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Foss: Schenectady native Andrew Yang ends his remarkable run

Foss: Schenectady native Andrew Yang ends his remarkable run

Foss: Schenectady native Andrew Yang ends his remarkable run
Andrew Yang
Photographer: JORDAN GALE/NEW YORK TIMES

Last fall I asked how far Andrew Yang's long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination would go. 

That question now has an answer.

Yang, a Schenectady native whose father worked for General Electric, ended his campaign early Tuesday evening, when New Hampshire primary results were still rolling in.

The tech entrepreneur's decision came as a surprise, although perhaps it shouldn't have: Yang finished eighth, behind Tom Steyer and Tulsi Gabbard, and it was clear he had no viable path to the presidency. 

Of course, that's been clear all along, and it shouldn't obscure what was, in many ways, a most remarkable and unlikely run.

I had never heard of Yang when he announced that he was running for president, but he outlasted a number of better-known candidates and enjoyed enthusiastic support from his coalition of supporters, known as the Yang Gang. 

There was a part of me that thought he might just keep plugging along, warning of a dystopian future brought on by job-killing mass automation and sharing his ideas for preventing societal collapse. The centerpiece of his campaign was the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income of $1,000 a month for every American adult over the age of 18. 

I wasn't completely sold on Yang's Freedom Dividend - I thought he overstated the threat of robots destroying middle-class jobs, for starters - but I appreciated his willingness to build his campaign around such a bold and revolutionary idea. 

In fact, that was what I liked and found refreshing about Yang's campaign - his willingness to engage with ideas of all sorts. 

His focus on policy - and his easy-going, easy-to-understand discussion of it - appealed to voters looking for something substantive, but different. 

If there's a lesson in Yang's campaign, it's that ideas and policies can fuel a campaign - something that has often seemed lost on other Democratic candidates. 

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was regarded as a top-tier candidate when she entered the presidential race, but her vague call to "do something brave" failed to resonate with voters, and she ended her candidacy in August. 

Other candidates, from long-shots like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to perceived front-runners like Sen. Kamala Harris, also struggled to present voters with a compelling vision. 

Yang was a virtual unknown when he entered the race, and also a political outsider who had never held elected office before. 

His improbable rise suggests he has a promising political future, if he chooses to pursue one. Already, there's speculation that he might run for mayor of New York City mayor. 

Whatever Yang does next, it's bound to be interesting. 

I doubt we've heard the last of him. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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