Are you familiar with the 37-year-old Cincinnati Indian American Republican businessman Vivek Ramaswamy running for the 2024 Republican nomination? If you are not, it is time to do some homework. He is the worst, the most dangerous of the unimpressive dozen Republicans running for president.
For months, it has been easy to ignore Ramaswamy. Before he announced his candidacy, most of us had never heard of him. He has not held public office. He looked like one more multi-millionaire ready to use his own money to fund the adventure of a lifetime. What is more exciting? Buying a trip to outer space or dreaming about becoming president?
Ramaswamy fashions himself as the embodiment of the American dream. He is a successful businessman with an estimated fortune of $640 million. He is positioning himself as a baggage-free successor to Donald Trump, who, Ramaswamy promises, he will pardon if elected.
The Ramaswamy campaign is about the evils of “wokeism,” which he proclaims is destroying America. He champions merit over entitlement and is ready to condemn anyone he views as disagreeing with him.
While the harm (or merit) of “wokeism” is subject to debate, Ramaswamy’s views on “wokeism” could prove to be harmless rhetoric. Far worse is his vision on how to run the United States. He is a textbook authoritarian and has a plan to disassemble the deep state through executive fiat. Without interference from Congress, he would abolish the Department of Education, the FBI, the IRS, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Ramaswamy’s vision and his strategy of championing Trumpism and promising the ex-president a pardon while at the same time seeking to replace him as head of the GOP is resonating with some Republicans. Should Trump’s legal problems worsen, which is all but certain, Ramaswamy could suddenly find himself as the 2024 Republican nominee.
Are today’s Republicans ready to support an Indian American candidate? Maybe. Unlike Trump, who might be considered Ramaswamy’s inspiration to run for president, Ramaswamy has an impressive personal story. The offspring of Indian immigrants, he was valedictorian of his high school and attended Harvard before going to Yale Law School. He is an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur who amassed a net worth of more than $15 million before graduating from law school. And he is more articulate than any other candidate of either party currently running for president.
So why is Ramaswamy’s candidacy so worrisome? Because he could win. As a multi-millionaire, he is able to self-fund his campaign, if needed. He already has qualified for the first GOP presidential debate and is the only candidate likely to be a match for Chris Christie. While Christie talks about Trump, Ramaswamy talks about “equal opportunity, not equal results.” The message resonates with many Republicans.
Ramaswamy has conveniently adopted the standard set of MAGA policies, echoing Trump on foreign policy, “border security,” and abortion. There are minor differences between Ramaswamy and Trump, but not many. On abortion, for example, Ramaswamy supports Ohio’s six-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest, and danger to the mother or child. He opposes a federal ban on abortion, likely because of his distaste for the deep state.
Is Ramaswamy the future of the Republican party? Maybe. He now is third among Republican candidates, behind only Trump and DeSantis. If he does well in the first Republican debate (and even if he does not), he could soon eclipse DeSantis and become the frontrunner to replace Trump should Trump’s legal problems overwhelm him. That is why it is important to take Ramaswamy seriously.
The combination of a young, smooth-talking candidate who is an indisputable outsider who embraces Trumpism could result in a groundswell of support for Ramaswamy much like the one that Barack Obama experienced in 2008.
Donald Trump is not the only threat to democracy running for president in 2024. With the emergence of Ramaswamy, Trump may not even be the worst.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.