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“It Was Heartbreaking. … I Probably Tweeted Like 100 Times Yesterday.”

How the Yang Gang is taking Andrew Yang’s exit from the Democratic Primary.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang on stage waving to a crowd.
Presidential candidate Andrew Yang suspended his campaign after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Andrew Yang, who suspended his presidential run Tuesday night, will be remembered for several contributions to the 2020 Democratic primary: He was an unlikely, off-kilter, and ultimately inspiring candidate; he elevated the niche policy idea of a universal basic income into the national discourse; and he gave us the Yang Gang.

The Yang Gang! Throughout the primary, this group of very-online supporters developed an impressive body of peculiar pro-Yang memes and even produced an anime title sequence for the candidate. They made an impression—but now their candidate is done. I reached out to users in the YangForPresidentHQ community on Reddit, where more than a 100,000 of his supporters have congregated, and asked them how they came to support Yang, how they were taking his exit from the race, and how both Yang and the Yang Gang might impact U.S. politics going forward.

Yang, who’d never held public office, announced he was running for president in 2017, long before most anyone else. His candidacy didn’t really take off, though, until he appeared on Joe Rogan’s extremely popular podcast in 2019. Podcasts continued to be core component of his publicity strategy—a theme that emerged when I asked supporters about how they discovered the Yang campaign:

I first heard of him on Ryan Higa’s podcast. I grew more curious about Yang, though, because it felt like he always backed up his claims and policies with data and multiple studies. Plus, he was the first candidate that didn’t pay so much attention to Trump.—Parker Jr. from New Hampshire

I first heard about Andrew from a friend after he first appeared on “The Breakfast Club” with Charlamagne [Tha God]. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow UBI, $1,000 sounds great, but there’s no way he can win.” Then in late April of 2019, I heard he was holding a rally in Minneapolis […] so I decided to go and check him out. The rally was incredible.—Nathanael from Minnesota

I set aside some time to listen to his [‘Joe Rogan Experience’ podcast] episode expecting just a good laugh and nothing more, but he blew me away.—Arty from North Carolina 

The Yang Gang, while relatively small, was fiercely dedicated to Yang’s vision and worked to spread his message on social media with particular fervor. They also helped him to raise tens of millions of dollars:

I’ve donated, convinced both my parents on him … one of whom was a HARD Trump supporter. […] I also drove a few hours to see him in South Carolina once and was going to canvas for him there before he obviously dropped out.—Arty from North Carolina

I was quite active in motivating others online on Reddit and Twitter, talking about him constantly in person, and phone-banked twice the last weekend leading up to New Hampshire.—Matthew from New Brunswick, Canada

I ended up making my first political donation ever, and since then I have made several more, including purchasing merch such as his “Math” hat and bumper stickers. I also introduced his ideas to my friends and family. […] It’s fair to say that this is the most I’ve ever been involved in politics.—u/bannablecommentary from Ohio

Yang’s self-consciously dorky persona and several relatively outlandish proposals helped him to attract attention. Asked about the highlights of the campaign, Yang supporters pointed to his use of the web and his debate in particular:

I think it was the first or second one [debate], he did a fourth-wall break about how the debates format is poorly run, and how they focused so much on how he never wore a tie.—Parker Jr. from New Hampshire

His use of Twitter and the internet to just feel like a normal human, a normal guy running for president because he cares about the future of the country for everyone.—Nathanael from Minnesota

Yang quickly lost steam in 2020. He was unable to win any delegates in Iowa or New Hampshire, and his campaign only had $3.7 million at the start of the year. Here’s how the Yang Gang took it:

Man, I was sad. I had an assignment that I needed to finish, and it was just tough to focus. It felt like someone I really cared about was riding off into the sunset at the end of a long journey.—Nathanael from Minnesota 

He was getting tired and dropping in the polls. […] It would have been hypocritical for him to stay in the race after saying he was the MATH candidate and not making a huge splash. I’m glad he dropped out. He needs the rest.—Arty from North Carolina

It was heartbreaking. I just donated yesterday. I had no idea it was coming. I probably tweeted like 100 times yesterday.—Nathan from Oregon

Yang, a perpetual outsider in the race, never polled even close to the top of the pack, though he still beat expectations. I asked supporters if, and where, it could have gone differently :

The New Hampshire debate. This was after he did poorly in Iowa. A lot of Yang Gang members were hoping he would get more aggressive. He didn’t and the Yang Gang became very divided, hostile, and negative. That’s when he lost his momentum in my opinion.—Parker Jr. from New Hampshire

The #YangMediaBlackout is well documented and not a figment of our imaginations. Relative to his polling numbers, he should’ve received way more speaking time at debates and much more coverage in the media.—Nathanael from Minnesota

I also asked who they might support instead:

I wouldn’t see myself supporting anyone else. He hasn’t changed my mind on a lot other than UBI more, so he was already aligned with my ideals.—Arty from North Carolina  

If I was American I’d support Bernie, but his message won’t have the same global effect policywise as Yang had. Many of the problems Bernie is running on aren’t as bad up here in Canada and Yang had solutions to problems that are going to affect the entire developed world soon.—Matthew from New Brunswick, Canada

I’m going to look more into Steyer, he seems genuine about his passion for climate change solutions. Tulsi also recently put in support for UBI.—u/bannablecommentary from Ohio

Yang’s campaign was defined by his insistence that giving every American $1,000 a month would cure many of society’s ills, a policy also known as universal basic income. His supporters accept that UBI’s time has not come—at least yet:

I think a lot of the establishment Democrats think it’s too radical and the older generation needs to die off before any momentum can happen (as dark as that is).—Arty from North Carolina

If you see how far Yang moved the window in just two years (moreso less than a year once people heard about him), I think it is definitely a strong possibility. I think Yang in his resignation speech mentioned that 76 percent of 18- to 30-year-olds are in support of it now. That’s insane considering almost nobody, myself included, knew what UBI was even just a year ago.—Matthew from New Brunswick, Canada

Unfortunately, I think things will have to get really bad before UBI is adopted on a national scale.—Nathanael from Minnesota

Yang was also—somewhat misguidedly—focused on the ways in which artificial intelligence will replace jobs. So I asked Yang Gang supporters if they agree that we’re doomed to be supplanted by robots:

Not doomed, Yang was early with his predictions and many of his policies were preventative. The idea is to make a change before it happens rather than reacting when it is happening.—Matthew from New Brunswick, Canada

I am an embedded software engineer and have seen first-hand the kind of advances that are coming down the pipe. […] I have seen A.I. that can be trained to learn the writing style of popular editors and generate new articles given a variety of sources and just a few parameters for length and other factors. […] There are many things comings our way. I can only imagine trade jobs surviving.—u/bannablecommentary from Ohio

It’s unclear what exactly Yang will do next, but he’s signaled to staffers that he’d run for president again. Here’s what the Yang Gang would like to see their candidate do:

Maybe start a nonprofit doing something with UBI. Specifically in rural areas. That would net him a lot of good for his 2024 run, which will definitely happen.—Arty from North Carolina

Well, it’s been rumored about Biden liking Yang as his VP, but he doesn’t look great right now himself. If the Democrats defeat Trump he will almost certainly have a place in the administration I would think, and back on the VP point I could also see Bernie possibly taking him on as well.—Matthew from New Brunswick, Canada

There’s a member of the Yang Gang in Seattle who’s proposing that we do a Burning-Man-style festival for us to come together and have a giant party. I love that idea as his next move. I would totally go.—Nathan from Oregon