A few months ago, Andrew Yang was the longest of long shots to land the Democratic nomination. Now, he’s polling as a fringe contender, thanks in part to some outside-the-box policy proposals that have gained traction in certain corners of the Internet. In a recent interview with the Daily Beast, Yang became the first, and likely only, 2020 candidate to take a stand against circumcision. “I’m highly aligned with the intactivists,” he said. “History will prove them even more correct.”
Not only does Yang, 44, align himself with intactivists, a name for those who oppose circumcision, he wants to incorporate the position into public policy. “From what I’ve seen, the evidence on it being a positive health choice for the infant is quite shaky,” added Yang, who has no plans to ban circumcision, only to “inform parents that it is entirely up to them whether their infant gets circumcised, and that there are costs and benefits either way.”
Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang comes out against circumcision, says "Intactivist" will be part of his political coalition. https://t.co/f7eoJkCGnd
— Will Sommer (@willsommer) March 19, 2019
“The more choice we give parents, and the more we diminish the possible preconceptions or misinformation various parents are receiving, then the better off we’ll be as a society,” he said.
Circumcision has been found to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections in infants and sexually transmitted diseases in men. The practice has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But UTIs in infants are rare and treatable, and intactivists believe there are better ways to reduce the risk of STDs than performing surgery on an infant’s genitals. “I think there’s nothing more inhumane than tying down a baby or a child and amputating a healthy, normal part of his body,” Intact America founder Georganne Chapin told the Daily Beast, adding that she thinks Yang’s campaign slogan, “Humanity First,” is “awesome.”
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On Tuesday morning, Yang offered parents an additional piece of advice.
Would Zion Williamson be so epic if his name were Charles? Parents take note.
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYangVFA) March 19, 2019
Yang’s candidacy initially drew attention because of his proposal to institute a universal basic income — or “Freedom Dividend” — of $1,000 per month, largely in an effort to offset the effects of the job loss that will result from automation. “If you’re dealing with an economic shift this historic, then you need to bring real solutions to bear that are going to help people manage the transition,” he told Rolling Stone in January. “And the most efficient way to do that is a universal basic income.”
A month after speaking with Rolling Stone, Yang appeared on the popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast. He started to develop a cult following. “Everything is up and to the right since the Joe Rogan podcast,” campaign manager Zach Graumann told the Daily Beast earlier this month. “That was the key. That was the moment.”
Yang’s unexpected rise was nurtured in corners of the Internet like Reddit and 4chan, and often with the help of the #MAGA sect, which took to Yang’s proposal to give every American adult $1,000 per month, no strings attached. Memes abounded. The #YangGang was born.
Did Trump just lose the 2020 meme war? Memers flock to @andrewYangVFA's campaign centered around AI mass job loss requiring universal basic income (UBI) after mentions on @JoeRogan and @WikiLeaks. See #Yanggang and #yanggang2020 for thousands of examples. pic.twitter.com/n7vxeMN4l2
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 8, 2019
According to a report from Axios published Tuesday morning, Yang has received more mentions on 4chan and 8chan than any other Democratic candidate. But as his candidacy has taken root in far-right hotbeds, it’s unclear how much of the support is sincere, and how much is part of a tongue-in-cheek effort to introduce chaos into the Democratic primary and elevate a candidate users believe will increase President Trump’s chances of winning in 2020.
Regardless, Yang’s heightened profile has yielded more than a few memes. Last week, his campaign announced it had received contributions from 65,000 unique donors, the threshold necessary to qualify for the first two Democratic debates. Shortly before making the announcement, Yang tweeted that he believed one his donors was Nicolas Cage. Cage’s manager later confirmed to Rolling Stone that the actor did indeed donate to Yang’s campaign and that he supports his candidacy.
Again, this is a strange campaign.