The first presidential debate for the Republican Party showed a cast of familiar characters we know all too well in American politics: old white guys, save Nikki Haley, Tim Scott and, now most notably, Vivek Ramaswamy. Ramaswamy stood out in the debate for being below 40, and having such a way with speaking that makes him extremely influential in the Republican Party. Though he is unlikely to make it to the primaries, his age and outspoken nature reveal him to be a very dangerous candidate.
Our generation has been begging for years for a candidate who is younger to represent the younger voting population. Over and over again we have seen people old enough to be our grandparents get elected for the highest seats in government, many of whom seem to be unfit for office because of how old they are. Time and time again, we see politicians like Mitch McMconnell and even Diane Feinstein have freezes that bring up the question of whether they are capable of holding a position in government. The average age of senators is 65 years old. And while I understand that there is a wisdom that comes with being older, there is a clear underrepresented group in government: the younger generations.
Vivek Ramaswamy, an Indian-American child of immigrants seemed to be a breath of fresh air for the Republican Party, as he is just 38 years old and is a self-made billionaire. For the party, he embodies the toxic idea of a “model minority,” somebody who simply “picked themselves up by the bootstraps” to achieve the American dream—unattainable for the majority of natural-born citizens of this country, let alone immigrants. In seeing him on stage, unlike the rest of the much older candidates we have seen before, I was intrigued by what he had to say.
When Ramaswamy appeared as a candidate for the debate, I had not heard of him before. I was immediately interested in his candidacy because of his way of speaking being very quickly and clearly, which I didn’t notice in the other candidates. Unfortunately, what came out of his mouth was a complete denial that climate change exists, a constant assertion to bring back the “nuclear family,” and an urge to get rid of the Department of Education. There was an abundance of Trump glorification, with Ramaswamy claiming the ex-president to be “the best president of the 21st century.” The gesture was mutual, with Trump praising Ramaswamy after the debate, posting on his own social media platform, “This answer gave Vivek Ramaswamy a big WIN in the debate because of a thing called TRUTH. Thank you Vivek!”
My curiosity about him quickly turned to disappointment because, while I was not surprised about the content of his beliefs, it is unfortunate to see such a promising young speaker have vile beliefs that are the exact opposite of what the country needs. It was clear that Ramaswamy performed very well in the debate, however, because he raised over $450,000 in one hour after the event concluded. His performance in the debate was just slightly underrated compared to DeSantis, who scored two percentage points higher in the debate. However, Ramaswamy soon took DeSantis’s place as the number two candidate for president, although by a wide margin behind Trump.
While Ramaswamy most likely will not be elected for the primaries, there is no denial that he has made a very quick and strong impact on the Republican Party. The day after the debate, my news and social media feed were flooded with clips of the candidate, and reading the comments proved that he has quickly gained a large following. He fits the idea of the self-made candidate, someone who worked hard to get where he is. Trump’s campaign ran on similar values, being someone who “didn’t have a place in politics” before he ran for president. Many people in America like the idea of someone who isn’t a career politician running for office, the idea being that anyone could be president.
Because of Ramaswamy’s background in the health and pharmaceutical business, it is clear that he has corporate ties within his campaign. He ironically said “I’m the only person on the stage who isn’t bought and paid for,” but considering his billionaire status, it is evident that he has interests with big corporations. His outright denial of the “climate change agenda” is a telling quote that he will do whatever it takes to continue the disaster of fossil fuel use and industrialization in this country, and not support crucial policies to ease the effects of it. His takes in the debate were even more far-right than most of the other candidates on the podiums, Nikki Haley noticeably so. Her opinions were surprisingly much less radical than Ramaswamy, and she criticized him for saying we needed to stop funding money to Ukraine, saying that he has “no foreign policy experience and it shows.”
While Ramaswamy has gained quite a base of support, it is notable that he does not have political experience. It was noticeable that many of his opponents began to capitalize on his lack of experience, such as former Vice President Mike Pence saying “Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We don’t need to bring in a rookie.” While he was slammed by the other candidates for being too young and inexperienced, it is clear that he still has the support of the most popular candidate, Donald Trump.
If Vivek Ramaswamy was able to get so much traction this quickly in the debate, I am super curious to see how the next debate plays out. It is clear that he has the potential to be a very popular candidate in the next debate, and if Trump decides to join the next debate it will be interesting to watch how the dynamic plays out between them, considering how buddy-buddy they have become over social media and in the way they speak about each other publicly. His effectiveness as a debater has made him an extremely influential player among the Republican candidates, and it is both worrying and fascinating at the same time.