Andrew Yang's quiet campaign for Joe Biden

Brittany Shepherd
·National Politics Reporter

WASHINGTON — Andrew Yang, the New York entrepreneur who became famous nationally thanks to an otherwise quixotic campaign for president, just might find a job in a Joe Biden administration.

“I’ve been talking to his team about taking on some kind of role in the administration,” Yang told Yahoo News. “I’m on the record saying if I can help solve some of the problems I land on, then I’d love to.”

In the meantime, Yang has been hitting the virtual campaign trail for the former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee. Recently he hosted a phone bank for Biden in Wisconsin and appeared with “Queer Eye” co-host Jonathan Van Ness on an Instagram live stream in which they discussed their support for Biden. Yang has also been a guest on Biden’s “Here’s the Deal” podcast.

Andrew Yang
Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

He said it’s “more fun” to campaign for Biden than it was for himself.

“When you’re campaigning for yourself, you have to essentially talk about how awesome you are. Not that I really did that, but in Joe’s case I just talk about how awesome his administration’s going to be. It’s actually been a very positive experience.”

Yang says he speaks to Biden fairly regularly, and that the two became friends during the primaries. Back in December, Yang told Yahoo News that he considered Biden his closest political ally. For its part, Biden’s team has welcomed Yang’s “innovative contributions and ideas.”

“Biden has a particular interest in the impact of automation on jobs,” Yang said, and the pair have discussed the topic at length. They’ve also discussed Yang’s signature issue — universal basic income (UBI), which Yang proposed should take the form of monthly cash payments to every American.

Yang can be given a good deal of credit for popularizing UBI, which he touted at seemingly every opportunity, particularly in the Democratic debates he qualified for. But he says he wants Biden to think bigger than that and reimagine how we measure economic success.

“The biggest idea that I’ve been working on is really how we can help the economy function for more and more Americans who are being left behind right now. … The ambition we have to make is to start redefining how we measure economic progress and get away from our dated measurements, like GDP and the headline unemployment rate and stock market prices, which have no relationship to how most Americans are doing anymore, and moving forward our health and mental health and affordability of basic needs. Start using those as a measurement of economic progress,” Yang said.

Joe Biden, left, and Andrew Yang
Yang and Biden at a Democratic debate in Los Angeles last December. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

“I’ve been championing a shift of economic measurements, which would have a very profound impact, and that’s one thing that I’ve been saying to their team,” he added.

Yang argues that Biden’s long record as a moderate gives him the power to take offbeat ideas like the ones Yang ran on and make them mainstream.

“If someone like Joe says, ‘Hey, we need to do things differently on the economy or on climate change,’ that also becomes the mainstream. It’s very powerful. I think Joe has those instincts where he doesn’t try and chime in on every new issue. In part, that will help him move the entire center of gravity. If you look at his proposal on addressing climate change, it was very aggressive and very ambitious, rightfully so, but by being Joe, it becomes the new reasonable.”

That ability to move the political center leftward, Yang said, makes Biden the ideal “change agent” to replace President Trump. Yang noted that Trump ran as a change agent in 2016, but now Biden “represents a change from what people are currently suffering under.”

Joe Biden
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Of particular interest to Yang was a recent survey by the American Psychological Association in which 72 percent of respondents said this was “the lowest point in the nation’s history that they can remember.”

That statistic, he said, “is a terrible case for the incumbent. Similar to the case I was making, where I walked around saying, ‘Look, the economy’s turning on more and more of us. We need to do things differently.’ If that message was something you heard, then it’s not clear why you would think four more years of Trump would be different from what you’re seeing now.”

Unsurprisingly, Yang is confident that Biden will win the presidency in November. And if he does, Yang argued, his administration will be remembered as a transformative one.

“I think that Joe’s administration is going to be one of the most important administrations in decades, in terms of a need for a new New Deal,” Yang said.

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