Andrew Yang hinted at having yet another “surprise” for the October debate. He announced it during the final question of the debate: A livestreamed ten hour question-and-answer session for voter-submitted questions. The streams were broadcasted on YouTube and Twitter, where he answered tweeted questions with the accompanying hashtag #AskAndrew. He also answered questions on the public online forums Quora and Reddit. Erik Williamson reveals how it went.
At the latest debate, Democratic candidate Andrew Yang debuted his “second surprise” in the announcement of a ten-hour marathon of answering questions from an online audience.
The endurance to explain, and answer questions for hours on end is an exceptional show of resilience and patience on Yang’s part. There were many questions that were repeated or asked in different ways, and some were also queries he had already answered on many occasions. Despite this, he answered with patience and displayed his characteristic grace under pressure.
However, the will to engage with an audience and the efficient way in which he accomplished this task may be even more important. While it might not be unheard of for a candidate to use such a medium to engage with voters—many drew comparisons between Yang’s Q&A and Franklin D Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats”—it is certainly still unusual. Andrew Yang himself, as always, gave substantive answers, but also had the time to get into the deeper nuances of his policies. Due to the lack of strict time constraints, this event was of great benefit to persuading people who were still unclear on his policies or on the fence in support of Yang as a candidate. Andrew Yang typically seems more at home talking to voters rather than other politicians, and the media, so it is no surprise he did well in his preferred online format.
The fact that Yang announced the marathon at the end of the previous debate was also of great benefit, allowing him to reach a wide amount of people at no expense to himself. His previous “surprise” announcement at the preceding debate being the “Pilot Dividend”—one thousand dollars a month from the campaign for ten voters, no strings attached—was far more controversial, even provoking mockery from his fellow candidates, pundits, and the media. The pilot of the Freedom Dividend ultimately also proved to generate considerable interest in his campaign. A pattern of resourcefulness, and a bold ability to speak directly to voters begins to become apparent when considering how often he has managed to do much with minimal resources.
The marathon also allowed him to answer some questions which he has had little opportunity to speak on, such as LGBTQ issues. His responses to those particular issues were unequivocally positive, but came towards the end of the marathon when his fatigue had begun to set in, which was unfortunate. Yang was still able to clarify his stance on such issues. One such position was his full support of the Equality Act, which would make it illegal to disallow people employment or housing based on sexual orientation, and that orientation should be a protected category.
The fact that it’s legal to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation in terms of their employment and other things, to me, is unconscionable.– Andrew Yang on LGBTQ rights
Yang was also able to engage more on gun rights, though it did not dominate the conversation. He was characteristically middle-of-the-road with his response, but maintained that he supports a “buy back” option for those interested. He distinguished himself from other candidates by showing a concern for guns contributing to the suicide rate rather than focusing on just the homicide rate. Yang also expressed an interest in maintaining Second Amendment rights but also limiting accessories such as bumpstocks and suppressors, which
serve no real self-defense purposes.
There has also been a steady rise in interest corresponding with Yang’s candidacy and policies in every consecutive debate, and the recent marathon of his question and answer session has seemingly allowed him to gain even more momentum. The actual implications of this are more important: his commitment to a live Q&A meant it was entirely unscripted, hamstringing attempts at dishonesty or the ability to retreat from hard questions. Yang’s boldness continues to work for him rather than against him, and he has proven time and time again he can give substantive answers and answer challenges with relative ease.