At tonight’s Democratic Debate, Andrew Yang offered to give ten random families money over the next year. All you have to do is go to his website and ask for the “Freedom Dividend.” He will give 10 families $1000 a month for a year.
As data collection efforts go, this is brilliant. It’s never been done in presidential politics, and it makes sense for a campaign that is basing its existence on the need for universal basic income, the idea that every American should get extra money to help the economy. But it would come at the expense of taxpayers and is a form of socialism that is both lukewarm and yet extremely dangerous.
But now’s not the time to debate UBI. This is about Yang’s move, one that will drive his data collection efforts dramatically. Data is everything in political campaigns. It’s what drove Ted Cruz from obscurity to coming in second for the 2016 GOP nomination. It’s what helped President Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
A campaign’s ability to reach people with direct messages is arguably the most powerful campaigning tool available to candidates in the modern era. Television, newspapers, radio, and other old school media are fine. The internet is important. But direct communication is the key to success, and Yang is going to get a lot more people to contact thanks to this stunt.
But it’s even bigger than that. Doing it during the debate will make it an important discussion point to promote his ideas. People will be talking about it tomorrow, which is exactly what Yang’s campaign needs.
Would it work as well during the general election? No. But in his quest to get the Democratic nomination, appealing to the left’s “free stuff” mantra is a brilliant move that might get him into the top tier for the first time.
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