Andrew Yang speaks on his new party

Image of a computer screen featuring a Zoom event with Andrew Yang and moderators Jonathan Wong and So Jung An.
Moderators for the event were members of the Asian Pacific American Student Assembly Jonathan Wong and So Jung An. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

Former 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate and 2021 New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Andrew Yang spoke about his advocacy for universal basic income, his creation of the Forward Party and his previous campaigns at a Zoom event Wednesday presented by the USC Speakers Committee and the Political Student Assembly. 

Jonathan Wong, a sophomore majoring in computer science and business administration, and So Jung An, a freshman majoring in business administration, moderated the event.  

Wong and Jung An are both part of the Asian Pacific American Student Assembly, a programming branch under USG. The duo were selected to moderate the event through an interview process.

Jung An has been following Yang since his 2020 presidential campaign and said she was excited to ask him questions.

“Meeting him, not really in person but through Zoom, definitely [made] me starstruck,” Jung An said. “I was very nervous to meet him as well … because throughout the presidential campaign and also politics, I did look up to Andrew Yang because he is an Asian American in politics.” 

Yang discussed universal basic income, a central theme in his 2020 presidential campaign that made him unique compared to other contenders. His campaign played a role in popularizing the policy, he said.

“When I started running for president, approximately 27% of Americans agreed with the idea of universal basic income,” Yang said. “Now, as we’re having this conversation tonight, 65% of Americans are for it.”

Yang also said he feels a connection to the American youth, who he said were compelled by his earnest goals to help improve America. 

“I want to try and create a path so that you all can take your energy and vision for the future and help make it a reality as quickly as possible,” Yang said. “The country needs that more than ever, and hopefully my generation can serve as a bridge to yours.”

When Wong asked about his 2020 presidential run, Yang said he was motivated most of all by Donald Trump becoming president. Trump’s election showed that the system needed to change, Yang said.

“I had no intention of ever [running for president],” he said. “I got activated by Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, where he won and I thought, ‘Wow, things are getting worse than I thought faster than I thought.’” 

Thinking back on the campaign, Yang said he remembers Iowa fondly and emphasized his ability to connect with the Iowan people on a personal level.

“There was a point when we were riding high — we did raise $40 million. For context, that was in the last quarter — we raised about half of what Bernie raised, so we had enough to compete,” Yang said. “I was number one in ‘who they want to have a beer with,’ number one in ‘cares about people like me.’”

Yang said he felt he lost because of a lack of political experience and the perception that he was not the best candidate to beat Trump.

“The qualities that held me back were ‘has the right experience’ and ‘can defeat Donald Trump,’” Yang said. “Because if you rewind to 2020 the entire issue was, ‘who can defeat Donald Trump?’ It’s why I believe Joe Biden ended up being the nominee because voters felt like he was the most likely to win against Donald Trump.”

Yang said he felt his campaign was able to mobilize people who previously were not involved in politics because they felt he was a genuine human being and loved his campaign ideas, such as universal basic income.

Yang left the Democratic Party on Oct. 4 and founded the Forward Party, which he hopes will minimize partisanship in American politics by presenting an alternative to the two party status quo. 

“I would say that the system should not be designed such that our lawmakers are spending up to half their time just trying to raise money to stay in office or help their party compete,” Yang said. “So, the system has its own incentive structures now that make it so that the people are not being served as well as we should be.”

After the moderators asked questions, students submitted questions via the Zoom Q&A function. Aidan Miltner, a junior majoring in applied and computational mathematics, asked Yang about how the Forward Party would combat polarization between Democrats and Republicans.

“I thought he gave a great answer, outlining  how he just wants to break apart the whole system of politics in America, just giving everyone equal opportunities to achieve the goals that they want to achieve and not have politics or economics be a barrier to that,” Miltner said. “[I] was happy to hear his thoughts on the new progressive movement.”