September 1, 2023 | OPINION | By Zoraiz Zafar
I am a firm believer of the idea that a successful presidential candidate should stand on principles that resonate with a nation’s values, offering a vision that reflects the hopes and aspirations of the people. However, reality and recent history suggest that political maneuvering and strategic alliances often shape the trajectory of a candidate’s journey to the highest office.
As the 2024 presidential race gains momentum, the strategy of Vivek Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur and current polling runner-up in the Grand Old Party primary, is an interesting one to analyze. It makes one wonder, what is in his strategy that could potentially position him as the Republican nominee, and what do his rising fortunes indicate about the GOP’s future?
From an observer’s perspective, it’s evident that Ramaswamy has embarked on a strategy that aims to position him as an advocate and supporter of former President and current GOP primary frontrunner, Donald Trump. This calculated move is inherently strategic in nature, with the goal of Trump potentially picking Ramaswamy as his running mate.
Based on a handful of statements Trump has made recently, the possibility of a Trump-Ramaswamy ticket does not appear to be outside the bounds of reality. Ramaswamy’s decision to embrace Trump’s policies and rhetoric signals his willingness to play the political game, harnessing the fervor of Trump’s supporters while leveraging his own right-wing credentials.
However, the path Ramaswamy has chosen may turn out to be very different from what is seems to be at the outset, largely due to Trump’s ongoing legal entanglements. As various legal challenges loom over Trump, including the election racketeering case in Georgia, there’s a strong possibility that he might be convicted before election day, giving states and local governments the power to remove him from the ballot.
In such a scenario, Ramaswamy could replace Trump as the nominee at the GOP Convention, in a move that would be likely backed by the Republican establishment. Even if this scenario does not transpire, Ramaswamy would be in a good position to re-run as a candidate in 2028 and beyond.
Presidential nominee or not, the rise in Ramaswamy’s popularity is indicative of the rightward shift in the positions of the median Republican voter. While he brings great charisma and credentials to the ring, some of his fringe right-wing views, such as his pro-Russia stance and his proposal to eliminate the FBI, are strongly distasteful to moderate and swing voters.
His recent jump to second place in the Republican primary polls suggests a continuation of the GOP’s shift toward nationalism, populism, and election denialism. While this resonates with a significant portion of the Republican base, the results of the 2018, 2020, and 2022 elections suggest that Trumpism, as an ideology, is essentially unelectable in swing districts and races.
Besides their electability issues, the Trump-Ramaswamy wing of the GOP presents a weak agenda on foreign policy matters. The intricacies of diplomacy require leaders to balance idealism, pragmatism, and realism.
The “America First” approach threatens to strain relationships with allies yet again and potentially disrupt global stability, allowing for adversaries such as China and Russia to attempt to expand their respective circles of influence. The departure from multilateral agreements and international organizations might isolate the United States and reduce its soft diplomatic power, affecting trade, security, and efforts to combat global challenges like climate change.
In this age of unprecedented and evolving political landscapes, the American people will ultimately decide the direction they wish to take. The uncertainty around who will be on the Republican ticket in 2024 will remain for quite some time but the current state of the GOP primary confirms that, to this day, Trumpism continues to hold sway over the Republican base.
In my opinion, Ramaswamy does not bring with him a particularly unique platform but is instead an extension of the populist wing of the party. As the GOP presidential primary proceeds, it remains to be seen if Republicans can realize that this platform, while popular within their own party, is electorally disastrous by structure.