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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

Andrew Yang, Michael Bennet drop out in the wake of New Hampshire presidential primary

As the polls closed in New Hamp­shire and the vote count began, two of the eleven Democ­rats still in the race for the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion saw the writ­ing on the wall for their pres­i­den­tial ambi­tions: Andrew Yang and Sen­a­tor Michael Ben­net. Both announced the ces­sa­tion of their campaigns.

The two can­di­dates couldn’t have been any more different.

Yang is an Asian-Amer­i­­can entre­pre­neur who has nev­er held elect­ed office, who used his nerdy, tech­no­crat­ic per­sona (his slo­gan was “Make Amer­i­ca Think Again,” or MATH for short) to gar­ner loy­al­ty from a net-cen­tric group of sup­port­ers that dubbed them­selves ‘The Yang Gang.’

Michael Bennet's campaign went largely unnoticed by the voters

Michael Ben­net’s cam­paign went large­ly unno­ticed by the vot­ers (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Ben­net is a Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor from Col­orado who made the tra­di­tion­al Amer­i­can politician’s jour­ney: start­ing his career as a lawyer, mov­ing through var­i­ous polit­i­cal jobs, and even­tu­al­ly being appoint­ed to the Senate.

Yang offered a hereto­fore unheard-of idea as his sig­na­ture pol­i­cy – a sweep­ing reform of the fed­er­al bud­get which would cen­ter around a Uni­ver­sal Basic Income of $1,000 per month for for every American.

He called it “the Free­dom Div­i­dend.”

Yang pitched his idea (which is large­ly untest­ed, besides a tri­al pro­gram in Fin­land) as a safe­ty net for work­ers caught on the wrong side of the Fourth Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion – a term that describes the vast changes that inno­va­tions such as arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and automa­tion are bring­ing to the glob­al economy.

Ben­net, by con­trast, por­trayed him­self as the arch-neolib­er­al can­di­date, con­stant­ly warn­ing Democ­rats about the puta­tive dan­gers of pulling the par­ty too far to the left. His promised ”Real Deal” agen­da of neolib­er­al poli­cies and the inevitable pledge to “fix Wash­ing­ton” made Bennet’s cam­paign seem like it had dropped straight out of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic play­book of the 1980s.

Despite their dif­fer­ent per­sonas and pro­posed poli­cies, both can­di­dates chose the moments fol­low­ing the close of the polls in New Hamp­shire to exit the race.

Yang laid out his rea­son­ing to his sup­port­ers in New Hamp­shire very direct­ly, as pri­ma­ry results from the state rolled in: “I am the math guy, and it’s clear from the num­bers that we’re not going to win this campaign.”

Yang performed poorly in Iowa

Yang per­formed poor­ly in Iowa (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Bennet’s rea­son­ing for choos­ing this moment is more opaque – after all, his cam­paign has bare­ly been noticed by any­body for more than a year now, yet he hung in there until tonight. At least Andrew Yang has been qual­i­fy­ing for the debates up until now – Bennet’s dis­mal polling exclud­ed him from shar­ing the debate stage with his rivals begin­ning with the third round of debates.

Bennet’s with­draw­al is unlike­ly to shake up the Demo­c­ra­t­ic field in any way, because like John Delaney, he had essen­tial­ly become invisible.

How­ev­er, Yang drop­ping out of the race might have a sig­nif­i­cant impact.

Yang’s sup­port­ers were attract­ed to his unusu­al style and rad­i­cal, for­ward-look­ing pol­i­cy ideas; they are unlike­ly to choose to sup­port can­di­dates such as Joe Biden who cen­ter their appeal around a “return to normality.”

They are more like­ly to switch their sup­port to one of the two pro­gres­sive lead­ers in the race for the nom­i­na­tion, Bernie Sanders or Eliz­a­beth Warren.

For­mer Yang sup­port­ers could play a key role in upcom­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nat­ing events. Yang com­mand­ed between 3% and 4% of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­torate nation­al­ly. If War­ren were to receive Yang’s sup­port, or even a frac­tion of it, it would be a shot in the arm to her cam­paign, which is cur­rent­ly seek­ing a change to the nar­ra­tive of her poor per­for­mances in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

How­ev­er, if Sanders were to receive those sup­port­ers it could prove an influ­en­tial devel­op­ment in his bat­tle with Pete Buttigieg – in the first two states to vote, the U.S. Sen­a­tor from Ver­mont only bare­ly scraped above the for­mer May­or of South Bend in the final vote tal­ly. If Sanders attracts Yang sup­port­ers, it could strength­en his posi­tion in the next few states hold­ing nom­i­nat­ing events.

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