With Andrew Yang out of the presidential race, the time is now for the Yang Gang to decide whether and how to build on their accomplishments. I think the Yang Gang should take heart for all they’ve done and realize that they have the power to transform their campaign into an effective long-term movement for the Humanity First platform as a whole and/or for its flagship proposal, the Universal Basic Income (UBI), in particular. Here are my thoughts on the how to do that:

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Basic Income March in New York, 2020, with subliminal message, “join the movement”

Why the Yang Gang should be proud of their accomplishments:

  • The Yang Gang built a huge movement for a very unusual set of ideas in a very short time. I thought the US UBI movement had grown a lot in the several years before Yang’s campaign but that was nothing compared to the growth it’s had since Yang got in the race.
  • The movement affected the national and international dialogue at the highest levels.
  • It will have lasting positive effects. I can’t prove this, but my personal experience convinces me.

I think that a very large number of Yang Gang members are committed to continuing to work on UBI & other Humanity First ideas in the long term, and now is the time to decide how—while the movement has momentum and local and national Yang Gangs are assembled.

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Basic Income March in San Fransisco, 2020

The most important things to decide right now are the things the Yang Gang can do as a group:

  • Build on the existing enthusiasm now while it’s still hot. Try to keep as much of the gang together as possible. Transform all those local Yang Gangs into a network of local groups working either for UBI specifically or for the Humanity First platform in general.
  • I supposed you could keep the name Yang Gang, but you might want to pick a new name like “the UBI Gang,” “the Humanity First Gang,” “Forward Humanity,” etc. I don’t know whether Yang would be allowed to give some of his leftover campaign funds (if there are any) to whatever movement grows out of his campaign or whether people would be willing to contribute to a long-term movement like they did for the Campaign. But it would be great if some of them did.
  • I’d most like to see the Yang Gang do so by becoming a political movement for UBI. There’s already group called “Income Movement” committed to doing that. They organized the UBI march in 30 cities worldwide last October. It’ll be bigger this year. They’re doing more than just that, and they can do lots more if dozens or hundreds of local Yang Gangs join up with them. I’d love to see every local Yang Gang become a local chapter of the Income Movement with every member supporting it as strongly as they supported Yang (both with time and with money). Obviously, that won’t happen but if one-tenth of the membership of one-tenth of the local Yang Gangs does this with one-fourth of the effort, they will greatly multiple the size and influence of the Income Movement, and they will keep the US UBI movement growing.
  • Diane Pagen led local NYC UBI group that grew into the Income Movement. It’s also the most successful local UBI group in the USA so far. She might need help, or she might have advice for people trying to replicate Basic Income NYC’s success.
  • There’s also a Basic Income-Based Super Pac. I bet the Yang Gang would be useful working with that movement.
  • There’s also a UBI caucus of dozens of candidates running on UBI platforms across America right now—mostly in House and Senate races. I bet there are dozens or even hundreds more running for lower offices. I bet the UBI Caucus needs lots of volunteers working in lots of different ways, and the coordinated effort of all the former Yang Gangs across the country would help enormously.
  • Some local Yang Gang’s might want to switch as a group to be the Gang of their local member of the UBI caucus. This will probably be the best strategy for Yang Gang’s located in places with a caucus member who is both trustworthy and a viable candidate. It will require some research.
  • I don’t know whether the Income Movement, the Pac, & the caucus should work together, but that’s something to look into.
  • I’m less enthusiastic about converting the Yang Gang into a long-term movement for the whole of the Humanity First platform. It might be worthwhile, but my guess is that it’s harder to keep a group together around a broad platform across many different issues than it is to organize groups dedicated to action on single issues.
  • Probably the Yang Gang will splinter into several different groups working for different aspects of the Humanity First platform in different ways. That’s OK. That’s a good thing. A collection of smaller groups doing parallel work has some advantages over one larger-group.
  • Whatever happens, the first step is for the local Yang Gang’s to meet and talk over their ideas of how to move forward from here.
  • Finally, I hope any UBI move movement that grows out of the Yang Gang presses for a much more ambitious UBI: especially the UBI proposal should be more than $1000 per month and includes children. I got the impression Yang’s version was a pre-compromise tailored for the political climate of the 2020 presidential election (and it worked well). But a long-term movement should work toward an exciting, ambitious goal, and compromise down from there only if it’s essential to getting something passed.
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Assembled in America

Things Yang Gang alumni can do individually:

  • If you like working on political campaigns, research the UBI caucus, pick a candidate you can trust, and work as hard for their campaign as you did for the Yang Gang even if no one else from your local gang is doing it. The only candidate I know well enough to recommend at this point is James Felton Keith, who’s running to represent Harlem in the House of Representatives. I don’t know what he calls his volunteers—the Keith Gang, the JFK Gang, or whatever—but I bet they can use a lot more volunteers. Scott Santens has already joined the Mike Broihier campaign for Senate in Kentucky. Broihier has strongly endorsed UBI and other elements of Yang’s platform.
  • Volunteer and/or donate money to organizations like USBIG and BIEN. They are very different from the political activist groups mentioned above, but their role in the movement is just as important. They work on education and information about UBI. They are tax-exempt non-profits. (Political activist groups are subject to taxes.) The world needs lots of education and information about UBI. These organizations need lots and lots of volunteers and financial donations. Right now, BIEN is extremely short on reporters for Basic Income News. They could use like 100 reporters, but one new dedicated reporter would be enormously valuable. If you wrote one objective, just-the-facts story about UBI per week you’d quickly become one of the most valuable volunteers in the organization. I was the news editor of USBIG and then BIEN for a total of about 15 years. Doing so made me an expert on UBI. It indirectly led me to publishing at least three books and to the opportunity to speak about UBI on all six inhabited continents—including meeting heads of state one day and people living in shantytowns the next (in both Brazil and Namibia). It’s a thankless job on a day-to-day, but to me, it proved to be a great job in the long run. If your skill-set is more toward this kind of thing than activism, do it.
  • You could do what I did when I got enthused about UBI. I was a sleeper-cell of one for 16 years. I completed high school, got a college degree, got a PhD, and only then started working directly on UBI. I’m not really an activist, I specialize in “primary research” in both social science and philosophy. It won’t be the best strategy for most people, but that’s how I was able to give my best contribution.
  • It’s OK to leave UBI to others and work to stop the environmental collapse or to reunite families separated at the border, etc.
  • Do something else for UBI that I haven’t thought of. You might come up with some idea that everybody thinks is crazy. To be level-headed you have to realize that they’re probably right but because they could be wrong and because you feel so strongly, you should give yourself permission to follow up just in case. Even if 9-out-of-10 people in that position are wrong, you never know if you’re that tenth person with that great out-of-the-box idea.
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Yang Gang Supporters

Little thoughts about how to make whatever you do work:

  • Don’t waste any time thinking about which remaining presidential candidate the Yang Gang should endorse. Yang’s platform is too unique and Yang Gang members are too individualistic to make it possible for them to move as a useful block to another presidential campaign. Yang will probably endorse someone, but that’s his business.
  • Don’t put any effort into organizing for Andrew Yang’s next political campaign unless and until he asks you to do so. His next campaign will probably be local and probably not where you live. Even if his next campaign is national, it probably won’t start for at least a year, maybe several years. So, any effort for possible-future-candidate Yang is likely to be wasteful and frustrating.
  • Accept that the UBI movement won’t grow as fast next year as it did last year. Last year was a phenomenon. Growth will probably slow before it picks up again. That’s OK. That’s how long-term movements grow.
  • The effort to build on the Yang Gang’s accomplishments requires acceptance that movement for UBI and/or the Humanity First platform is long-term.
  • Believe in the ultimate success of the movement. Why? Not because anyone can actually predict the future, but because hope will make you happy. Despair will make you sad and less effective. However…
  • Don’t expect any progress in your lifetime. Assume the movement will succeed after you’re dead, and take any progress you see at any time as a bonus. Why? Because getting bonuses makes you happy. Every good piece of progress will exceed your expectations. Having dashed expectations makes you sad and frustrated. This attitude has really worked for me for the years. I’ve expect nothing, but I’ve watched the movement grow every year since I started paying close attention the 1990s.
  • Don’t expect anyone else to do anything for the movement. Don’t even expect people to follow through on their promises. Take anything anyone else does as a bonus. Why? Because get bonuses will make you happy. Being let down will make you sad and frustrated. If you expect 20 people and two show up, you’ll be disappointed. If you expect nobody, and two people show up, you’ll be like “Wow, two people!”
  • Accept the individuality of Yang Gang alumni. People will choose different strategies. Some will work on political issues that have nothing to do with the Humanity Frist platform. Others will do something nonpolitical, like care for relatives who need care. Others will work for something to do with Humanity First in ways that you’re convinced will fail. Don’t waste time telling them how wrong they are for not doing what you’re doing. You can give them quick advice, like I have in this blog post, but if they don’t take it, wish them well and hope you’re wrong. The belief that there’s only one right path is step toward becoming a cult, and becoming a cult is a one-way ticket to political irrelevance.
  • The UBI movement has so-far escaped becoming a cult because it has no party line. People support different sizes of UBI, different ways to resource it, and different strategies to promote it. People who are turned off by one person’s argument for UBI might be brought in by someone else’s conflicting argument for or version of UBI. If people start in-fighting and kicking others out for supporting the wrong version of UBI, we’ll stop growing & start shrinking.
  • The Yang Gang has to avoid becoming a cult of personality, a cult of the platform, or a cult of some specific version of UBI. Luckily, it’s easy to avoid becoming a cult: respect each other (see above).
  • The idea that people should respect each other might seem obvious, but there are a lot of people in the UBI movement who can’t seem to do it. I know people who’ve been working on UBI for 20 years, but their work seems to consist mostly of telling the rest of the movement that they’re doing the wrong thing. Lighting a candle is better than cursing the darkness, and it’s even worse to curse people who light candles for not doing enough.
  • Obviously, thank others for what they do. As obvious as that is, I haven’t done it enough. My thanks and apologies to everyone.
  • Finally, don’t take my work for anything. Everything I say is on an IMHO basis. Evidence-based reasoning is our greatest strength.
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UBI march near a sign for the Devine 9 Cafe, which is located in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia.

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Yang & the Gang

About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 987 articles.

Karl Widerquist is a Professor of political philosophy at Georgetown University-Qatar, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. Much of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI). He is a co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and a member of the BIEN EC for 14 years. He was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 years. He is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal "Basic Income Studies," the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI. Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular media. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including "the Prehistory of Private Property (Edinburgh University Press 2020, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) , "A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments" (Palgrave Macmillan 2018), "Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy" (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and "Freedom as the Power to Say No" (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website (works.bepress.com/widerquist/). More information about him is available on his BIEN profile (https://basicincome.org/news/2016/12/bien-profiles-karl-widerquist-co-chair/). He writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for "Basic Income News."