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Elon Musk Just Backed a Presidential Candidate. Here's Who He's Supporting and Why

Inc. logo Inc. 8/12/2019 Jessica Stillman
Democratic Presidential Candidates Attend The South Carolina Convention © Getty Images Democratic Presidential Candidates Attend The South Carolina Convention

The Tesla and SpaceX boss gave this Democrat the nod via Twitter.

With an incredible 24 Democrats currently vying to take on President Trump next year, there's a bewildering number of candidates to choose from. But Elon Musk has already decided whom he's supporting. On Twitter this week, the Tesla and SpaceX boss backed fellow entrepreneur turned presidential hopeful Andrew Yang.

Hey look, someone actually being civil and thoughtful on Twitter

The conversation kicked off with a typically thoughtful and mild-mannered tweet from Yang.

"I don't expect people to agree with me on everything--that would be odd," Yang wrote. "My main hope is that people trust that I'm trying to solve problems and I'm open to different approaches--particularly if the data drives in a particular direction. Changing one's mind is not a bad thing."

This comment would only be noteworthy in a world where the current occupant of the White House didn't regularly conduct juvenile flame wars via social media, but sadly that's not the world we live in. That reality was noted by Twitter user Dan Carlin, prompting Musk to chime in.

Soon, Musk followed up his informal endorsement with an offbeat reason for his support.

The tweet, Business Insider explained, is in reference to "an April interview with Jezebel where Yang claimed he was once a member of the counter-culture."

Why Musk has joined the #YangGang

Musk is being typically cheeky in this second tweet, of course, but his reasons for supporting Yang probably go deeper than an appreciation for the candidate's previous love of black clothes and excessive eyeliner. First off, Yang, who founded the non-profit Venture for America, is a fellow entrepreneur and likely understands and appreciates the challenges and needs of business builders like Musk.

More importantly, however, Yang is a prominent booster of universal basic income, an idea Musk has previously called "obviously needed." My colleague Talib Visram explained Yang's idea for the policy in his lengthy profile of the candidate back in June:

Yang's signature policy--his "Freedom Dividend"--is a version of Universal Basic Income, which would give every U.S. citizen 18 or older $1,000 a month, no questions asked....

He says it's an idea he has studied for many years, in part by reading The Second Machine Age, by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, and Rise of the Robots, by Martin Fordagree.

It's designed to help workers facing displacement make ends meet. In the long term, the hope is for the money to kick-start the economies of local communities, generating new opportunities.

Yang is still languishing towards the back of the Democratic pack, but he's recently jumped to two percent in the polls. This bump means he's the ninth candidate to qualify for the next Democratic debate. The surge in interest is largely thanks to boisterous social-media support under the hashtag #YangGang.

Now a new hashtag, #ElonForYang, is trending thanks to Musk's support, giving Yang even more online visibility. Yang definitely knows it. He tweeted his thanks back to Musk.


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