The 5 Biggest Applause Lines from Andrew Yang’s CNN Town Hall

(Image from YouTube.com CNN Clip here)

Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang, whose standout proposal is the “Freedom Dividend” of $1000/month to every adult 18 and older, just had his first CNN Town Hall, and he made the most of it.

From his command of facts and figures on a wide range of issues, to his straightforward delivery of concrete proposals, as well as showing a sense of humor, Yang clearly connected with the audience in-studio and at home, as #YangTownHall was trending worldwide on Twitter during and after the airing.

Here are the top 5 applause lines from Yang’s Town Hall:

“The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math”

Yang was asked about how he would stand strong against the bullying tactics of President Trump. Yang didn’t try to pretend to sound tough and attack Trump verbally, but instead made a few jokes, one about how the polar opposite of Trump is “an Asian man who likes math”, and another about what nickname Trump might use on him (“Comrade Yang”). He re-iterated the fact that “I am the candidate to beat Donald Trump because I’m focused on solving the problems that got him elected in the first place”, and he did just that for the rest of the Town Hall.

Yang didn’t try to pretend to be someone who he isn’t. He’s a guy who breaks out the statistics and uses facts and science in his arguments, but also makes jokes while recognizing the humanity even in people he disagrees with. His slogan of “Humanity First” emphasizes this, and that’s why many comments on Yang’s videos and tweets are attracting support from members across the political spectrum.

“ …Instead of referring you to a jail cell we refer you to treatment”

Yang was asked a question about how he would differentiate between treating Opioid addicted individuals versus drug suppliers. He shared a story from a high school senior in Iowa, who asked Yang how his classmates could get help from their addiction when they were afraid to be jailed if they disclosed their struggles.

Yang had clearly done the research on this, and explained how Portugal as a country has successfully tackled this situation:

And so when I saw this I said “Wow we have to do more to help get treatment into the hands of that teenagers classmates”, and I looked into international examples. There have been countries, including Portugal, that have decriminalized opiate use for personal use, and the way they make that distinction is they say “If you have more than a week supply of personal use, then we may treat you as a dealer or a supplier or someone who’s actually engaged in a criminal enterprise and then it’s illegal. But if we just catch you with a quantity that suggests that you are just using it personally, then instead of referring you to a jail cell we refer you to treatment” and that is what we need to do right here in the United States.

I like this quote because it showcases Yang’s style as an entrepreneur who is willing to learn and build policy upon the best solutions available, from whomever or wherever they come from. The audience’s reaction seemed to agree.

“You know, it’s been a point of confusion because I don’t look much like a white nationalist”

CNN host Ana Cabrera had several questions about why self-proclaimed “white nationalists” were showing support for Yang’s campaign. As he’s shared in multiple interviews, Yang made his stance clear:

“I’ve disavowed any of that support, I don’t want the support of anyone who has any kind of agenda that’s different than the agenda of this campaign, and our slogan is Humanity First”.

Yang shared that his team thinks the support came because Yang re-tweeted a NYTimes article about how opiate deaths outnumber births in various communities, including communities in the Midwest comprised of mostly white people.

Ironically, right before this exchange, Yang answered a question about how to deal with white nationalist violence:

“This tribalism that’s tearing our country apart, it’s related to a dysfunctional economy, because if you feel that you don’t have a future and your kids don’t have a future and then someone comes up with this, for example, scapegoating immigrants or hateful ideologies, then you’re much more subject to those, so by getting the economic boot off of people’s throat, hopefully we can help alleviate this tribalism.
I’m inspired by the work of Deeyah Khan, this filmmaker who engaged in something called anti hate, and so right now the temptation for many of us is just to condemn racism and hatred which, you know, we should do because it has no place in our society, but then the next step after that is to actually convince the people that these hateful ideologies are incorrect, and that’s more difficult, it’s more painstaking, but over time it’s our best path forward to hopefully convince people that there is no place for hate in the United States of America.”

Based on his numerous proposals on his site, as well as his straightforward and clearly articulated response to what could have been a troubling question, Yang is clearly no defender of any kind of white nationalist beliefs, and I think the audience’s reaction made it pretty clear they understand that.

“ So teachers are being put in an impossible position where we’re paying them too little, we’re saying “Educate our kids even though you can only control 25 to 30 percent of the educational outcomes” and they know this.”

In large contrast to virtually every other candidate’s website, when you go to the Yang2020.com policy page, you come across 90+ written out policies. They cover a ton of ground, from well-known ones like Medicare For All and the Freedom Dividend, to others like paying teachers more, free marriage counseling for all, major investments for mental health treatment, creating public banking services through the post office, launching a local journalism fund, pushing for NCAA athletes to be paid, and so many more.

The Yang campaign has done a lot of thinking and researching on a wide variety of issues weighing on Americans today, as well as formed thoughtful policies to address topics that have previously never been talked about on the campaign trail (like fighting for labor rights for UFC fighters, and identifying emerging threats from advancements in artificial intelligence).

Yang also got to explain how broad the impact of the Freedom Dividend could be, to both teachers and families of students:

“…the data shows, and as a teacher you probably know this, the data shows that about 75% of kids academic performance is determined by non-school factors, so that’s parent time, parent income, stress levels in the home, the type of neighborhood. So teachers are being put in an impossible position where we’re paying them too little, we’re saying “Educate our kids even though you can only control 25 to 30 percent of the educational outcomes” and they know this. So if we are serious about educating our children we need to get money into the hands of the parents and families. If we put $1,000 a month in the hands of every parent that’s going to give the kids an honest chance to learn.”

While Yang didn’t mention the Freedom Dividend as a response to every question, many of the concerns brought up during the Town Hall could start to be addressed with a boost in household income. Income inequality and wage stagnation has exacerbated many of our country’s issues, and while money can’t solve every problem, it helps make many problems easier to solve. The Freedom Dividend acts as the foundation to how we start to address many of these issues, complementing other specific policies to address our remaining challenges.

“If Puerto Ricans looked like Swedes, they would have been Americans a long time ago”

Nearing the end of the program, Yang threw out this one liner as he expressed his support for statehood for both Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

“I’m 100% for DC statehood, you should have been a state a long time ago. I’m also for Puerto Rican statehood, which is also long overdue. It’s like, a statement I make is that if Puerto Ricans looked like Swedes, they would have been Americans a long time ago.”

Yang wasn’t afraid to stir the pot a bit with this call-out, and it especially resonated with the crowd. Perhaps they were thinking of how the Trump administration has publicly disparaged the leadership of Puerto Rico, ignored the criticisms of a poor federal response, railed against the official tallies of the damage cost and death toll, and continue to block additional disaster aid from going to the island as they try to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 3,000 people and caused tens of billions in damage. Perhaps they were thinking that the Trump administration couldn’t afford to act so indifferent if Puerto Rico had official representation in the House and Senate as a state instead of a territory.

Yang showed that he isn’t afraid to directly call out inequality and unequal treatment, especially based on race, class, and status. He avoided general platitudes here, and made a point to call out what he sees as a systemic injustice, which again won him crowd support.

Yang was derided as the “longest of longshots” just a few months ago, but was just polled at 3% nationally, pulling ahead of other more well-known candidates. With his first Town Hall in the books, Yang looks poised to continue to grab more attention and support in the coming weeks, as he gets ready to participate on the Democratic debate stage in June.

Watch the full Town Hall here:

Larry Cohen is a Los Angeles based activist and community leader who founded BuildTheFloor.org and is working to build coalitions and create UBI advocates across the nation. Larry is recognized as a leading speaker on UBI and has presented on NPR, various podcasts, and at top universities and local activist events across the US.