Vivek Ramaswamy as Prototypical Republican Candidate

  • Vox’s Andrew Prokop on how Vivek would “simply just solve American’s tough problems”;
  • NYT’s Michelle Goldeberg on why that some people find Vivek insufferable is exactly why his fans are drawn to him;
  • WaPo’s Paul Waldman on how Republicans are attracted to candidates with no political experience;
  • LGBTQNation’s John Gallagher on how Vivek is willing to say anything to close a deal, and of course how he’s very anti-gay.

I was going to drop the subject, but the more commentaries I read about Vivek Ramaswamy, the more I see him as a perfect example of trends in conservative voting. Trends I’ve noticed for decades. Conservatives (Republicans) like simple-minded solutions to everything; they like celebrities and hucksters.

Vox, Andrew Prokop, 29 Aug 2023: The “I would simply …” candidate, subtitled “Vivek Ramaswamy says he would simply just solve America’s tough problems.”

The last three paragraphs:

Throughout his campaign, Ramaswamy has made proposals of dubious legality and practicality. For instance, he’s said he’ll simply fire “at least half” of federal employees in violation of the law and that he’ll just make broad claims of presidential power and hope the Supreme Court declines to stop him. On foreign policy, he’s said he would simply turn Russia against China (despite the two nations’ claims of a “no limits” partnership). To deal with Chinese designs on Taiwan, he’s said he’ll guarantee a US military response only until America is no longer reliant on Taiwan to manufacture semiconductors — which he says he’ll accomplish by 2028. Simple!

In response, experts pull their hair out, established politicians (like his debate stage rivals) complain it’s not so simple, and journalists write tut-tutting fact-checks. But so long as all this sounds enough like “common sense” to GOP primary voters, Ramaswamy won’t be hurt in the polls and may even be helped, since many of those voters wouldn’t trust experts or journalists anyway.

All of that surely sounds familiar, since Trump has long followed a similar playbook of promising big with little regard to what was plausible or made sense. But where Trump’s talk often came off as half-serious showman bluster, Ramaswamy is more the high-achieving millennial who’s crammed for the test and come up with a superficially smart-sounding but ultimately vapid answer. Both have the same goal: to try to get one over on you.

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NY Times, Michelle Goldberg, 28 Aug 2023: Opinion: Vivek Ramaswamy Is Very Annoying. It’s Why He’s Surging in the Polls.

…I suspect that Ramaswamy’s fans are drawn to him for all the reasons his critics find him insufferable. Conservatives love being championed by representatives of groups that they think disdain them. Despite the right’s deep resentment of the entertainment industry, Republicans tend to adore celebrity candidates, from Ronald Reagan to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Trump.

People who care about the basic workings of government are gobsmacked by Ramaswamy’s apparent ignorance — on Sunday, for example, he said that if he’d been in Vice President Mike Pence’s shoes on Jan. 6, 2021, he would have pushed through election reform “in my capacity as president of the Senate.” But he’s good at sounding like he knows what he’s talking about. Sarah Longwell, a political strategist who has conducted extensive focus groups with Republican primary voters, said that people who like Ramaswamy inevitably say, “I think he’s really smart.”

Many older white conservatives, after all, feel threatened by multiethnic younger generations that largely reject their most fundamental values about faith, gender and patriotism. Ramaswamy is part of this menacing cohort, and he’s telling Republicans that their suspicions about it are correct. “More than anything, he has portrayed his generation and younger ones as empty souls living meaningless lives,” Jonathan Weisman wrote in The Times. He’s a young man running an anti-youth campaign; a centerpiece of Ramaswamy’s platform is a call to strip the franchise from most people under 25 unless they pass a civics test. And he’s a person of color who argues, even in the wake of another white supremacist mass shooting, that most American racism comes from the left. If he annoys those who find him most familiar, that’s surely part of the point.

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Washington Post, Paul Waldman, 29 Aug 2023: Opinion | Why Republicans love candidates like Vivek Ramaswamy

In 1984, the classic comic strip “Bloom County” featured a presidential campaign by Bill the Cat, a scraggly and ill-tempered feline whose sole utterance was “Ack!,” and his penguin running mate, the hapless Opus. Their slogan was “This Time, Why Not the Worst?”

While Republicans haven’t quite asked themselves that question (or maybe they did with Donald Trump), the emergence of Vivek Ramaswamy as the 2024 presidential race’s current object of fascination makes clear that once again, many GOP voters are asking, “This time, why not the guy with the least experience?” It’s not how you’d hire someone for any imaginable job, and it flows from a combination of frustration and delusion about politics.

We’ve seen this scenario in every recent Republican nominating contest: Voters suddenly become taken with a candidate who has never held office, might have had only the barest contact with the political world, and, when it comes to the office they’re running for, has little or no idea what they’re talking about.

We’ve seen this scenario in every recent Republican nominating contest: Voters suddenly become taken with a candidate who has never held office, might have had only the barest contact with the political world, and, when it comes to the office they’re running for, has little or no idea what they’re talking about.

Waldman then recalls Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Steve Forbes, and… Trump.

As with his predecessors, Ramaswamy’s understanding of issues never goes deeper than the most glib sloganeering. In the debate, he said that “family, faith, patriotism, hard work have all disappeared,” so the country requires “a tonal reset from the top,” which apparently involves eliminating the IRS, the FBI, the Education Department and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Asked what he would have done in Mike Pence’s place on Jan. 6, 2021, Ramaswamy suggested that Pence could have wielded powers the vice president does not possess to reform the entire U.S. system of elections in a single day.

Why do candidates offering this kind of drivel find such a receptive audience? The roots of the attraction might lie in people’s disgust with politics. A huckster such as Ramaswamy implicitly suggests you can sweep away whatever you don’t like about politics by electing a leader with sufficient confidence and a willingness to break things.

The belief in the candidate who claims they can bring about that transformation is naive, even childlike.

Were it not for Trump, the Republican electorate might look at Ramaswamy and say they’ve heard this before. But Trump convinced them that, in fact, you don’t need to know anything about politics or policy to be president. Many of his failures — including his inability to achieve much of what conservatives wanted — did stem directly from his ignorance and inexperience, as well as his titanic character flaws. But all those primary voters believe is that he won, he stuck it to the libs and he had an election stolen from him.

These are the trends that have been evident for decades. Ramaswamy offers simplistic solutions that appeal to simple-minded people, the ones for whom every issue is about good vs. evil and black vs. white and can be solved by being tough. And these seem to be the same people who are inclined to choose celebrities, and/or hucksters, for office, rather than anyone with actual government experience.

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LGBTQ Nation, John Gallagher commentary, 29 Aug 2023: Vivek Ramaswamy is the kind of anti-LGBTQ used-car salesman the GOP loves, subtitled “The biotech entrepreneur is enchanting GOP voters by copying Trump’s trademark tactics: be entertaining and say anything to close the deal.”

Following his performance in last week’s Republican presidential debate, Vivek Ramaswamy has emerged as this latest bright shiny object fascinating the mainstream media and GOP voters alike. Ramaswamy, a biotech executive who compensates for his lack of elected experience with overabundant confidence in himself, stood out in the debate with his crisp language and sharp elbows.

He also stood out because he knows exactly what to say to pander to the GOP audience. No wonder he is rising in the polls.

And, oh by the way, how he’s the latest example of how conservatives find everything LGBTQ upsetting as violations of their black and white view of the world. (Never mind individual freedom.)

Of course, the main thing that Ramaswamy shares with Trump is the vision that we live in a dystopian world, where the “faith, patriotism, hard work, family” are being sacrificed on the altar of Woke Inc., (the title of Ramaswamy’s book).

Chief among these is what Ramaswamy describes as the “cult” of the LGBTQ+ movement. “In the name of rights, what they’ve actually done is created a new culture of oppression in the opposite direction, imposing that on kids,” he said in the same Meet the Press interview.

Ramaswamy has been particularly vicious about trans rights. He said on Meet the Press that affirming the gender identities of teens is “cruelty.”

“When a kid is crying out for help,” Ramaswamy said. “You’ve got to ask the question of what else is going wrong at home? What else is going wrong at school? Let’s be compassionate and get to the heart of that rather than playing this game as though we are actually changing our medical understanding for the last hundred years.”

Not surprisingly, Ramaswamy has said he would ban gender-affirming care for minors.

His other positions on LGBTQ+ issues are equally right-wing. He complained that Target “spit in the face” of customers with its Pride merchandise. Overall, he thinks the LGBTQ+ movement seeks to “create an us-versus-them destruction of modern order.”

Us-versus-them; black and white thinking; and projection.

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