Vivek Ramaswamy’s charisma is nonsensical and dangerous

Republican Party presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy perfectly represents our current political climate’s downward spiral. Ramaswamy, 38, is a multimillionaire and former biopharmaceutical executive who is currently campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination without any previous political experience. Sure, political experience isn’t necessary to secure a seat in the White House, as former President Donald Trump has demonstrated, but it would be nice to know that our nation’s highest elected public official is at least somewhat competent.

Despite his lack of experience, voters consider Ramaswamy a serious contender in the Republican primary. In August, he captured millions of Americans’ attention during the first Republican national debate in Milwaukee. Though political experts forecasted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to be Trump’s greatest challenger, his debate performance was largely overshadowed by Ramaswamy’s charisma. With his overwhelming self-confidence and exceptional public speaking abilities, it’s easy to grasp why Ramaswamy has amassed a cult-like following among conservative voters. According to polling averages as of Oct. 10, 7.5% of voters find Ramaswamy favorable, placing him above candidates with national recognition, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.  

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

While he may seem appealing, Ramaswamy is not the presidential candidate America needs. He is dangerously skilled at articulating ignorant ideas and manipulating voters into believing his deceptive lies and nonsensical claims.

During the August debate, Ramaswamy made headlines for arguing that climate change is a “hoax” from which we must “declare independence.” Independence from what, exactly? The scientific consensus that the Earth’s temperature has risen 2 F since 1880 and will likely increase by at least 5 F by the end of this century? Global warming is dangerous, no matter what Ramaswamy claims. Glaciers are shrinking, hurricanes are increasing in intensity and coastal settlements are constantly being threatened by rising sea levels. Proposals to protect the planet, such as implementing carbon taxes and switching to electric vehicles, require a public consensus that global warming exists, which is incredibly difficult to achieve because of people like Ramaswamy and their spread of blatant misinformation.

Ramaswamy is an ardent supporter of a limited government but goes beyond most conservatives by vowing to fire more than 75% of the federal workforce — that’s equivalent to over 1.6 million jobs. He promises to completely disband the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), which would lay off more than 4,400 employees and place almost 43 million borrowers of federal student loans in jeopardy. Beyond these logistical nightmares, shutting down the DOE is implicitly discriminatory. Colleges and universities are already grappling with recent U.S. Supreme Court lawsuits that have overturned affirmative action policies designed to increase minority representation in schools. Now, more than ever before, the DOE is necessary for increasing educational diversity by promoting curricula like Advanced Placement African American Studies and holding state and local officials accountable for discrimination through its Office for Civil Rights. Ramaswamy’s true intention goes beyond limiting excess spending; he wants to disrupt essential governmental functions and limit minorities from achieving social mobility.

Perhaps Ramaswamy’s most dangerous characteristic is his tendency to lie. In an interview with The Atlantic in July, he claimed that most of the people armed during the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021 were federal law enforcement officers. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, however, 104 rioters have been charged with entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon. Granted, it is not possible to verify exactly how many people out of the thousands gathered in Washington were armed, but it is difficult not to feel disgusted at Ramaswamy’s attempt to downplay the violence that killed a Capitol Police officer and injured many more.

Ramaswamy is even worse than a liar; he’s a hypocrite. He condemned Trump’s actions less than a week after the insurrection, calling them “downright abhorrent.” Now that Ramaswamy is on the campaign trail, his rational criticisms have been seemingly replaced with endless praise for Trump as “the best president of the 21st century.” For someone who prides himself on not being a politician, Ramaswamy sure knows how to act like one.

Ramaswamy is not as ignorant as he pretends to be. He is well-educated, holding degrees from both Harvard University (Mass.) and Yale Law School (Conn.). The point of his inflammatory rhetoric is to appeal to the same voters that played a pivotal role in winning Trump the presidency in 2016: white, blue-collar Christians without a college education. Ramaswamy’s platform is a perfect example of confirmation bias, telling these voters exactly what they want to hear. It is not a coincidence that Ramaswamy has tried to make himself appear as similar to Trump as possible; on the debate stage, he is a businessman and political outsider with radical views and dramatic hand gestures, unafraid to initiate fights with his rivals.

By lying to the public, Ramaswamy is taking advantage of the highly polarized nature of American politics. For both Republicans and Democrats, the belief in the other party as highly negative has more than doubled since 1994. In fact, 66% of consistently conservative Republicans believe Democratic policies threaten the nation’s well-being. The danger, then, comes from the unlikely yet possible scenario in which Ramaswamy receives the Republican nomination. It is alarming to imagine how many voters would elect him simply because of his party affiliation, incredible eloquence or extreme views.

The American political system is headed in the wrong direction, but there is still hope. We need to continue to hold candidates accountable by making sure campaign promises and emphasized policies are more than just words. When it comes time to elect our next president, we must exercise our critical thinking to avoid falling for deceptive claims — not just from Ramaswamy but from every politician willing to exploit our divisive, incendiary state of politics for their own benefit.

Ryan Wang (25Ox) is from Naperville, Ill.

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