CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Andrew Yang is a tech entrepreneur, the founder of Venture for America, and a long-shot Democratic candidate for president. While he has hundreds of policy positions, he’s staking his presidential bid on one big idea: Universal Basic Income.
While the concept of Universal Basic Income can take many shapes, Yang describes it as “a policy where every citizen in a country gets a certain amount of money to meet his or her basic needs. No questions asked.” Under Yang’s plan, The Freedom Dividend, every U.S. citizen over 18 would receive $1,000 a month.
Yang’s focus on Universal Basic Income has earned him a dedicated online following, which he's trying to convert into on-the-ground support.
“I love what he's saying especially about giving everybody a thousand dollars a month,” said Meroe Lastrella, who drove with her husband and two kids from Charleston to Columbia to hear Yang speak at Rehoboth Baptist Church. “I am a stay-at-home mom, and so because I'm not working, that will really help our family.”
The event also attracted a high-profile national Democrat from the state: House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn. “I was really surprised at the crowd,” Clyburn said. He said his daughter, Jennifer Clyburn Reed, the director of the Center for Education and Equity of African American Students, who moderated the town hall, had persuaded him to attend. “People are yearning for innovative ideas,” Clyburn said, adding that he “would not be surprised to see other candidates pick up on [Yang’s] innovations.”
Yang often boasts his cross-ideological appeal and ability to build an unusual coalition, but his campaign has also attracted support from white nationalists and the alt-right. “I completely disavow that support,” Yang said, “But it does to me speak to how we're getting away from solving the real problems in this country, and then if you have millions of Americans who feel like they don't have a path forward, then hateful ideologies are likely to get stronger.”
VICE News followed Yang during two days of campaigning in South Carolina.
This segment originally aired May 28, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.