Vivek Ramaswamy: The unapologetic Hindu-American Republican that ran for POTUS - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Vivek Ramaswamy: The unapologetic Hindu-American Republican that ran for POTUS

ByNirmalya Dutta
Jan 16, 2024 04:59 PM IST

McAvoy’s nostalgic diatribe about the golden age of America appeared to be the bedrock of Vivek Ramaswamy’s candidature…

Most TV shows are defined by their finales, but if there’s one show that’s always going to be remembered for its opening monologue, it’s The Newsroom. For those who need a refresher, The Newsroom centred around the fictional TV anchor Will McAvoy, the show starts with a freshman asking panellists why they think America is the greatest country in the world.

Republican presidential candidate and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy embraces a supporter at his Iowa caucus night watch party after suspending his campaign and endorsing former U.S. President Donald Trump in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. January 15, 2024. REUTERS/Sergio Flores(REUTERS)
Republican presidential candidate and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy embraces a supporter at his Iowa caucus night watch party after suspending his campaign and endorsing former U.S. President Donald Trump in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. January 15, 2024. REUTERS/Sergio Flores(REUTERS)

What follows is a masterclass monologue (written by Aaron Sorkin) where Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) brutally deconstructs the idea that America is the greatest country in the world. But then McAvoy remembers the America that used to be – perhaps a tad wistful and found only in Mark Twain novels – where it wasn’t a nation belittled by intelligence.

Unlock exclusive access to the latest news on India's general elections, only on the HT App. Download Now! Download Now!

McAvoy’s nostalgic diatribe about the golden age of America where wars were waged on poverty, made ungodly technological advances, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and economy, appeared to be the bedrock of Vivek Ramaswamy’s candidature as he appeared almost like a Trump proxy deriding everything that appears politically correct during the GOP debates.

His campaign videos focused on America’s founding fathers, juxtaposing their intellectual curiosity with those of today. As he memorably said, while showing images from The Ramayana and The Odyssey: “We should expect more of our leaders as citizens. Back then when Presidents left the White House, they became scholars of Sanskrit. Now, they sign Netflix deals and play a round of golf."

Ramaswamy’s campaign was based on his “10 truths” which he repeated ad nauseam: “1. God is real. 2. There are two genders. 3. Human flourishing requires fossil fuels. 4. Reverse racism is racism. 5. An open border is no border. 6. Parents determine the education of their children. 7. The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to mankind. 8. Capitalism lifts people up from poverty. 9. There are three branches of the U.S. government, not four. 10. The U.S. Constitution is the strongest guarantor of freedoms in history.”

He constantly reminded people of the American Dream, that he was the son of immigrants who had made a million-dollar business and warned that the insurgents of yesterday had become incumbents.

Ramaswamy had some interesting, bordering on Trotskyite ideas. While he toed the Republican line on issues like abortion or gun control, he also vowed to shut down various departments including the CDC, the FBI, the IRS and the Department of Education. He railed against the new secular religions of "COVID-ism", "climateism" and "gender ideology". He was also vocal about the fentanyl crisis though his solution appeared to be to wage an unrealistic war on Mexican cartels.

On the other hand, he stepped out of the bipartisan agreement on the war with Ukraine by conceding Russia's occupied territories, while labelling China the greatest threat. On India, he called for stronger relations and expressed his admiration for PM Narendra Modi.

At times, he did sound too good to be true, and appeared to have changed the minds of X users who were in MAGA in 2016 as Ramaswamy came across as a more articulate version of Trump.

Alas, in the end, a brown man named Ramaswamy was probably a bridge too far for largely white Republican voters in America, but he showed how far American politics, which has only elected one black man and one black-brown woman to the Presidency or Vice-Presidency in 59 elections, has come.

The received wisdom remains that if one can ever have a brown Presidential nominee from a party, it would be a Democrat not a Republican, and some certainly believed that Ramaswamy would’ve got far more traction if he was on the opposite side of the aisle, similar to Barack Obama. Ramaswamy even used Obama’s iconic “skinny guy with an odd name” line during the first GOP debate, though that led Chris Christie to accuse him of being Chat GPT.

There was something remarkably refreshing about a man named Vivek Ramaswamy, who refused to hide his religion – even though the Hinduism he often evoked appeared to be facsimile of evangelism preferred by white Republicans – and answered questions honestly.

His knowledge about the intricacies of different topics, his ability to engage with those who didn’t see eye to eye, or even heckled him would make him stand apart. For a while, at least on X, he even appealed to voters who were MAGA in 2016 and earned the backing of the likes of Elon Musk.

His gift of the gab was quite apparent in his numerous conversations with podcasters and TV show hosts. He always had a smart repartee whenever they tried to shoehorn him into a box or tried to put arguments in his mouth that he didn’t make. What was particularly refreshing, for Indian Americans across the aisle, was Ramaswamy’s refusal to Americanise his name.

Unlike other Indian Americans who Americanised their names like Bobby Jindal or Nikki Haley, Ramaswamy proudly wore his Hindu Indian identity on his sleeve, reminding voters that he was running for Commander-in-Chief not Pastor-in-Chief.

If there was one complaint a lot of observers had about Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign, it was his refusal to criticise Trump, a decision he held on to even when Trump labelled him “deceitful”. At times, it also felt like he was simply a virtual proxy for Trump who refused to attend the GOP debate. Perhaps, Ramaswamy is still holding on to the hope that Trump will pick him as VP choice but given that his appeal doesn’t go beyond Trump’s base, that’s always going to be unlikely.

Ramaswamy’s campaign was always likely to fall at the first hurdle and Iowa turned out to be his Munich as it gave him a cold and hard reality check. But for a short while we had a brown Hindu Republican who refused to bow down to pressures to shorten his title, who spoke his mind, showed that American politicians can have depth and knowledge about various topics, that they can disagree with their opponents without heckling them, and also that there was presidential candidate who could go toe-to-toe in a push-up challenge with college athletes.

It might not be the shining city on the top of the hill that Reagan evoked, but quite briefly it was a glimpse of the America that McAvoy dreamed of, one that wasn’t belittled by intelligence. Maybe today wasn't Vivek's day, but he managed to give a glimmer of hope to thousands of down ballot Indian-American political activists, that there is a life beyond the Samosa Caucus and being a model token diversity inclusion in committees.

The views expressed are the author's own.

Tell us what your First Vote will stand for in a short video & get a chance to be featured on HT’s social media handles. Click here to know more!

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, May 25, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On