Photo via CNN.
Negative stereotypes surrounding politicians are commonplace within American politics, often describing a wealthy, dishonest, and manipulative figure with unrealistic campaign promises. Considered unreliable and incapable of truly relating to the average American, many Americans don’t trust them. While many would argue that these features are true of numerous different politicians, few embody this persona to the extent of 2024 Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.
Before he was a politician, Ramaswamy was a savvy businessman working in the biotechnology industry. He emerged on the political landscape after publishing his first book, Woke Inc., criticizing political pressure for businesses to speak out against police brutality during the Black Lives Matter movement. He quickly developed popularity within the right-wing media landscape after he became more vocal about the frustration he had felt after being pressured by employees to express liberal views on behalf of his company, something that he argued was not the responsibility of businesses at large.
After quickly rising to fame within conservative circles, Ramaswamy announced his presidential candidacy. The basis of his platform is closely tied to the topic of his popular book, with the familiar “anti-woke” ideology that has been present within many Republican campaigns, advocating against left-wing activism and virtue signaling. Ramaswamy’s policy leans further right than other popular candidates, including Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, but also tends to be illogical and based on flawed perceptions of geopolitics. On many issues, Ramaswamy takes incredibly extreme versions of stances held by Trump and DeSantis in ways that experts on both the left and the right have found to be entirely irrational.
Firstly, Ramaswamy holds a similar perspective to many right-wing candidates regarding the need to “drain the swamp,” decreasing the presence of bureaucracy within the U.S. Government. While some right-wing candidates suggest a decrease in funding to specific federal departments, Ramaswamy has proposed the eradication of 75% of the federal workforce, as well as the complete elimination of the FBI, the IRS, and the Department of Education. While many candidates have proposed scaling back the federal workforce, Ramaswamy’s plan would lead to job losses for millions of Americans while also eliminating large federal agencies dedicated to investigating domestic crime, collecting taxes, and creating educational standards for American schools. By abolishing key elements of a functional nation, including security and law enforcement, the right to quality education, and the economic resources needed to run a government effectively, Ramaswamy’s policy proposal does not account for long-term impacts. Even though cutting back on bureaucracy would save government funds, Ramaswamy’s plan does not recognize that these agencies provide necessary services that actively benefit American citizens.
While it may be possible that money could be reallocated to be used more efficiently, eliminating entire departments with a single decision does not account for the nuance of political decision-making. In many cases like this, Ramaswamy avoids making the responsible decision to adjust policy and assumes that politics are simplistic and black and white. While most politically informed Americans would realize that democracy requires a delicate balance of regulation and autonomy, Ramaswamy sees politics as clear-cut, with a singular solution to any given problem. Instead of reforming a program based on its costs, Ramaswamy suggests eradicating the department entirely under the assumption that it is either good or bad.
Ramaswamy has also suggested that the U.S. ought to give up parts of Ukraine to Russia in order to prevent Russia and China from strengthening their relations, as he sees China as a very significant threat. With this, he assumes Russia would be willing to cut off China if the U.S. granted Russia control over Ukraine. He does not support this claim with sufficient explanation as to why he believes this will occur. Furthermore, he demonstrates a willingness to betray Ukraine as an ally based on the unrealistic idea that Russia would suddenly become willing to make decisions based on the sole purpose of fulfilling Americans’ desires. Beyond this, he fails to consider how this would impact our relations with Ukraine and its allies, which includes the entire European Union and members of NATO. By making a decision that is contradictory to the agreements that exist between our allies, the U.S. could suffer economic and political difficulties with the allied countries that feel we’ve betrayed them.
Ramaswamy also argued that the U.S. needs to eliminate our reliance on China by rapidly increasing the rate of semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S., a product that the U.S. currently relies on Taiwan to produce. He claimed that building an entire industry within the U.S. would be complete by the end of his first term and would eliminate any obligation to protect Taiwan or rely economically on China. With this said, he did not consider that his entire plan rests on successfully creating an entirely new industry in only four years and the assumption that China would not invade Taiwan during this period. This would cause the U.S. to abandon Taiwan, another ally, for the sake of creating an independent economy and encouraging separation from China.
Like other Republican candidates, Ramaswamy suggests that, as president, he would send U.S. troops onto Mexican soil to attack drug cartels. He cites the Monroe Doctrine, a document used in the early 20th century to allow the U.S. to dominate Latin America without European interference, as justification. In this circumstance, for example, he fails to think about how the Mexican government would react to a U.S. invasion, with Mexico serving as a primary trading partner of the United States. And while Ramaswamy argues that he’s not received any “good answer from anyone on why we can’t just do this to solve the cartel problem and fentanyl problem,” he doesn’t consider how this would affect international relations on a larger scale. One anonymous Latin American official stated that Ramaswamy’s plan is “a simplistic vision, based on a misreading of history that elides the highly diverse perspectives, challenges and aspirations of the countries he is hoping to corral into a monolithic support of his vision of the U.S. nationalist interest.” His suggested policy is incredibly shortsighted, and he is willing to suddenly enact 19th-century imperialist policy without realizing how it could be detrimental to U.S. foreign relations on a larger scale.
With this, Ramaswamy’s foreign policy is often irrational and nonviable, suggesting that he lacks a fundamental understanding of geopolitics. He has been criticized by foreign policy experts on both sides of the political spectrum, including members of his party. During the Republican debate, presidential candidate Nikki Haley commented on his obvious lack of experience dealing with geopolitics, dismissing his ideas entirely. Even commentator Marc Thiessen from Fox News, a network that typically supports Republican and right-wing candidates, tweeted that Ramaswamy’s comments on foreign policy were “criminally stupid” and “utterly disqualifying.” Foreign policy expert Stephen M. Walt describes Ramaswamy as a “con-man”, arguing that he lacks an “accurate understanding of history” and an appropriate conception of what is feasible within politics. Further, both Walt and the New York Times describe Ramaswamy’s plans as “magical thinking” due to the impractical and unrealistic nature of his proposals. Similarly, David French, a conservative author, argued that “fantastical thinking is par for the course for Ramaswamy” and that “a great deal of what he says makes no sense whatsoever.”
Certain domestic policy proposals that Ramaswamy has put forth are relatively tame in comparison to the aforementioned policy objectives, such as his plans to eliminate programs that pay skilled workers to migrate to the U.S. But alongside these proposals are more absurd and dishonest campaign promises that a president would not be able to fulfill. Similar to Trump, Ramaswamy claimed that he would end birthright citizenship in response to the popular right-wing belief that birthright citizenship encourages illegal immigration. With this said, this policy is not within the hands of a president. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees birthright citizenship, and therefore, this system is binding within law. The president cannot eliminate a constitutional amendment independently, and a basic understanding of the U.S. Constitution would allow him to realize that doing this would be impossible. One would expect someone attempting to serve in a role as significant as the president of the United States would have a thorough understanding of the constitutional powers associated with the role. Ultimately, it seems that Ramaswamy is either completely lying about his policy goals or doesn’t entirely understand the details and boundaries associated with being the president, making the millions of dollars spent on his campaign fruitless and wasteful.
Beyond his flawed conception of geopolitics, though, Ramaswamy is also dishonest and lacks a solidified stance on issues. As described by Jonathan Weisman, a reporter with the New York Times following the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Ramaswamy “anticipates what people want to hear and gives them what they want, whether it’s the truth or not.” While many politicians cater to their audience, the basis of Ramaswamy’s entire campaign changes depending on who he is speaking to. For example, Weisman reported that, when questioned about his “anti-wokeness” platform during a campaign event, Ramaswamy reassured a woman at the conference that he no longer supported this concept. Simultaneously, though, he was distributing branded merchandise that read “Stop wokeism. Vote Vivek.” With this statement, Ramaswamy demonstrates that he is not exaggerating for effect, but speaking dishonestly and inconsistently about the core principles of his campaign to gain more support from voters.
Further, Wiesman reports that while giving a speech on the South side of Chicago, Ramaswamy had hoped to speak about his immigration policy. The attendees, though, were far more interested in questioning him about his past conviction that systemic racism does not exist. Throughout the event, Weisman reports that there were not any questions or comments on Ramaswamy’s immigration policy. Ramaswamy told attendees at his next event, though, that an all-Black audience from Chicago had shown more support than any other group for his immigration policies and his plans to attack the cartels, telling another blatant lie to his supporters in an attempt to maintain their votes.
While his lies are apparent, many voters don’t recognize his dishonesty because of his ability to deceive his audience with inaccurate information and contradictory promises. Weisman argues that Ramaswamy “speaks with such clarity that he doesn’t invite you to analyze whether what he said was logical.” Because of this, Weisman reports, people who attend Ramaswamy’s events hear his speeches and consider him “brilliant” and “are convinced that whatever he said had to be right because he said it so well.” Similarly, David French notes that he is “smart man, blessed with superior communication skills, yet he constantly exposes his ignorance, his cynicism or both.” Ramaswamy uses his experience in business and his ability to market a business to instead market himself, even if that means lying within the process. He lacks reasonable goals for much of his campaign, but he is able to convince voters that he is an expert. With this, Ramaswamy appears to be the epitome of a manipulative and dishonest politician, convincing voters that his inaccurate information is correct in a desperate attempt to gather more votes.
While many candidates have problematic elements in their campaigns, they appear incredibly honest and moderate alongside Ramaswamy. He utilizes his background in business to advertise himself as a candidate, but while doing this, he deliberately lies and deceives his audience. With flawed logic, blatant lies, a flimsy and inconsistent platform, and a misunderstanding of the constitutional role of the president, Ramaswamy exemplifies the negative stereotypes that surround American politicians. Whether it can be attributed to a lack of political experience or dramatization of policy to rile up the Republican voting base, Vivek Ramaswamy’s platform is based on wishful thinking and inaccurate conceptions of geopolitics and is likely to create political conflict without actually resolving any issues.
This article was edited by Abigail D’Angelo.