Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang is finding a growing surge of online grassroots support for his longshot campaign in the form of memes.
The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur's online supporters, known as the Yang Gang, have started meme pages on Reddit, Twitter, and 4chan, placing Yang’s image on popular meme templates. The profile of Yang memes exploded last month after his appearance on the "Joe Rogan Experience" podcast, which is a favorite show within the meme community.
Yang’s popularity is attributable in part to his universal basic income proposal, the centerpiece of his campaign, which entails giving every adult in the country $1,000 a month. The policy proposal is popular among a mostly white and male meme and gamer culture which shares Yang’s concern for jobs being lost to automation.
Presidential candidate @AndrewYangVFA is trying to save us from a robot dystopia. I think Arnold Schwarzenegger was meant to endorse this guy... or protect him.@Schwarzenegger #Terminator#Yang2020 pic.twitter.com/AzyVZgdnar— Rock Toaster (@RockToaster) February 24, 2019
Can't wait to be getting these bad bois in the mail every month #HumanityFirst #Freedomdividend #Yang2020 pic.twitter.com/gMBc47oPFa— Andrew Yang Dank Meme Stash (@YangStash) March 11, 2019
Yang's main support page on Reddit, YangForPresidentHQ, has over 7,000 followers. The group mixes memes, campaign updates, and ways to support Yang. The community was particularly helpful in pushing for Yang to reach the necessary 65,000 individual donations necessary to make the first Democratic debate in June.
In early February, Yang received only slightly more than 15,000 individual donations over a one-year period. After his appearance on Joe Rogan's show, Yang received 50,000 individual donations in the course of a month. Yang has joined the fun, too, announcing he had reached his fundraising goal with a GIF.
We did it!!!! THANK YOU everyone who supported us to make it happen!!! 👍😀🇺🇸 First stop debates next stop White House!!! pic.twitter.com/i5XXkotffH— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYangVFA) March 12, 2019
Trump's 2016 campaign was also wildly popular among the meme and gamer communities. WikiLeaks chimed in on Twitter on Thursday asking whether Trump had already lost the 2020 meme war to Yang.
Did Trump just lose the 2020 meme war? Memers flock to @andrewYangVFA's campaign centered around AI mass job loss requiring universal basic income (UBI) after mentions on @JoeRogan and @WikiLeaks. See #Yanggang and #yanggang2020 for thousands of examples. pic.twitter.com/n7vxeMN4l2— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 8, 2019
Support from the meme community can be both a blessing and a curse. While the community has worked to boost Yang, his rise has also attracted support from white nationalists, who have seized on a tweet Yang sent about the opioid crisis' affect on white Americans to argue that Yang is secretly for them.
Deaths now outnumber births among white people in more than half the states in the country. Much of this is low birth rates and white men dying from substance abuse and suicide. Our life expectancy has declined for 2 years. We need to do much more. https://t.co/zFRAkFY7FU— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYangVFA) June 22, 2018
Yang has encouraged the use of his image in memes but has disavowed any support from white nationalists. “I denounce and disavow hatred, bigotry, racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and the alt-right in all its many forms. Full stop,” he said.