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Yang Gang Lights Up L.A.

Andrew Yang autographs a $1000 bill replica bearing his image. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

There’s a lot of enthusiasm surrounding Democratic presidential politics at the moment. When Bernie Sanders bashes billionaires or Elizabeth Warren goes after big corporations, most people within earshot get to feeling like populists. Harris’ campaign is very good at organizing demonstrations of support on behalf of “Kamala for the People.” Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke have shown signs of developing a bit of a cult of personality among excited followers. Joe Biden’s adept at getting into the swing of things at African-American churches, and could probably turn a Knights of Columbus Bingo Night into something special.

But for a distinctly wild and entirely spontaneous political crowd, it’s hard to beat Andrew Yang and his Gang, as they showed early this week in the City of the Angels. The Los Angeles Times had the story:

The underdog Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang walked onstage at MacArthur Park on Monday night with the swagger of a competitor who’s already won, complete with a pyrotechnic display and the 1990s R&B classic “Return of the Mack” playing on the speaker system….

Yang’s showmanship, humorously math-based approach to solving America’s problems and his love of f-bombs have won him a diverse and ear-splitting following that was on full display at his Los Angeles rally.

Members of the “Yang Gang” and the Yang-curious packed the lawn in front of the amphitheater where the candidate spoke, many hoisting signs with single words on them that anywhere else wouldn’t seem to go together: Some just said “Math.” Others said “Humanity.”

The atmosphere was not, shall we say, that of an old-school political rally featuring corny patriotic songs or venerable protests songs–or the refashioned Top 40 music that boomer pols from Bill Clinton (“Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow”) to Donald Trump (“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) always favored:

This wasn’t a typical campaign rally. It was more like a revival set to hip-hop, with one-liners that much of the crowd knew by heart.

Any time Yang said the word “math,” the crowd chanted “Math!” “Math!” “Math!” as part of the nerdy-cool theater of his campaign events. Several people brought signs featuring a thousand-dollar bill with Yang’s face on it.

That would be an allusion to Yang’s signature policy initiative, a Universal Basic Income of $1,000 a month designed to offset mass unemployment caused by intensified automation. But increasingly the 44-year-old entrepreneur’s untraditional style is getting as much attention as his substance:

“He represents something that’s beyond politics,” said Lee-kai Wong, 34, a genetics lab worker at UCLA. “The way he talks about the country — it’s a message of healing. I think we need a little more mercy and forgiveness.”

Yang’s campaign is still in the single digits in polling, but his support and the donations that go along with it have gotten him onto the stage of every Democratic debate so far — beating out political veterans and more traditional candidates.

Tony Moreno, 52, a professional driver from Ontario, said Yang “crosses every color line there is” culturally and politically.

As I can testify upon abundantly hearing from the Yang Gang after writing that he had no plausible path to the nomination, the Gang is very outspoken on social media. They pretty clearly view their candidate as sui generis and the fomenter of a potential political revolution. Plus they believe deeply in his coolness:

The crowd at MacArthur Park kept urging Yang to body-surf over his amassed supporters, but he’s already riding a wave.

He’s raising money and performing in polls well enough, it seems, to stay on the debate stage with the more traditional candidates at least through November, at which point a lot of his rivals may drop out. So keep an eye on Yang and the Gang. However little media coverage they receive, they are pretty good at gaining attention.

Yang Gang Lights Up L.A.