There are 5 minutes left in a very intense caucus in Iowa. In this specific precinct, Joe Biden and Andrew Yang were both not viable after the first round. There’s an impassioned discussion between the two groups on who’s group should disband and support the other candidate. Supporters teetering between the two groups waiting for the last minute to see who will be more viable. It’s no surprise, in an election where the top issue among democrats is getting Donald Trump out of office, that the discussion lands on electability. As the precinct captain for Yang in this particular precinct, I am talking to Biden supporters fervently about how Yang is the truly electable candidate. In the last moment the head of the Biden group jumps over to Yang and more than half of the rest of the group shortly follows leading to Andrew Yang becoming viable in the second round, winning delegates, and placing fourth in the precinct while Joe Biden’s number drops to zero consequently winning no delegates. Just months, maybe even weeks, ago this story may have been considered implausible by many democratic voters. I’m here to tell you why this was able to happen and how there is an underlying factor in Yang’s candidacy that is waiting to be woken up among repeated voters, not just new ones.
To demonstrate this point I want to start by showing that the fact that Biden supporters were open to supporting Yang points, first, to his widespread likeability. After all, Yang is polling the highest in the least disliked category. Additionally, he is the only candidate with a net-positive favorability among democratic voters. And, second, it shows a trend we are starting to see across the field: Andrew Yang is quickly becoming the second choice for voters across all candidates, on the left and on the right. To display this point with another example I want to talk about an experience I had knocking doors for Andrew in Iowa. Walking around a middle-class neighborhood my canvassing partner and I knock on a door answered by an avid Trump supporter. The discussion goes on for several minutes touching on a whole range of subjects and at one point this voter states that out of any democratic candidate Yang would be her choice. The economy was this voters’ top concern and while a conversation at the door wasn’t sufficient enough to discuss Yang’s full economic view so as to broaden the definition of the economy for her the conversation ended with this voter being open to Yang’s policies. We take this experience as it is and walk across the street in the same culdesac to knock on another door. This time we are greeted with “Before you say anything I like Biden and Yang.” As you can imagine this opened up the start to a fantastic conversation that ended with the voters’ concerns being voiced as wanting someone who can win the presidency but already having high favorability for Yang.
With each of these voters, there is a primary lesson to be learned. First, with Trump voters, Yang is the absolutely most appealing candidate across the board. As we all know, Yang is laser-focused on the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place. Additionally, however, Yang doesn’t turn off voters with too radical ideas, identity politics, or establishment political rhetoric like every other candidate in the field with maybe the exception of Mr. Steyer. Because of this, you hear time and time again from Trump voters that Yang is the only democratic candidate they like on any level. For Biden voters, the lesson is slightly different but connected. As we know, most Biden supporters are behind him because they believe he is the best candidate equipped to win the presidency. So what are these voters seeing in Andrew that they like as well? The same exact thing with a lower degree of certainty. I’m here to talk about how that certainty can be spiked within a matter of minutes and how the illusion of electability for Biden can be deconstructed while leaving Yang as the pillar of hope and the future of our country.
When you talk to Biden supporters there are two things they consistently bring up. The first is how long he’s been around. Older voters very much like someone who they feel has the experience to deal with the role of the presidency. This ties into their view on electability because they are modeling electability on an old view which is that someone who walks the walk and talks the talk of politics, who has been seen around for a long time, must know what to do. What these voters don’t realize is that the very true narrative of corruption in politics has turned the rest of the field away from someone like this. Moreover, some quick research into Biden’s atrocious voting record can quickly turn this talking point to moot. The next thing they bring up, of course, is how he is electable. They truly believe the narrative that Biden can pull in the moderate vote and furthermore that this is what electability still means. What they don’t understand is that this model was thrown out the window in 2016. We can’t go back to the way things were.
To demonstrate how this model has aged I want to return to my previous point: The rest of the field has turned away from the traditional democratic model of politics. If you look around at the rest of the candidates in the race even the other “moderates” are camouflaging themselves with the talking points of the more progressive candidates on the stage to keep support. Whether or not they’d stick to those points is highly questionable of course but this all shows that the discussion has shifted. Biden’s support has largely come from those who are comfortable with the way things were because that’s what they’d always seen and from those who aren’t ready for the large-scale shifts of the “revolution” pushed by candidates like Sanders. This is where Yang has the largest opportunity to swoop in. Whether voters with Yang as their #2 are articulating it or not, Yang has two major things working in his favor.
First, Yang is not an extremist by any means. Unlike candidates like Bernie Sanders, Yang is looking at the reality of what can actually be accomplished once in office and is being practical, meticulous, and logical with every proposal he makes. He hasn’t spoken without first thinking through the consequences and the payment plan. This bodes extremely well for Biden supporters who know that the way our government works is by more incremental changes that can garner across the aisle support and they see that Yang is working in this manner. This is always a great place to throw in that Yang has the greatest crossover support amongst republicans and independents to demonstrate his widespread appeal. Next is the appeal that can be made to these voters in light of this. If you simply walk them through looking around at the field of candidates they will either already know or soon admit that there is a new wave of candidates. For some, this is the scary part and why they are supporting Biden but if you show them the first point I just outlined it leaves them open to recognizing that Andrew Yang is the candidate that can move us forward in necessary ways and can bring the change that is on its way no matter what but can do so without disrupting the system so much that nothing will get done due to polarization and the political game. This is true electability in this race.
Biden’s support is soon to drop tremendously as he performs terribly in the first three states, puts all of his chips in South Carolina, and is sure to split the vote there with Tom Steyer. As these voters start to look around for a new candidate our job is to be right there with Andrew Yang as their second option and to reassure them that he is the truly electable candidate, the only other option, and the one the country desperately needs to put us on the right path. I have seen it happen live during the final moments of decision making and it can happen on a large scale as this election progresses. We, the Yang Gang, need to shift some efforts towards reaching out to who we might think are unlikely Yang supporters and realize that they are part of our best plan to get the right man for the job into office.