is socialist, so is Monopoly, the capitalist board game where you get money just for passing Go. “Then you can look at them and say, “Is Monopoly socialist?” which got a big laugh.
The 45-minute event was primarily a Q&A. Yang fielded questions from an audience who were well-versed on the pillars of his campaign, but discussed topics that might be new concepts to other people, ranging from blockchain technology, surveillance and the NSA, ranked choice voting, and court-packing and term limits (“If you increase the number and create term limits then we can make it less fraught and more modern and less political,” he said of the Supreme Court.)
He explained how ranked choice voting would work: Instead of picking the “lesser of two evils,” you could pick more than one person. “If you had ranked choice voting, then you could actually express your true preferences, and it would shift our politics over time.”
He answered questions about cryptocurrency and blockchain and surmised that blockchain technology could even be used to change the way we vote. “That’s a very ambitious thing, and we need to get there,” he said. “If you could vote via your smartphone in a way that’s secure and transparent, and you had high confidence in that, do you think we could get the voting rate up significantly?”
I think women should just decide for themselves what to do with reproductive rights.– Andrew Yang
He also touched on issues that are central to many Americans—including a woman’s right to choose and citizenship and immigration. Yang’s platform is pro-choice. “I think that we need to try and improve the lived experience of all Americans. We know that women are more likely to be abused and exploited by employers and in relationships, and having economic security would help millions of American women be able to improve their own situations,” he said, adding, “I think women should just decide for themselves what to do with reproductive rights.”
One person asked if UBI would be for citizens only and Yang said yes, with a caveat: It should be easier, not harder to become a citizen.
“I want to make it vastly easier, faster, more efficient for anyone who wants to become a citizen to be able to do so, and not have the crazy processes and the crazy waiting periods,” Yang said, pointing out that he is the son of immigrants. “I think that immigrants make our country stronger and more dynamic, economically and culturally,” he said. “I’m the opposite of Donald Trump. You all know, opposite of Donald Trump. Asian man who likes math, that’s right,” he said to laughs.
“Not only Donald Trump, but in terms of immigrants, he wants to build a wall and keep people out. I want to give immigrants a hug.”
The Riveter is bringing more Presidential candidates to a location near you. Next up: Mayor Pete, in Seattle, on July 23.