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Junior Gabe Kramer wears his Andrew Yang shirt and MATH hat around campus. Cal Abbo | Col­legian

As a pres­i­dential can­didate, Andrew Yang does it his own way. “I have done the math,” Yang said about the uni­versal basic income, his flagship pro­posal, at the second Demo­c­ratic debate. “It’s not left, it’s not right, it’s forward.”

Among his dis­tinctive fea­tures, this is the most important. Yang claims to be building a coalition of pro­gres­sives, former Trump voters, lib­er­tarians, and Amer­icans across the political spectrum.

Already, several Hillsdale stu­dents support him. Juniors Gabe Kramer and Mitchell Jesse can go on for hours about America’s problems — poverty, the opioid crisis, a broken welfare system, and automation are just a few — and how Yang’s policies can solve them.

Yang’s cam­paign coa­lesced around the UBI, an age-old policy that draws support from figures across the spectrum, including founding father Thomas Paine, econ­omist Friedrich Hayek, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Specif­i­cally, Yang wants to give every American over 18 years old $1,000 per month, a policy called the freedom div­idend according to his website. To offset the deficit, Yang will implement a national value-added tax and elim­inate federal welfare pro­grams, which the freedom div­idend is intended to replace, for those who opt-in to the money.

For Jesse, who used to identify as a lib­er­tarian, it wasn’t an easy tran­sition to the Yang gang. He voted for Gary Johnson, the Lib­er­tarian Party’s pres­i­dential can­didate, in 2016. 

“The two-party system bugs the hell out of me,” Jesse said. “I’ve always been looking for the out­sider can­didate who’s outside the norm.”

In spring 2019, Yang’s can­didacy began gaining traction, and Jesse started reading about UBI and Yang’s other pro­posals. 

“I wrote him off at first,” he said.

Slowly but surely, Jesse began watching Yang’s cam­paign rallies on Youtube. 

“Every question I had, he had an answer for. He would answer every question someone had at a rally,” Jesse said. 

Jesse left Hillsdale after the fall 2018 semester and returned to Col­orado Springs to work in con­struction and con­crete. He joined nearly 60% of Amer­icans who report “living pay­check to pay­check.” His expe­rience at those jobs, paying for a “cruddy little apartment” he could barely afford without air con­di­tioning, informed his new political per­spective.

Many people don’t under­stand what that’s like, according to Jesse. He pointed to the opioid crisis, rising rates of depression and suicide, and America’s declining life expectancy as important issues often left untouched by normal politi­cians, but not Yang.

“Before, being lib­er­tarian, you emphasize the economy and the free market. You think that takes care of every­thing,” he said. “On paper, it works great … but you don’t realize that those are real people, real lives, real human lives that are affected by this stuff … Yang talks about how some­thing as simple as an unex­pected medical bill or an unex­pected car problem can ruin someone’s life so quickly.”

While in Col­orado, Jesse said he had a few friends strug­gling with drug addiction them­selves. “Sud­denly, there’s this guy talking about real life stuff that I actually see around me, like the opioid crisis,” he said. “He’s talking about real life depression, anxiety, the opioid crisis, the rise in suicide rates, and how that stuff just isn’t okay.”

Yang’s cam­paign revolves around what he calls “human-cen­tered cap­i­talism.” According to Yang, automation in recent decades has dec­i­mated job oppor­tu­nities and the American way of life. Kramer said he believes there won’t be any truck drivers left, one of the country’s most common jobs, in just 20 years.

Kramer is an ardent sup­porter of Yang. Along with Jesse, his Twitter name fea­tures the blue hat emoji, the final step for new Yang gang internet war­riors. The emoji rep­re­sents Yang’s famous MATH hat, which Kramer often wears around campus. “He’s done the math,” Kramer will say before selling you on the freedom div­idend. 

Kramer also iden­tified as a lib­er­tarian during his freshman and sophomore years. However, while in Boston over the summer, Kramer’s high school friend began texting him about Yang. Ini­tially, Kramer thought Yang was “crazy,” but lis­tened to several pod­casts and read more about his policies. In the same fashion as Jesse, all of Kramer’s ques­tions were answered.

Kramer started fol­lowing Yang’s sub­reddit and many of his sup­porters on Twitter. The kindness and optimism of the online com­munity, Kramer said, were crucial in changing his political per­spective. 

“Yang says we should advocate human-cen­tered cap­i­talism,” Kramer said. “Another huge thing for me was not defining the nation’s success through GDP. Life is more than how much stuff we’re making … How long are people living? Are they happy? Do they like their jobs?” 

Yang came up with the “American scorecard” to measure the country’s success, which includes all of these dif­ferent aspects of life.

Kramer was dis­ap­pointed in the media’s treatment of Yang, which fre­quently dis­re­garded him, left him out of polls, and made embar­rassing mis­takes on live TV. In response, Kramer ramped up his support, started wearing Yang’s mer­chandise around campus, and sought out con­ver­sa­tions about him.

Over winter break, Kramer col­lected sig­na­tures for Yang to get him on the Indiana primary ballot. On Christmas Eve, Kramer spent eight cold hours outside a coffee shop in Fort Wayne telling people about Yang, the freedom div­idend, and the looming automation crisis.

Kramer explained that his Chris­tianity is a crucial part of his support for Yang. 

“Caring for the poor is a very clear message in the Gospels,” Kramer said. “I think Yang has a surefire way to make sure no poor people get ignored.”

Paul Esposito, a junior who donated $20 to Yang last semester, shares a similar per­spective. Like Jesse and Kramer, Esposito became a lib­er­tarian, but only “once I stopped lis­tening to Fox News.” Now, at Hillsdale, he said he’s no longer a lib­er­tarian, but a “weird mod­erate.”

Esposito also became a Christian during his freshman year. Before, as an atheist, he had an “abstract awareness” of the plight of the poor, but only felt a moral oblig­ation once he became Christian. This shaped his views on eco­nomics, and he now calls himself a dis­trib­utist. Esposito cited Isaiah 1:17, which says, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Last summer, Esposito helped manage mission trips to Green Bay, Wis­consin; Rushville, Indiana; and Knoxville, Ten­nessee. He spent time in three very poor areas and inter­acted with impov­er­ished Amer­icans all summer. 

“Seeing that up close and lit­erally having the job of iden­ti­fying what is wrong with their lives, coming to under­stand them, and being able to help them made me emo­tionally tied to their lives,” he said.

“Seeing things like that here in America, up close and per­sonal, was very heavy for me,” Esposito added. “A lot of people like to talk about stats and trends, but nobody ever really talks to the people them­selves.”

However, as of right now, Esposito would only reluc­tantly vote for Yang, if at all, because of his stance on abortion. 

“I believe abortion is wrong and it’s murder,” he said. “That’s a very hard-set position for me.”

Kramer and Jesse agreed with Esposito. Yang sup­ports abortion, and Jesse iden­tifies incon­sis­tencies in Yang’s policy because of that. 

“How much you value human life is really important to pol­itics,” Jesse said. “Yang’s cam­paign is some­thing that values human life. He says it bla­tantly: humanity first. But to me, that doesn’t cor­re­spond with his views on abortion.”

Kramer agreed, and does not support abortion, but places the issue within his larger political cal­culus. 

“For me, abortion is part of an equation,” he said. “The freedom div­idend in and of itself is a very pro-life policy.”

Kramer men­tioned that one of the most common reasons women get abor­tions is because they believe they cannot afford a baby. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 73% of women who got abor­tions cited financial troubles as a primary moti­vating factor. 

“Give mothers more money and they’re less likely to have an abortion,” Kramer said.

Con­sidered in full, Yang’s other policies make voting for him worth it, according to Kramer and Jesse. 

“A lot of his policies speak for them­selves,” Jesse said. “I rec­ommend everyone go and watch some of his videos, cam­paign rallies, and listen to what he has to say. It’s one of those cam­paigns where lis­tening to him means it actually makes more sense.”