Nowhere else will fans show up wearing hats with MATH written across the top (“Make America Think Harder”). If the mood is right, chants of “PowerPoint” break out, as they did at a recent rally in Seattle. And at the center is Yang, an American flag–patterned scarf tossed loosely around his neck, the personified version of a meme you might’ve seen on Reddit.
Yang is one of the Democratic presidential candidates you’ve probably never heard of. But the former entrepreneur’s long-shot campaign has seen some surprising successes. Yang is polling better than several more traditionally qualified candidates, he’s amassed a loyal online fan base, and he’s met the qualifications for the first Democratic debate in late June, where Yang’s hoping to get noticed and become a challenger for the nomination.
He has built his army of fans by talking about issues that no one else is focusing on, from universal basic income (he’s for it) to circumcision (he’s against pushing it on parents), employing an outside -the-box style that appeals to voters craving an outsider candidate. “There’s a real appetite for a different kind of political conversation,” Yang tells TIME. “I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me, You’re the first political candidate I’ve ever contributed to, this is the first political event I’ve ever attended.”