The more I think about last week’s debate, the more I have come to believe that Chris Christie was wrong about Vivek Ramaswamy.
During the debate, Christie pointed out that Ramaswamy essentially plagiarized Barack Obama when it called himself a skinny guy with a funny name – something Obama himself did at the Democratic National Convention years earlier.
But, I disagree with Christie’s assumption that we are “dealing with the same kind of amateur” in Ramaswamy. He isn’t like Barack Obama. Obama had a core set of beliefs. He pushed those beliefs. He worked to force those beliefs, that core ideology, on the rest of America. When Americans rejected his ideology, he bashed them. He was so devoted to his core ideology that he never gave up on it.
Some of his ideas evolved at times. Some of his beliefs changed. But they always came through an evolution. I believe Obama was wrong on pretty much everything, but I respect his belief in his ideology.
Right now, there are a lot of Republicans and conservatives who are rightly attacking Ramaswamy for not seeming to have a core set of beliefs. He has flip-flopped on key issues over the years, and it’s pretty clear that he’s making a play for voters by just saying what he thinks they want to hear.
In that sense, Ramaswamy is like Kamala Harris.
Her entire run for president (however brief) was dictated not by her own beliefs but by loud voices on social media. Her campaign was driven almost entirely by reactions to what the people of Twitter demanded she do. It was a rudderless campaign devoted to loud voices on the internet, and she paid the price by gaining no reactions, getting demolished by Tulsi Gabbard in a debate, and dropping out before the very first primary vote.
Consider how, even now, when Harris has to stand on her own, her words make no sense, and she is routinely spouting off gibberish that she desperately wants to sound intelligent.
Kamala Harris: “The significance of the passage of time, right? The significance of the passage of time. So when you think about it, there is great significance to the passage of time … and there’s such great significance to the passage of time…” pic.twitter.com/0yjBdfzFwm
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) March 21, 2022
Harris seemed devoid of any true beliefs. She was just saying what she thought people wanted to hear her say. That’s why I think she’s dangerous being so close to the presidency. It’s one thing to have a core set of beliefs that are wrong—it’s another to have no beliefs at all. She was, and still is, an empty vessel filled only with the words people tell her to say.
Ramaswamy is essentially the same way, except he upgraded his software so he at least sounds intelligible in a public setting. But while “VivekGPT” may feature the 2.0 software, the old bugs still remain. There is very little substance when you really listen to what he has to say. But, more importantly, given what he’s saying now versus what he said even just a couple of months ago, it’s clear that there is no underlying belief behind those words. It’s all opportunism.
There are multiple instances of Ramaswamy flip-flopping on various stances and positions. Here is just one from a thread full of them.
10) Vivek told the New York Post in early August that he “would be open to evaluating pardons for members of the Biden family in the interest of moving the nation forward.” After being confronted by this position, Vivek declared it was false “trash” planted by “the swamp.” pic.twitter.com/J4rfbSlDBE
— AG (@AGHamilton29) August 30, 2023
That’s what worries me about Ramaswamy. He either lacks a core set of beliefs, or he’s willing to discard them in favor of something he thinks is more popular. That’s a great way to win a popularity contest, but it’s a terrible strategy for winning a presidential primary.
An ideology does not come with a light switch. Beliefs are not something you can just turn on and off. They are vital for any person seeking higher office. If you don’t have them, or if you’re willing to toss them aside because they aren’t popular, then what good are they? If Ramaswamy wants to get more people to listen to him and take him seriously (“more people” as in enough to make him a serious contender), he will need to show real substance and not ever-changing ideologies and empty populist rhetoric.
The people who are critical of Ramaswamy have every reason to be. But that doesn’t mean he can’t make some serious, substantive changes, show some growth and evolution, and explain why those old ideas he once espoused are no longer relevant. Voters want someone serious, not just another loud personality and an empty suit.