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Andrew Yang’s Exit: What It Says about Media Discrimination and Limited Diversity in the Democratic Party

Even before 20% of the polls were released, Andrew Yang knew it was over. He made his way onto the stage. Behind him were signs blasting “Andrew Yang for President.” But Yang, who had been relying on New Hampshire as a last-ditch effort to gain momentum, quickly realized that he wouldn’t even come close to top 5, much less to actually winning the state. While Yang tried to sugarcoat what was to come by listing out major campaign achievements, it became obvious that he was about to suspend his campaign. 

After spending weeks funding ads and campaigning around Iowa, the caucus results were nowhere near what Yang hoped to see. He surfaced from Iowa with around 1% of the vote, gaining 0 delegates. This major loss forced the Yang campaign to lay off many staffers, who say they still haven’t even received pay. These setbacks pushed Yang to shift all his attention toward New Hampshire, hosting 132 events and spending $3.5 million on ads. But Yang just wasn’t able to pull through and that was enough for him to drop out. The amount of effort the businessman put into campaigning in New Hampshire simply didn’t pay off. By the time the last prediction polls were rolling out, head staff members were already losing faith. Just earlier on primary day, several of them anonymously hinted that Yang was going to suspend his campaign in the coming hours. He did. 

Yang’s suspension isn’t too big of a shock. The long-shot candidate had already worked miracles when he beat out leading Senators and Representatives, politicians with tons of experience. For many voters, his policies came as a breath of fresh air. Yang’s campaign revolved around creating a government that works for everyone and his “humanity first” slogan touched many around the country. His inexperience in politics didn’t mean he was uneducated. While Yang stumbled over his words during early debates, initially feeling comfortable only in economics, he improved drastically from one debate to the next, drawing people in with his messages of unity and love. Inexperience is also likely not the reason that Yang’s campaign ended so early. Other candidates, such as President Donald Trump, have surged to the top with little to no political experience. Instead, with Yang, the culprit seems to lie more with the limited amount of media coverage he received. 

The media has constantly ignored Andrew Yang, even when things started to take off in his campaign. When Yang was in 6th place during early campaigning months (September and October), he was 14th/19th in media coverage (articles written about him) and 13th in cable news mentions. These alarming statistics showed that even when Yang was polling higher than a majority of the other candidates, he was at the bottom in media coverage. Major news channels rarely touched on Yang, choosing to cover candidates like Cory Booker and Julian Castro more often, even when they were polling much lower.

The strange lack of media attention for Yang is inexplicable. While some have provided reasons that include Yang’s ideas being too radical, Trump’s campaign focused on many radical ideas, which were all heavily broadcasted by the media. Obama received coverage after saying he would have no preconditions set before meeting with top enemy countries. The Green New Deal experienced a huge surge in media coverage. The argument that radical ideas don’t gain media traction is false, they definitely do. Instead, the more plausible reason was provided by Yang himself, who said that his Asian American race could play a factor in his limited coverage. Asians from around the country have noticed that Yang is experiencing the same invisibility that they felt on a day to day basis. 

While there’s obviously no way to prove that the media willingly discriminated against Yang for his race, other excuses that were provided by top journalists just don’t seem reasonable. The media is known for boosting or destroying campaigns. Journalists said that they were waiting for Andrew Yang to break through before they covered his campaign, but wouldn’t give him any coverage. This vicious cycle definitely took a toll on his campaign success.

The discrimination Yang’s campaign faced from the media stretched beyond typical article writing and coverage, into more important aspects of the race. Discrimination was particularly clear in debates. CNN keeps track of every debate and the amount of speaking time each candidate receives. In almost every debate, Yang was at the bottom, even when he was up against candidates who were polling much lower. In the New Hampshire debates (which he qualified for after a disappearance in January) Yang was ignored more than Tom Steyer, a candidate who received no polling in Iowa, whatsoever. He consistently didn’t break over 10 minutes of speaking time. Even though Yang made the most out of his speaking time, extremely limited questioning made his debate presence useless. 

Yang’s exit marks the last of any top diversity candidate. With the exit of top contenders like Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker, Yang was the last candidate to really have a shot. With his suspension comes a completely white debate stage in Nevada and likely from here on out. Candidates like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Deval Patrick are hanging on by threads. The diversity level in the Democratic Party almost seems to be spiraling backward. With a record number of diverse candidates, this election cycle seemed like it was the season for minority candidates. But just a week or so into February, almost all of them are gone. With them likely goes race-specific questions in debates. As seen in the last all-white debate in January, race-related questions were cut out, if not almost completely missing from the conversation. As many are pointing out, the party known for its diversity will have fewer minority candidates than the GOP did in 2016

This all is not to say that Yang ended as a failure. His movement sparked a small revolution. He was the first Asian American man to run for president as a Democratic candidate and he brought Asian culture to center stage in debates (even in the form of some poorly timed jokes.) He proposed the revolutionary $1,000 a month plan to America. He brought disability awareness to center stage and actually made Math a fun slogan. Many have called on Sanders to put Yang on the ballot as his vice president pick. Others have started speculating that Yang will run for mayor in New York. 

As Yang said in his speech, “it’s just the beginning.”

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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Joanna Hou
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Joanna Hou is a 17 year old high school student based in San Diego, California. She is passionate about current events, law, and politics. She is an avid writer, journalist, and musician (euphonium and flute). In her spare time, she enjoys reading and boba.

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