When Andrew Yang supporter Gareth Keene searched for a local “Yang Gang” chapter, he felt dismayed to learn there was none in State College.
From there, Keene (senior-electrical engineering) took the initiative to start a State College chapter of Yang Gang himself.
Last spring, Keene brought the State College Yang Gang to fruition, and the club now has more than 250 registered members –– the process took four months of getting signatures and completing paperwork.
“I thought to myself, [since there isn’t a Yang Gang near me] I guess I just need to make that happen,” Keene, the club’s president, said. “I just started contacting people and pulling it together and went from there.”
Keene said he felt inspired to take his passion for Yang’s policies to the next level by creating the club in support of the Democratic candidate.
One of Yang’s main policies is universal basic income (UBI), which he calls the Freedom Dividend.
His plan is to distribute $1,000 per month to every American over the age of 18 in order to allow more people to pay their bills and spend time with family, according to Yang’s website.
The 44-year-old businessman also supports Medicare for All, reducing student loans and legalizing marijuana.
Yang Gang secretary Wayne Zhao said he hopes Yang wins the 2020 election because he believes Yang will be able to solve the root problems many American families face.
“[State College Yang Gang] and Yang Gangs around the nation are doing all we can to help him reach the White House,” Zhao (sophomore-materials science and engineering) said. “[This club] got me to do more research and be more informed on our current political issues and gave me a greater belief I could improve our country as a whole.”
Currently, Zhao sends email announcements and helps make “fresh memes” for Yang Gang.
Michael Cao, the national representative for the State College Yang Gang, officially represents Yang’s campaign through the chapter.
Cao (sophomore-information sciences and technology) said he had to contact the Yang Gang Regional Organizer (YGRO) in Philadelphia in order for the State College Yang Gang to become official.
YGROs are in charge of helping different Yang Gangs create events and gain members. Over the summer, Keene was the Philadelphia YGRO.
“Due to general busyness of school I resigned that position,” Keene said. “But it was a [good experience].”
The State College Yang Gang hosts meetings every other Sunday during which members discuss Yang’s campaign news, the club’s upcoming events and Yang’s policies, according to Keene. The period at the end of meetings is devoted to an in-depth look at other candidates’ policies.
Keene said one of the things he and other members are proud of is the fact that Yang Gang has members from both conservative and liberal backgrounds — people who aren’t afraid to “let their individuality shine through.”
“We encourage disagreement,” Keene said. “Because we believe in open discourse, we encourage that because we think the best ideas come out when you’re free to disagree.”
Soon, Cao said, the Yang Gang will host “Yang Gang Hangs.”
“[These will be] meetings where we just chill, have fun with each other and just bond as a group,” Cao said.
Additionally, the Yang Gang hosts weekly tabling events in the HUB-Robeson Center at which its members — who are experienced in Yang’s policies — speak with passing students, according to Cao.
Members have also participated in phone banking events and knocked on constituents’ doors to inform people of Yang’s policies.
“Right now, our aim is mostly at just attracting people who already pretty much are curious or support Yang,” Cao said. “We haven’t done active outreach yet. We just let people come to us.”
Cao said the club has gained an average of 20 to 30 signups from either active supporters or interested people at each tabling session thus far.
For the first time in Pennsylvania’s history, voters are able to request an absentee ballot …
In a few months when the Pennsylvania primaries are in the near future, Cao said the club will shift its focus to active outreach, meaning its members will attempt to attract non-students.
A main talking point when informing voters of Yang’s candidacy is he is “the only candidate to start from zero,” as he did not have the same name-recognition as candidates like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The Yang Gang was the first campus political organization to debate Turning Point USA at Penn State, according to Cao, something Keene said is part of the club’s willingness to partner with any political organization — as long as its members agree to be respectful.
Keene said while he obviously supports Yang for president, if at the end of the day people walk away from Yang Gang meetings with an idea to work for the betterment of humanity, he’ll be happy.
“Our ultimate goal is to start a respectful discourse,” Keene, who was the club’s main speaker at the debate, said. “Andrew Yang has a saying — we’re not left, we’re not right, we’re forward.”