Column | Why Vivek Ramaswamy emerged as Trump's strongest rival in Republican camp

2024 Republican Presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's 2023 Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa, on July 28, 2023. Photo: Sergio FLORES / AFP

The AI Chatbot, Bard, has this to say about Vivek Ramaswamy who has emerged as the strongest rival to Donald Trump as the Republican Presidential candidate for 2024 elections.

"He is a 38-year-old entrepreneur, author, and anti-woke activist. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Indian immigrant parents. (Originally from Palakkad.) He graduated from Harvard College with a degree in biology and later earned a J.D. from Yale Law School. He worked as an investment partner at a hedge fund before founding a biotech company, Roivant Sciences. In 2014, he stepped down as CEO of Roivant in 2021, but remained its chairman until in 2022, he co-founded Strive Asset Management, an investment firm that positions itself in opposition to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives. In February 2023, he declared his candidacy for the Republican Party's nomination for president in the 2024 election. He is the author of two books, "Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America's Social Justice Scam" and "Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence. Ramaswamy is a controversial figure. His critics accuse him of being a right-wing ideologue and a demagogue. His supporters see him as a refreshingly honest voice who is not afraid to challenge the status quo.It remains to be seen whether Ramaswamy will be successful in his presidential bid. However, he has certainly generated a lot of buzz and attention, and he is likely to play a significant role in the Republican Party's 2024 primary."

Ramaswamy was considered a maverick when he entered the race, but he received attention when he overtook the Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis and became the closest rival to Donald Trump.He has his own style in clothes and gestures. He does not follow the conventional debating style of Washington, where politicians speak a lot, but say nothing. His message displayed during the campaign everywhere is simply 'Truth', without any qualification like Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi would have done.

Ramaswamy surprises both parties by opposing both at times, particularly because he is not subject to any Republican mandate. He says that Biden's support for Ukraine is because of a bribe of five million dollars his son Hunter Biden had received. He calls the US Congress a joke as he believes that the political discourse on the Capitol is largely meaningless and unprincipled. “Do you want incremental reform or do you want revolution? I stand on the side of revolution,”he said recently to loud cheers. Ramaswami had very little support till recently, but he now has 11% of Republican voters, second to Trump,but far behind him at 53%.Ron DeSantis has 10% support.

Ramaswami was not very successful as a biotech entrepreneur, but suddenly became successful enough to afford to run his campaign on his own.His manifesto, recently unveiled in Rochester, listed ten principles he spoke beside his usual backdrop, a banner listing ten principles of his campaign. They include “1. God is real. 2. There are two genders. 3. Human flourishing requires fossil fuels. 4. Reverse racism is racism.” Needless to say, these are controversial in the context of the current sentiments even within the Republican Party. He calls himself "anti-woke" as a way to attack a liberal consensus of anti-racism, “climatism, covid-ism, globalism.”

Ramaswamy’s position on Ukraine is sceptical. "What I’m not going to do is pretend like it’s a paragon of democracy. Give me a break. I mean, this guy has eliminated, like, eleven opposition parties, he’s consolidated media into one state-media arm. Coming here in his cargo pants like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, he’s got half the Democratic Party and three-quarters of the Republican Party eating out of his hand.”

Ramaswamy has a detailed proposal to impose term limits for all federal civil servants and eliminate seventy-five per cent of the federal bureaucracy through “mass layoffs.” Many of his other policy proposals—for instance, to take military action in order to secure the southern border, “and the northern border, if necessary -- are daring to say the least. But such proposals may turn out to be popular in the short term.

Ramaswamy's key pitch is that he is young as the other contenders are double his age. He introduced a striking point that his older son will not have entered high school when he completes two Presidential terms. Ramaswamy suggests a conservative future, but asserts that  “I don’t think we have to be a nation in decline. I think the truth right now is we are a little young, actually—we’re going through our own version of adolescence. . . .You go through that crisis, you lose your self-confidence. You lose your way a little bit. You’re stronger on the other side.” For long, the US has not tested whether a Presidential candidate campaigning with his own money can win. If Ramaswamy succeeds, it will be another first in this regard.

As of now, Ramaswamy is only a curiosity and his race is a long way off. But there are instances of Presidents emerging out of the blue, like Trump himself did. Conservative populism has been effective in previous elections. The fact that Ramaswamy has emerged as the closest rival to Trump made him a hero.

Ramaswamy has been particularly impressive in answering questions from the audience. When someone shouted that Kiev had been persecuting Christians, Ramaswamy quickly added this to the list of Zelensky’s alleged crimes. When someone else implied that China was responsible for covid, he nodded eagerly. “Yes!” Ramaswamy said. “I’m not O.K. with releasing man-made viruses from a bioterrorism lab in Wuhan.”  The crowd rose and applauded.

The Indian community in the US has not responded substantially to Ramaswamy's candidature. Trump has considerable support among the Indians. But it may well happen that the small, but prosperous Indian community may rally around him if he gathers more support among the Republicans.

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