Vivek Ramaswamy: the anti-woke tycoon challenging Trump for the White House

The 37-year-old entrepreneur has thrown his hat into the ring for the Republican Party primaries where the former president and Nikki Haley await while Ron DeSantis bides his time

Vivek Ramaswamy
Vivek Ramaswamy addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, last August.BRIAN SNYDER (REUTERS)

Vivek Ramaswamy, a billionaire entrepreneur, successful biotech investor and scourge of the woke ideology, has set out his stall to become president of the United States. On February 21, the 37-year-old announced his Republican candidacy for the 2024 presidential elections. He accompanied the video announcement with an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, published simultaneously, in which he explains that he is being driven by what he describes as a “national identity crisis.”

“We hunger for purpose at a moment when faith, patriotism and hard work are on the decline. We embrace secular religions like climatism, Covidism and gender ideology to satisfy our need for meaning, yet we can’t answer what it means to be an American,” Ramaswamy wrote in his op-ed, adding in his video message: “We have obsessed so much over our diversity and our difference that we forgot all the ways we’re really just the same as Americans.”

Ramaswamy is also the author of a best-selling book, Woke. Inc: “Corporate accountability is quietly wreaking havoc on American democracy. It involves a small group of investors and CEOs determining what is good for society instead of the usual democratic mechanisms. This new trend has created a major cultural shift [...]. It is polarizing our politics. It is dividing our country to a breaking point,” Ramaswamy writes about the term woke, which first emerged in the 1930s, was popularized during the civil rights movement and gained broader usage during the Black Lives Matter protests of the last decade. In 2017, it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Reading the compass of American politics is never an exact science, but Ramaswamy’s bid does not seem to have much chance of success – but neither did that of one Donald J. Trump when he announced a run for the White House in 2015. In the meantime, Ramaswamy’s entry into the political fray has served to liven up the Republican primary race while the Democrats remain static, awaiting Joe Biden’s decision as to whether or not he will seek a second term.

Joining Ramaswamy on the starting line for the 2024 presidential elections are Trump, who announced his third candidacy last November, and Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump White House. All eyes though remain on Ron DeSantis, who has been biding his time over whether to put the ultraconservative experiment that has worked so well for him at the Florida ballot boxes to the test on a national scale. Other potential Republican candidates include Trump’s vice president Mike Pence and the governors of Virginia and New Hampshire, Glenn Youngkin and Chris Sununu.

There has also been speculation about a possible bid by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, an African-American politician who holds a somewhat more traditional view of American conservatism, more in the optimistic line of Ronald Reagan than the angry worldview propagated by Trump. Should Scott, Ramaswamy or Haley - both born to Indian immigrants – succeed in the Republican primaries they will make history as the first non-white, male candidate in the party’s history to do so.

One thing that unites all potential candidates and many conservative US politicians - white males or not - is the anti-woke agenda, which DeSantis has turned into an effective emblem in Florida, “where woke goes to die.” For the Florida governor, wokeism can manifest itself in many ways, from the books he bans in schools to protecting LGTBI rights to including the study of racism in academic curriculums.

In his WSJ article Ramaswamy - who says in Woke, Inc. “Basically, being woke means obsessing about race, gender and sexual orientation. Maybe climate change too. That’s the best definition I can give” – stated: “To make America first, we need to rediscover what America is,” adding that he is not only launching a political campaign, “but a cultural movement to create a new American Dream – one that is not only about money but about the unapologetic pursuit of excellence.”

Presenting his credentials in that sphere, Ramaswamy offered his own family history: “My parents entered this country legally, worked hard and raised two kids who went on to create businesses that improved the lives of thousands of Americans. We need more immigrants like them, instead of those who break the law when they enter our country. That means securing the border unapologetically and eliminating lottery-based immigration in favor of meritocratic admission.”

Ramaswamy also pledges to strip benefits from federal officials and “eliminate affirmative action across the American economy,” citing Lyndon B. Johnson’s Executive Order 11246, which mandates “federal contractors – which employ approximately 20% of the US.workforce – adopt race-based hiring preferences.” In his op-ed, the presidential candidate said he would “rescind this executive order and direct the Justice Department to prosecute illegal race-based preferences.”

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