Political neophyte Vivek Ramaswamy has subverted expectations, climbing the polls to third place in the search for the GOP nomination. That places him ahead of former Vice President Mike Pence, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott, and everyone else in the GOP with the exception of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump.
But Vivek’s rise — which can be attributed to his hardline conservatism, Trump sycophantism, and punchy articulation — has come with drawbacks. Namely, as Vivek has become a viable threat within the GOP primary, he has also become a target for his peer candidates.
Vivek Has a Problem
Several criticisms of Vivek seem to be forming. He flip-flops. He thinks 9/11 was an inside job. He’s an unaffiliated voter. He has ties to George Soros. In one respect the criticism could be viewed as flattering; that the GOP establishment and the GOP candidates are taking the time to research and critique Vivek implies that Vivek is relevant. Several months ago, when Vivek was just an upstart long-shot no one had ever heard of, he didn’t face any criticism. No one knew who he was, and no one cared. Mike Pence’s campaign or Fox News or The New York Times weren’t going to take the time to dig, because Vivek didn’t seem to matter. So while not being criticized may seem ideal — it’s really not. Not being criticized implies irrelevance.
Similarly, while the recent crop of bad headlines may seem like trouble for Vivek, they signify that Vivek has arrived. Counterintuitively, the bad headlines are almost good news for the Vivek campaign.
That being said, Vivek has entered a new realm where he’s going to have very powerful people with very specific interests coming after him in an effort to derail his campaign. Vivek is going to have to weather the barrage that popularity inevitably attracts. Can he do so? It’s hard to say, because we don’t know much about Vivek or his abilities. He doesn’t have much of a public track record to consult. We can speculate, and we can consider the charges.
Vivek has been charged with flip flopping. It’s a common charge, something most politicians face at one point or another. Something most politicians seem to do at one point or another. Vivek, for example, has been accused of flip-flopping on his January 6th stance. Namely, Vivek went from praising Pence and criticizing Trump for their respective January 6th actions, to praising Trump and criticizing Pence. The inverse is clearly the result of a political calculation. There are more votes to be had in aligning with the Trump base than against it.
Vivek is especially vulnerable to these specific flip-flopping charges. Why? Because the charges undermine the idea that Vivek is just a millennial kid running to change a system that has failed his generation and the country at large. The charges instead suggest Vivek is a callous political gamesman, striving to get to the top of the totem pole for its own sake.
Vivek’s flip-flopping charges become especially harmful when paired with the charge that he is an unaffiliated voter. Obviously the implication is that Vivek is not a true Republican, but just a guy who sensed an opportunity to get ahead and took it. That could be a problem. But every viable presidential candidate faces problems. Bill Clinton was faced with adultery scandals during his campaign. Howard Dean was faced with his yelp. Barack Obama was faced with his ties to a zealous, racist preacher. Hillary Clinton was faced with her email scandal. Donald Trump was faced with the Access Hollywood scandal. Successful presidential candidates smoothly sidestep their problems. Unsuccessful candidates do not. Maybe now we’ll see what kind of sidestepping talent Vivek has.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.
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