Will Andrew Yang make it to the Democrat's debate stage?

It looks like he might and he’s doing it his own way. Andrew Yang is among the crowd of Democrats running for the nomination for President in 2020. His key issue is called a Freedom Dividend. Yang proposes a $1,000 guaranteed payment to every adult in America. It’s his take on a Universal Basic Income.

Yang is not a politician. You, like me, have probably never heard of him even though he’s been running for a year. He’s never held elected office. He doesn’t think that’s a strike against him, however, because President Trump also isn’t a traditional politician. He wants his Freedom Dividend to be seen as encouragement for entrepreneurialism and not socialism. That may be a tougher sell than choosing another political newbie to voters. He justifies a monthly handout by likening it to a stockholder’s dividend. In this case, he proposes taking taxpayer’s dollars and directly distributing the money to Americans to use for starting a business, education and spend it at local businesses.

What sets Yang apart in his pursuit to earn a spot on the debate stage is the use of memes to promote his campaign.

The secret to Yang’s success is both remarkably simple and deeply reflective of how the internet has democratized national politics. He has built his campaign almost exclusively on the idea that America needs a universal basic income as more jobs are eliminated by automation and robotics. And people who are thrilled with the prospect of getting a $1,000 monthly check from the government—which Yang has dubbed the “Freedom Dividend”—have responded by giving to his campaign and creating memes about Yang and spreading them online.

Yang fans on Twitter have gathered around “Andrew Yang Dank Meme Stash,” a Twitter account that pastes pictures of Yang into popular memes. Yang fans have a Reddit forum with nearly 4,000 members, where they share arguments for UBI and still more Yang memes. And his fans are quick to tweet at polling companies or reporters who don’t include Yang on lists of the 2020 Democratic candidates.

He has used popular podcasts as a way of communicating to potential voters and picking up the occasional cable news show appearances, along with radio shows. He goes wherever the audience is, whether it’s a Fox News Channel show or MSNBC. His campaign thinks he’ll meet the requirements of securing a spot on the debate stage any day now. What a concept, right? Given some of the more far left candidates and their aversion to conservative-leaning media, that attitude sets him apart from others.

Yang’s appeal hasn’t been grown entirely organically. He has done some smart, if relatively low-key, outreach to Democrats in key battleground states. In December, he took over the Facebook page for the group Progress Iowa to conduct a Q&A session ahead of a keynote address at the organization’s holiday party. The following week, he took a swing through South Florida and hosted a pair of meet-and-greets.

In order to qualify for a spot in the debates, Yang has some hoops to jump through.

The DNC has said that it will only host a maximum of 20 candidates for their first debate and that it would determine who qualifies based on two thresholds: the 65,000 donors and whether a candidate got more than 1 percent in three separate polls—national or early nominating state polls—leading up to the debate. If more than 20 candidates hit those thresholds then the committee would have to juggle how to keep the numbers manageable, including prioritizing candidates who hit both thresholds and those who hit certain thresholds first.

He’s on track to meet the 65,000 donors requirement, according to his campaign but it’s the polling placement that may hold him back. I have to think that as his message gets out to a wider audience he’ll have a shot at rising in the polls. I don’t care how he describes his Freedom Dividend, it’s a Socialist idea, a redistribution of wealth. With some polls showing the percentage of younger voters supporting Socialism over Capitalism at over 50%, his message should be an easy sell to those who don’t want an old white man like Bernie. A 44-year-old Asian man may be an alternative.