Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has broken ranks with his former political party and is now registered as an independent, the 46-year old wrote in a blog post on Monday.
Yang, known for championing the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) during the 2020 Democratic primaries, wrote that the decision was a "strangely emotional experience," but that he also "genuinely felt a shift in my mindset" when he changed his party designation on his voting registration form.
“There are phenomenal public servants doing great work every day – but our system is stuck,” Yang wrote in part. “It is stuck in part because polarization is getting worse than ever. Many of the people I know are doing all of the good they can – but their impact is constrained. Now that I’m not a member of one party or another, I feel like I can be even more honest about both the system and the people in it."
Yang first registered as a Democrat at 20 years old in 1995 to vote for Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign, and has become increasingly active in the party in the decades since.
The New York native wrote that his first foray into national politics was hosting a small fundraiser for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, saying he “raised maybe $3,000” for the cause. Yang was a strong supporter of Barack Obama’s two-term presidency, and was honored by the White House in 2011 and 2015 for his work as founder of the non-profit Venture for America.
Yang wrote that he donated to Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016, and ultimately voted for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump for president.
“When Trump won, I was surprised and took it as a red flag and call to action,” Yang wrote. “Having spent six years working in the Midwest and the South I believed I had some insight as to what had driven Trump’s victory. I spent several years making the case for what I believed was the major policy that could address it – Universal Basic Income.”
Yang largely created buzz for his presidential campaign by talking about his love of math and advocating for a universal basic income that would give every American adult $1,000 per month.
He was one of the breakout stars of the Democratic primary race, building a following that started largely online but that expanded to give him enough donors and polling numbers to qualify for the first six debates. Yang outlasted senators and governors, and after initially self-funding his campaign, he raised more money than most of his rivals, bringing in over $16 million in the final quarter of 2019.
Yang ultimately withdrew his candidacy in early February 2020, saying in a speech: “The Yang Gang isn’t going to stop. It’s a movement. People realize that UBI is going to be necessary no matter what because of technology. It’s inevitable. Not only that, his humanity first message is very powerful. We need to take care of everybody.”
He brought his “Yang Gang” to the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City in 2021, and was one of over a dozen candidates competing in New York’s first major race to use ranked choice voting.
Yang was an early favorite in some polls, but faded in the race.
Yang on Monday praised his many competitors in the Democratic field, saying he “met and became friends with activists and elected officials who are longtime public servants on the Democratic side.”
“Again, I have at this point dozens of friends and confidantes who are entrenched in the Democratic Party. I’ve been a Democrat my entire adult life,” he wrote. “And yet, I’m confident that no longer being a Democrat is the right thing.”
Yang went on to say that he is not “particularly driven by a desire to hold office,” and thinks he can have a greater impact working outside the partisan political system.
“Breaking up with the Democratic Party feels like the right thing to do because I believe I can have a greater impact this way,” he concluded. “Am I right? Let’s find out. Together.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.