By Robert Stark
The internet underworld that famously boosted Trump in 2016 appears to be unified for the first time since. This time everyone from the meme-makers of 4chan, to the “America First” crowd, to explicit white nationalists is marching to the beat of a new, unlikely populist champion: Asian-American entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. What does the phenomenon of the Trump-to-Yang supporter tell us? Beyond pointing out the obvious, that NEETS and gamers really want $1,000 a month, the youthful “Yanggang” may be the harbinger of a political paradigm shift to follow the demise of Trumpism, and the closing possibility of any recognizably American nationalism.
The transfer of enthusiasm from Trump to Yang makes sense in the current political moment. It is now commonly accepted that Trump has strayed far from the path: that his appeal derived largely from talking points and promises, and that in 2019, after two underwhelming years of presidency, it is foolish to believe his “Make America Great Again” vision will ever materialize. Yang, in contrast, derives his campaign not so much from big talk as from years of researching the changing social, economic, and technological conditions of the United States, and conceiving detailed policies to match. Many of his campaign promises could be interpreted as futuristic, forward-looking—I hesitate to use the loaded term “progressive”—solutions to the same problems highlighted by Trump. Where Trump promised to restrict immigration and bring jobs back to America, Yang deemphasizes immigration and jobs altogether. He highlights instead the reality that automation is a prime culprit in American job loss and presents a plan for how the wealth generated by this massive, ongoing technological revolution could be harnessed to put $1,000 per month in the pocket of every American adult.