Vivek the Fake: Local event highlights Ramaswamy’s troubling hypocrisy

| Sports Editor

Vivek Ramaswamy is a man of many contradictions. 

He’s a self-proclaimed staunch Conservative who has voted for the Republican ticket just once in his life. An Indian-American practicing Hindu, who actively targets Evangelical voters and believes America needs to return to its “Judeo-Christian values.” A millennial who raps Eminem on the campaign trail, retweets memes, and accepts bitcoin donations, yet believes we need to consider raising the voting age and positions himself in opposition to many issues that matter most to the American youth.

Despite the puzzling inconsistencies in his campaign, the current Republican presidential candidate is in the midst of a moment. Since announcing his run for presidency in February, the former biotech entrepreneur has slowly crept up into the top tier of candidates, passing former governors, executive branch officials, and GOP mainstays nearly twice his age. And despite a performance in the Republican debate that came off as brash and aggressive and drew repeated attacks from his more experienced competitors, Ramaswamy has since seen a modest boost in his poll numbers. He is now just a stone’s throw away from dethroning Ron Desantis as the de facto Trump alternative in the race for the GOP nomination.

Ramaswamy’s hypocrisy was on display firsthand in St. Louis last week, as the candidate who has vowed to self-fund the majority of his campaign held a big-money fundraising dinner with GOP donors from the region. The event looked eerily similar to those Ramaswamy has criticized his opponents for holding — the anti-establishment candidate has frequently attacked opponents, including during last week’s debate, for being bought and funded by special interests in the Republican Party.

The event was originally supposed to be held at Olive and Oak, a restaurant in the Webster Groves neighborhood of St. Louis County, but the venue canceled on the campaign at the last minute, and the event was moved to the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown St. Louis. Tickets for the general public started at $500, but that only covered a cocktail hour and attendance at the candidate’s “keynote” address. An additional $500 was required to get a picture with Ramaswamy and a signed hat or t-shirt. To get into a private meal with Ramaswamy would have set you back $3,300, the maximum an individual can give to a single candidate during an election cycle. 

One such donor who “hosted” the event was Dr. John Holds, a Missouri plastic surgeon who has given upwards of $30,000 to Republican campaigns over the last few decades, including to those of GOP mainstays Josh Hawley, George Bush, Mitt Romney, and Rand Paul. And while no super PACs were involved in Wednesday’s event, Pro-Ramaswamy PACs are already popping up, even as he has continued to accuse his opponents of being “super PAC puppets.”

To be clear, I see no problem with Vivek raising cash for his campaign. Money is a factor in every campaign, and candidates left, right, and center often rely only on maximum donations and PAC money to support their candidacies.

But last week’s event speaks to a greater theme in Vivek’s campaign: campaigning on one thing while displaying the exact opposite. Take another example: Ramaswamy is frequently seen rocking a campaign hat that says “TRUTH,” and he has made that monosyllabic motto a central theme of his campaign. But in recent weeks, the candidate has been caught making numerous statements ranging from slight exaggerations to massive lies. Ramaswamy has also defended Donald Trump with unrivaled passion, even as most of the GOP field has tried to distance itself at least slightly from the former President. How can a candidate be so committed to so-called morals while he stands buddy-buddy with a man under trial for conspiring to defraud the United States government, falsifying business records, and committing dozens of other crimes?

Ramaswamy’s extreme stances also call into question another central message of his campaign: uniting Americans for their similarities, rather than their differences. His stances on abortion (support for six-week bans on the state level), climate change (calling the “climate change agenda” a “hoax” at the GOP debate), and transgender rights (going as far as calling being transgender a “deluded and mentally deranged state”) outflank his GOP peers to the right, and are not just off-putting to younger voters and Liberals, but to many Conservatives as well.

So where does Vivek go from here? It’s an impressive surprise that his campaign is doing as well as it has been, as up until recently, Ramaswamy had among the lowest name recognition of any candidate in the race. (Despite his recent success, supporters and competitors alike still can’t get his name right: Vivek rhymes with cake, not check.) With his success still mounting, there are  still a number of voters Ramaswamy can continue to appeal to and perhaps win over. There is also discourse over the possibility of potentially joining a Donald Trump-led ticket down the line as the Vice President, even though Ramaswamy has said he would not take Trump up on the offer

But right now, Ramaswamy still faces two major obstacles. For one, feuds at last week’s debates positioned his candidacy in opposition to those of Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, and Chris Christie, voting blocs that, while small, could have potentially lent Ramaswamy vital support if any of those campaigns were to continue to falter. 

But the even larger obstacle for Ramaswamy is that this race remains Donald Trump’s to lose. The former President still leads the field by 35 points, and while his polling numbers are less dominant in Iowa and New Hampshire (the first two states to vote for the Republican nominee), the current field would have to consolidate dramatically for a non-Trump candidate to win. Even if there was some coordinated effort to knock Trump out of his front-runner’s status, similar to what the Democrats did in 2020 to propel Joe Biden to the White House, there is no reason to believe that Ramaswamy would gain the support of party veterans. Ramaswamy’s unwillingness to criticize Trump may help rally the party base in the primary, but it severely caps his crossover appeal to non-Trump supporters and will hurt the first-time candidate in the long run. 

Ramaswamy is clearly an incredibly smart guy, but he is also in over his head. Candidates in his position can typically only go two routes: rise into the top tier of candidates or fade into irrelevance. With no Trump, Ramaswamy would be in a totally different position. But as things stand now, Ramaswamy lacks the crossover appeal to expand his base and make any real noise once the primaries begin. Sooner or later, Ramaswamy’s deception and hypocrisy will catch up to him, and he will be exposed for what he really is: Vivek the fake.

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