At a core level, Yang’s running a deceptively traditional campaign: He chose one (1) issue, ran the hell out of it, put it straight into television ads, and spent a million hours doing retail in Iowa and New Hampshire. And if that campaign were succeeding just a tiny little more, maybe he’d be propelled into the true stratosphere — or collapsing under the increased press scrutiny given over toward, say, how exactly UBI would work, and whether you can make a nonregressive value-added tax.
And I’m not exactly arguing this campaign is absolutely the future of campaigning. But in his fratty/nerdy/relaxed way, in style, Yang is a part of what feels like the next generation of candidates. The pitch about the numbers and metrics is ultimately this: You’re not wrong to feel things in this country aren’t going the way they should and feel that our system isn’t honoring the actual lives we live; we’re just not looking at the right numbers. It’s a highly contemporary message. And the jokes, good and bad alike, operate in the “yes and,” Twitter-joke, “I know what you’re thinking,” TikTok rhythms of 2020.
As Yang jokes at every event, when you call the customer service line of a big company and get the bot or the software, “I’m sure you do the same thing I do, which is you pound zero, zero, zero. ‘Human. Human. Representative. Representative. Representative.'” He always asks if other people do it, and almost everyone raises their hands. “Oh yeah, we all do that, because that software is terrible,” he says. “As soon as you hear it, you’re like, oh no. And then you’re like, I hope this place still employs a human.”