Vivek the Warmonger?
Presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy believes that the country is in a cold civil war that his opponents—minus one—can’t see, and that he’s the only candidate who can win it.
Vivek Ramaswamy has done well for himself. Ten months ago, most Americans didn’t know the successful entrepreneur’s name, let alone how to pronounce it. Since then, he has launched a bid to become the GOP’s presidential nominee come 2024. Now, he’s a household name.
That’s certainly the case for my household—when my mother calls me up from California and wants to talk shop, the only candidate she asks about more than Vivek Ramaswamy is Donald Trump. He currently averages fourth in GOP primary polling, according to 538, climbing as high as third in August, when he was just about 2.5 points behind Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Without Ramaswamy’s involvement, most of the primary-related activities thus far would not have been worth watching. He’s had some phenomenal moments—from Chris Christie rebuffing his attempt at giving him a hug on stage, to taking aim at the ex-Boeing board member and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s girlboss warmongering, to offering RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel his time if she wanted to announce her resignation. In substance, the man most similar to Trump in the field might still be the governor of Florida, but in style, which matters just as much if not more to voters, it is Ramaswamy. Yet while the DeSantis campaign has decided to accentuate the differences between DeSantis and Trump, the Ramaswamy campaign, it seems, has attempted to minimize them.
Thomas Klingenstein, an author, playwright, and philanthropist, recently conducted a phone interview with Ramaswamy during which the 2024 hopeful showed the fighting spirit that made America First a movement, not a moment. Whether he can lead that movement is up to voters to decide.
Klingenstein started off by characterizing the difference he perceives between Vivek and the other candidates: “The crucial distinction between you and your competitors: You think we are in a war and your competitors do not. Most of your competitors would probably say that we're in a period of unusual division, but not war.”
“We are absolutely in a war with the fate of the country at stake. And you had better know it,” Ramaswamy responded. “If you don’t recognize that you are in a war, then you will negotiate with the other side, but that will only lead ultimately to surrender.”
The stakes could not be higher, Ramaswamy claims. “If we lose this war, we will have full-fledged tyranny.” As for his update on the front, Ramaswamy said, “Those who hate America are in power practically everywhere. In effect, the woke regime is a hostile occupying power not so different than Germany when it occupied France during WWII. Now, we need someone to lead the resistance.” In other words, our nation has indeed been conquered, but its spirit has not.
The only other candidate that understands this war, much less knows it is happening, Ramaswamy told Klingenstein, is Trump: “He knows we are up against an enemy that doesn’t want to improve America but destroy it. I give Trump a lot of credit for this. In a war you must have clarity, you can’t be beating around the bush.”
The other candidates fail to see what Ramaswamy and Trump see “because they are stuck in the past, stuck in old ways of thinking,” Ramaswamy claimed. “What they think they see is that we're going through one of the ups and downs that America has gone through time and again but has always found its way through. They can’t imagine that this time she may well not.”
In Ramaswamy’s mind, it’s no accident that the only candidates that did not hold political office before running for president are the only ones to understand the threat. The rest of the candidates “are all establishment politicians, so they tend to follow the crowd and they want to be liked by the establishment; they want to be interviewed by mainstream media and invited to establishment think tank events,” Ramaswamy said. “But there’s another more important reason why Republican leaders shrink from acknowledging that we are at war. Like most people, political leaders have a strong inclination to delude themselves rather than face harsh truths. I think if we don’t face these truths, we will lose our country.”
When Klingenstein asked Ramaswamy about other specific candidates, Ramaswamy did have nice things to say about DeSantis, whom he said is “very competent.”
“He has done a good job in Florida but he does not connect with voters all that well. A leader not only has to accomplish things, he or she must inspire people. This is not Governor DeSantis’s strong suit, and he is likely to buckle under pressure when the Republican establishment wants to go to war,” Ramaswamy continued. “He did that with Ukraine. He first expressed skepticism about the war in Ukraine but then he effectively changed his mind after coming under Republican pressure.”
“All that said, I would consider DeSantis for a domestic position in my administration. As I said, he is competent,” Ramaswamy added.
As for how Ramaswamy would wage his war, the GOP hopeful told Klingenstein that “get[ting] rid of the Department of Education, which is using $80 billion a year to effectively force schools to adopt the DEI, anti-American curriculum” is a start.
“That’s what Republicans have been saying for decades,” Klingenstein replied. “It never happens.”
“There has just been an absence of will and an uncooperative Supreme Court. Both have changed,” Ramaswamy responded. “The crisis has never been as great as it is now. Parents across the country of all political persuasions see that the educational system—starting at the top—is weaponized against their kids.” If it doesn’t happen now, it likely never will.
“I say in all sincerity, ‘good luck,’” Klingenstein answered.
The Department of Education isn’t the only government entity Ramaswamy would scrap. Ramaswamy wants to be the Robespierre of the administrative state and, in Klingenstein’s words, “cut head count in the administrative state by 75 percent.” Ramaswamy confirmed that is the case and said that it “sounds like a lot, but with the necessary resolve, and a team of committed lawyers, trust me, it can be done.”
Firing government employees is easier said than done, however, as Klingenstein observed. “Under some conditions, mass layoffs are permissible," Ramaswamy claimed. “The president already has the authority to shut down agencies, and that’s just what I’ll do.”
“These are war times. War requires bold action. Citizens must understand that it is the administrative state that carves the channels through which wokeness flows. It is the administrative state that executes the woke agenda,” Ramaswamy continued. “The war I wage as the next president will not be against non-threatening foreign states, it will be against the administrative state and that most definitely includes our security apparatus, which, as we saw in the Trump administration, has been weaponized by the woke Left.”
But the most pressing question currently facing the Ramaswamy campaign isn’t what are you going to do with the Department of Education? or how many bureaucrats are you going to fire and how are you going to do that? The biggest question Ramaswamy’s campaign faces is why should Republican voters choose him over the former president?
Klingenstein asked the question pointedly: “Why not vote for Trump? You say he also understands we are in a war.”
“Because I would be a better commander-in-chief,” Ramaswamy responded. “Trump understands that we are in a war, but he can’t explain how this war works. I can. I am young and full of energy. Being young, I have an appreciation of what much of the country is going through.”
Will voters be satisfied with that answer? Maybe. Is it enough to get them to change their vote from Trump to Ramaswamy? Probably not, likely because such an answer doesn’t exist.
Ramaswamy is fading a bit now in the polls. Haley has surpassed Ramaswamy, but not because she has trained her ‘ammunition’ heels (whatever that means) on his campaign and shot it down. Rather, Haley’s brief rise—and it will be brief—is due to the culling of neocon and cold-warrior candidates (remember Asa Hutchinson?). No, the source of Ramaswamy’s current woes is that Trump continues to surge. Since Vivek’s current peak in August, Trump’s polling numbers have increased ten points—nearly double Ramaswamy’s drop.
Get daily emails in your inbox
“Even you would have to admit that you are a long shot to win the Republican presidential nomination,” Klingenstein said in closing. When Ramaswamy replied, “America is the land of long shots,” Klingenstein admired his optimism. To which Ramaswamy rejoined, “America is also the land of optimism.”
Ramaswamy certainly has reason for optimism, just not for the race he currently finds himself in. And while other candidates ruin their names and credibility in a vain attempt to take Trump down, Republican voters will likely think the Ramaswamy name (which they now can pronounce) is a good one long into the future.
But nothing beats the real thing.