The Republican candidates for the 2024 presidential election are off to the races in the much-anticipated showdown against incumbent President Joe Biden.
The stunning defeat of former President Donald Trump in 2020 has shaken the Republican Party. Joe Biden, whom Trump labeled “Sleepy Joe”, won despite record-low support from even Democrats.
In the void of Trump—who remains the highest polling Republican nominee—has entered Indian American businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
The young upstart’s uncharacteristic, brash approach to politics has won him followers in the 2024 Republican primaries. After-polling placed him neck-and-neck with former front-running challenger Ron DeSantis—the controversial governor of Florida.
Ramaswamy’s infamous performance at the Republican primary debates has won him admiration from wayward Trump supporters. He interjected, spoke over opponents, and displayed a general disregard for traditional political decorum. While some characterized Ramaswamy as degrading and embarrassing, he nonetheless earned praise as the “breakthrough” of the night.
Vivek Ramaswamy is no stranger to the extravagant. During his college days at Harvard, Ramaswamy donned the alter ego “Da Vek” and wrote libertarian-themed rap music. Ramaswamy, a lover of Eminem, was served a cease-and-desist letter asking him to stop rapping the artist’s hit song ‘Lose Yourself’ at political events.
Meanwhile, in college, he was a self-described “contrarian” and became president of the Harvard Political Union.
After graduating from Harvard, Ramaswamy became a wildly successful pharmaceutical tycoon. Later attending Yale Law School, Ramaswamy is worth just shy of $1 billion USD.
Well-acquainted with unusual tactics, before launching his bid for president, Ramaswamy also engaged in a distortion campaign. As reported by Forbes, Ramaswamy paid to have his Wikipedia article scrubbed, making him sound more appetizing to Republican audiences.
The young entrepreneur has toted a laundry list of far-right political positions during his turbulent, high-profile campaign for president. Among them are pledges to fire 75% of federal workers, raise the voting age to 25—which would require changing the Constitution, oppose abortion, pardoning Donald Trump after the latter’s recent indictments, abolishing the FBI, alongside pledges to end affirmative action.
Pandering to the far-right and populism is standard practice for many Republican candidates in the age of MAGA. What differentiates Ramaswamy from other candidates is his Trumpian flair for the eccentric.
While Ron DeSantis was an early challenger for the Republican nomination, audiences were turned off by what critics called his uncharismatic style, which saw him collapse stupendously in the polls.
Vivek Ramaswamy has successfully filled the niche of “Trump without the baggage.” He’s rich, loud, and doesn’t fit the mold of a ‘typical’ politician. Contrast this with DeSantis, who makes all the same rhetoric, but lacks the charisma to convince even the most “dyed-in-the-wool” Republican to support him over Trump.
But can Ramaswamy convince Republican voters to change tact and switch to him from Trump? It seems like he doesn’t want them to.
Unlike institutional challengers like former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, Ramaswamy has formed a close friendship with Trump.
Characterizing Trump’s indictment as “un-American”, Ramaswamy seems to be angling for a position in an eventually resurgent Trump cabinet. While this is wild speculation, Ramaswamy has done little to criticize the former president – who is ostensibly his greatest opponent.
Instead, Ramaswamy has deflected criticism aimed at Trump, unlike former Vice President Mike Pence—who is also running for president. In the absence of Mike Pence from Trump’s list of allies, Ramaswamy is a popular choice who has toed the Trump line.
The looming presence of Trump in the 2024 Republican primaries overshadows all the campaigns, including Ramaswamy’s. But by causing such a commotion, Ramaswamy has become a problem too big to ignore for the Trump camp. If not given special accommodations for toeing the Trump narrative thus far, Ramaswamy serves to potentially undermine the Trump chokehold on Republican politics—should the all-mighty former president lose favor.
First-year Richie Dockery is a Contributing Writer. His email is email@example.com.