MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Andrew Yang dropped out of the presidential race soon after the polls closed in New Hampshire, telling the audience in a Manchester ballroom that the campaign couldn’t find a way forward.
But his crowd had already started chanting “2024!” and “Humanity first!”
Over the course of the campaign, Yang amassed a large following of supporters online and across the United States, which helped propel his long shot campaign — and his focus on universal basic income and automation — onto the debate stage.
Yang’s supporters aren’t too worried about the results of any of the primaries. The growth of the campaign's movement, they said, has pushed ideas like UBI into the national conversation and pushed candidates to talk about issues like automation, even if Yang’s actual candidacy has stalled out.
“We highlighted the real problems in our communities as our economy is being transformed before our eyes by technology and automation. Americans know now that when you go to a factory in Michigan, you don’t find wall-to-wall immigrants doing work — you find wall-to-wall robot arms and machines doing the work people used to do,” Yang told the crowd here. “We stood on the debate stage and shifted our national conversation to include the Fourth Industrial Revolution — a topic no one wanted to touch.”
Early on in the night, Yang’s supporters at the watch party here were lively as initial results rolled in on a CNN broadcast projected onto screens. They crowded into the room and were just as raucous when Yang told the crowd that he would be ending his campaign.
“Endings are hard, New Hampshire, but this is not an ending. This is a beginning,” Yang told the crowd. “This is just the starting line. This campaign has awakened something fundamental in this country and ourselves.”
“THIS IS A MOVEMENT!” someone shouted back from the audience.
“The Yang Gang has fundamentally shifted the direction of this country and transformed our politics, and we’re only continuing to grow,” Yang said. “While we didn’t win this election, we are just getting started. This is the beginning! This movement is the future of American politics! This movement is the future of the Democratic Party!”
The vibe was much the same last week in Iowa, where Yang had a disappointing caucus performance. Yang himself had shown up to a packed high school gym in West Des Moines to make his pitch to Iowans just minutes before they were set to caucus; he failed to reach viability in both of the precincts that had gathered in the gym.
His supporters there also said they didn’t care about how Yang finished, and they were still supportive of his message. They pointed to the crowd of nearly 1,400 people who showed up to his final rally in Des Moines on Saturday night before the caucus, the thousands of fans who’ve defended and funded him online, and the conversations on the debate stage about UBI.
“If we want to talk about numbers and support, Bernie Sanders had a rally at the Marriott in downtown Des Moines — and we had a rally five or six hours after him, and when you’re outnumbering Bernie, that’s a pretty big deal,” said Marc Kalockow, a 21-year-old volunteer photographer from Detroit who followed the campaign across the country. “Myself, Andrew Yang, and a lot of people in the Yang Gang were Bernie 2016 people, and we can understand the energy and base that Bernie has, and how we’re showing this record number of growth in the Yang Gang and the ground game, and how it’s translating to all of this hype.”
In New Hampshire, after Yang announced he was leaving the race, supporters here told BuzzFeed News that they were going to continue pushing the Democratic Party to support his ideas.
“There are so many people who are falling through the cracks, and there are people who are living under bridges across the country. And if they had a universal basic income, they’d be on their way toward being OK,” Roy Hugenberger, a Yang supporter from Nashua, told BuzzFeed News. “I think this is a whole movement. It’s a whole paradigm shift. He was the only one articulating things like this.”
“We stuck with him because we wanted him to have a strong enough message so that these other candidates will see people agree with him, and maybe he’s someone who should be in a cabinet position,” Hugenberger added. “I don’t feel bad that he lost the presidency. I mean, we may have lost the battle for the presidency, but we haven’t lost the war of getting the message out.”
Nathan Stalder, a Yang precinct captain from Martensdale, Iowa, also said he believes the growth of their movement over the past two years was more important than the results in Iowa. He pointed to the support Sanders was able to garner after running for the Democratic nomination in 2015.
“If you look at Biden, Sanders, Warren — you knew they were going to put up numbers,” Stalder said in Iowa last week. “The good thing is we’ve gone from no one knowing to maybe 8 out of 10 knowing who he is.”
“Just like Bernie last time, I think he has that potential — and I wish it would be this term,” he added.
Yang supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire pointed to Sanders making Medicare for All a popular position among Democrats after the 2016 election as an example of the influence they hope Yang’s campaign will have on making UBI and preparing for automation issues that all Democratic candidates embrace.
“I think that the more time goes on, the more his message is going to resonate — because these problems aren’t going to go away,” Eddie Berke, a Yang supporter from New Hampshire told BuzzFeed News at the Manchester party. “Even this cycle you can hear people start to echo him. He was a leading voice, but he just didn’t have the name recognition to get the votes.”
While supporters mingled excitedly in the room here, staff members comforted a volunteer who’d been following Yang around the country and who, overwhelmed by the news, was crying.
“Whatever you thought Yang would do as president for your family, the Yang Gang will handle now,” they told him.
As staff members started breaking down the stage, Vermin Supreme, a New Hampshire political legend and frequent candidate known for wearing a boot over his head, climbed onstage to say hello to the remaining members of the crowd who were still talking about Yang.
“Boot head head! Boot head head!” the crowd cheered.