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What’s most striking about @AndrewYang’s strategy is that he understands, to a greater degree than his rivals, that general elections are more about culture than they are about policy.

To win, you cannot pit yourself against the broader culture. You must harness it.

Yang consistently avoids us vs. them framing of the electorate itself. Implying that red state voters are evil is not only intellectually bankrupt, it’s a strategic error.
Populism is a powerful force and Yang directs its energies at faceless enemies: corporations, systems, and robots, rather than billionaires and Republicans. This gives people something at which to direct their anger without encouraging dehumanization.
Of course, this rhetorical strategy has the benefit of dovetailing with evidence-based policy. Billionaires are individuals that benefit from corrupt systems — guillotines just make room for different masters, in the end.

The source code must be rewritten.
Yang champions many policies that are considered left-wing, and some that are not. This isn’t unusual. Even on today’s right, Trump’s policies are not exactly conservative, given that they defy constitutional precedent or advance economic protectionism (historically, left-wing.)
But Trump, a New York Democrat for most of his life, positioned himself in the conservative lane by appealing to cultural markers. Trucker hats, Boomer memes, plain-spoken stump speeches. Hell, his famous slogan MAGA isn’t his at all — he stole it from Reagan!
Yang, meanwhile, has appropriated JFK-style patriotic branding but eschewed socialist cultural markers. This places him in a cultural lineage that most Americans admire regardless of party affiliation, while still operating as a Democrat in good standing.
Recently, another Democrat used this JFK Democrat branding to great effect: @BarackObama. People to Obama’s left might consider him compromised, but he is a pop culture behemoth, winning the admiration of most Americans, including traditional conservatives.
It’s the brand that matters. Biden is technically very much in Obama’s cultural lane, for obvious reasons, but his age holds him back. This created an opening for @PeteButtigieg, who appeals to midwestern Democrats because he even kinda *looks* like JFK.
Sanders, meanwhile, is a bit of a Rorschach test on a cultural level. His working class bonafides are real, from his wizened look to his lovable Vermont accent. Yet his biggest boosters, at least online, are cosmopolitan college grads. There’s a tension in the brand.
When presented with Buttigieg and Sanders, who does a moderate Democrat in middle America swing towards? Berners believe that their candidate is ideologically pure and thus superior.

But JFK wasn’t pure. Neither was Obama.
Buttigieg has proven more competitive than expected in large part because he‘s spent his time cultivating an appealing brand identity in Iowa and New Hampshire, rather than begging for progressive approval. Warren went down the latter road and paid for it.
This is why you’re not seeing Yang going after Buttigieg over Wall Street or whatever. Because Yang knows that he needs to focus on proliferating the brand to compete, not engage in purity testing that would narrow his appeal down to the arch-progressive lane.
Both Yang and Buttigieg understand that the real game is cultural. But I think Yang’s coalition is more diverse and his ceiling is much higher.

Buttigieg sitting down in an oxford shirt to talk to Lizzo looks... odd. Yang playing basketball with @DWilkins21 feels right.
@KamalaHarris’ campaign fell apart because they couldn’t pick a lane. They wanted to poach the socialists but her criminal justice background worked against her. But the woke crowd is just as capricious in its support — they were too busy fighting each other to expand the base.
Biden, at this point, is the “non-minee” — he’s taking up space for the real frontrunner to occupy next year.

That’s why this no-effort legacy candidate continues to best Sanders’ massive war chest despite being clearly unfit to lead.

Sanders doesn’t have the brand.
Yang and Buttigieg are the two best contenders because they’re playing similar games, bowling down the middle of the cultural lane. Look at polling charts and you’ll find the two on a similar trajectory. Eventually, I think, they’ll be head to head.
But as previous contests have shown, it’s dangerous to peak early. If Buttigieg runs out of ammo before the voting starts, Yang can come out like a dark horse with a more diverse coalition and pull ahead.

Timing is everything.

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