- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2019

Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang on Monday brought his high-tech sensibility to a college campus in Northern Virginia, warning a crowd of supporters about the dangers posed by automation and urging them to get to the polls in legislative elections in the commonwealth Tuesday.

Mr. Yang said simply ridding the country of President Trump isn’t going to solve more far-reaching problems, like service industry and factory jobs getting “automated away” by technology.

“Artificial intelligence is still going to get faster and smarter. The robot trucks are going to come closer to the highways. Amazon will still be paying zero in taxes,” he told a crowd of about 2,000 people at George Mason University in Fairfax, a suburb of Washington, D.C. “We have to rewrite the rules so they work for us, they work for you — particularly the young people.”

Mr. Yang, who has posted impressive fundraising hauls but is well behind top-tier contenders in public polling on the 2020 Democratic presidential race, is working to convince skeptics that his unorthodox campaign has staying power with only a few months to go until the Iowa caucuses.

He told reporters after the event that people can bet on momentum picking up for his campaign.

“We have made every debate stage comfortably, and that will continue in the days to come,” he said. “Anyone who wants to bet on our poll levels rising should make that bet right now because you will get your money back and then some.”

Mr. Yang has attracted attention for his universal basic income proposal, or UBI, that would have the government pay every American $1,000 per month.

He appeared at George Mason on the eve of election day for statehouse elections in Virginia, and urged attendees to get out and vote for Democratic candidates.

“Virginia’s on the precipice,” he said. “Virginia’s going very, very purple. And with just a bit of a push, I think Virginia’s going to go blue.”

Republicans currently hold paper-thin majorities in the House of Delegates and the Senate, though the GOP has not won a statewide race since 2009.

Mr. Yang predicted the commonwealth is about to go “deep navy” and “Yang Gang blue.”

Other 2020 contenders have swung through Virginia to try to boost local candidates ahead of the elections, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, Kamala D. Harris of California, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Mr. Trump over the weekend urged Virginians via tweet to vote Republican and “send a signal to D.C. that you want lower taxes, a strong Military, Border & 2nd Amendment, great healthcare, and must take care of our Vets.”

Supporters said Mr. Yang offers fresh views in a Democratic presidential field full of seasoned politicians.

“The top-tier candidates are kind of stale at this point, and Yang has been pretty fresh from the beginning and he continues to kind of generate some good ideas,” said David Vickers, 71, a retired educator from Springfield. “I don’t expect he’s going to get the nomination, but I expect his ideas to get some traction.”

Josh Medlin, a 23-year-old filmmaker from Fredericksburg, was among the attendees sporting a “MATH” hat, a Yang acronym that stands for Make America Think Harder and also plays off one of Mr. Yang’s self-deprecating jokes that he’s the opposite of Mr. Trump — an Asian who likes math. Mr. Medlin also had a sign with one of Mr. Yang’s campaign themes: “not left … not right … forward.”

“I think UBI is definitely one of the big ones … no one else has really brought it forward until he brought it up,” Mr. Medlin said. “I like that he’s trying to bring the country together at a time where we’re so divided.”

Zoie Larkins, 18, an economics major at GMU from Vermont, said his UBI idea is revolutionary.

“Just the idea of a universal basic income being a running platform for a presidential candidate — it’s so different,” she said.

Still, she also said she was “ride or die” with Ms. Warren, who is her top choice among the 2020 Democrats.

“Warren is my number one,” she said. “But also I think we need a female in office and Yang is polling at 3% or less depending on the poll, so it’s really hard to be ‘ride or die’ for him right now. But if he was president, I would be perfectly happy with that.”

Mr. Yang raised about $10 million in the most recent fundraising quarter and started October with about $6.4 million on hand. But he’s still well back of top contenders like Mr. Biden, Ms. Warren,, and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont in public polling.

In one of the Democratic debates, he turned heads when he said it was basically too late to take meaningful steps on climate change and suggested that people should literally move to higher ground as one possible remedy.

As he did Monday, he has also spoken at length about the negative effects of automation on U.S. workers, and described himself on NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend as a “hard-eyed realist” about what’s happening in the economy.

He has said that the more the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates talk about the president, the worse off they will be.

“I am for impeachment. But the fact is, when we’re talking about Donald Trump, we are not presenting a new way forward and a positive vision for the country that Americans will get excited about,” he said on NBC. “Even when we’re talking about impeaching Donald Trump, we’re talking about Donald Trump, and we are losing.”

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