Vivek Is Not the Guy
Upstart candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is currently enjoying a surge in popularity, and for good reason: he's intelligent, he's articulate, and he has staked out courageous positions on issues that actually matter to Americans. From intelligence agency abuses to the truth behind the January 6 protests, Vivek hasn't been shy about calling out the runaway corruption of our political system. On top of that, he's offering a positive, coherent vision, centered on reviving the founding principles of 1776.
Ramaswamy also passed his first presidential debate, taking fire from all sides and in turn triggering almost every other participant on stage. Though Vivek merely imitated Trump 2015–16, it's obvious he's far beyond any of the other, paper-thin candidates.
Despite this, Vivek is not the guy.
Unfortunately, Mr. Ramaswamy appears to hold some deeply unnerving opinions on trade and immigration, the two issues perhaps most fundamental to solving the problems plaguing our nation. Indeed, as many conservatives understand, our leadership class's reckless trade and immigration policies have done inestimable damage to America and its future. Yet, in a recent conversation with entrepreneur Elon Musk, Vivek sounds more World Economic Forum globalist than would-be reformer:
"I think we should re-enter it," Ramaswamy said to Musk about 94 minutes into the conversation on Twitter. "I think this is a little bit different than what, you know, the course of action taken by Trump in exiting the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership]. I think that was actually a poor decision."
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was a disaster waiting to happen, another "multilateral trade agreement" sacrificing American autonomy for vague, unenforceable labor and environmental standards in developing nations. Worse, portions of TPP allowed these countries to effectively circumvent U.S. immigration laws via unelected tribunals, which could have forced Americans to import even more unneeded foreign workers. Of course, all of this was repeatedly sold to Americans as necessary to "combat China." For a 2024 presidential candidate to support re-entering deals like TPP is puzzling at best, much like using gasoline to save a burning building.
Things got worse as Musk turned to immigration:
"I want to say it in a way that ... everyone can understand, which, imagine if America is a pro-sports team[," Elon Musk said. "]We want to win the championship, and we want to keep winning the championship. And there are some ace players on another team, and they really want to join our team. And now we can make them fight us, or we can have them join our team and just crush [the championships]. And I think if ace players want to join our team, please do. That is the way to continue success. ... [We] should welcome them, not have all these ridiculous [immigration] obstacles.
"Exactly," the U.S.-born Ramaswamy responded.
It's disappointing to see a candidate as thoughtful as Vivek buy into such a facile, insidious analogy. America is not a sports team. In reality, America is a nation of citizens who deserve a fair shot at building their lives rather than being forced into ceaseless economic gladiator matches against waves of low-wage migrants. Our so-called leaders often toss around phrases like "merit-based legal immigration," which sounds all right to the casual listener. In practice, however, such manicured words serve only to reinforce the status quo of massive, unsustainable immigration that is unraveling the tapestry of American life.
If America were a sports team, it already would have a mechanism to recruit the best players. The O-1 visa program, per USCIS, is for "the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics." The United States issued around 19,000 O-1 visas in 2022; importing only the "best" would mean a drastic reduction in immigration from current levels. Somehow, one suspects that this modest number would not satisfy the immigration-happy elites whose talking points Vivek seems willing to recite.
Are you getting it? Vivek is not the guy.
"The Guy" continues to be President Donald J. Trump. Yes, he is imperfect, sometimes bombastic, and supremely controversial. There's no question he's made serious errors. Nonetheless, he is a true political phenom, a once-in-a-generation voice whose charisma, tenacity, and raw fighting spirit have yet to be equaled. Trump began the long work of reforming our trade imbalances, nearly solved the southern border crisis, and refused to involve America in any more reckless foreign wars. For these sins, he is besieged by the corrupt political establishment and now faces contrived prosecutions to remove him from public life altogether. Yet his resolve seems stronger than ever. A second Trump administration remains the first, best defense against those who disdain a free society.
None of this means Vivek should be disqualified from consideration. Far from it. Purity tests are for the dullards of yesteryear; young conservatives must cultivate the skepticism necessary to properly interrogate a candidate's beliefs. And, to be fair, Vivek has expressed some more nuanced views on trade and immigration since the Musk interview quoted above. The real problem is that Mr. Ramaswamy's various statements make it difficult to determine just where he stands on these two paramount issues.
Fox's boring debate offered little opportunity for clarification. Immigration, for instance, was barely discussed. It is crucial, then, for Vivek to offer definitive viewpoints during future debates and media appearances. What exactly does "merit-based legal immigration" mean to him? How does he define merit? What threshold of merit should prospective immigrants meet? These questions, among others, need answers. Further confusion only solidifies the idea that he is an entertaining bomb-thrower and not a serious contender — for anything. It will also multiply the cynicism many feel about our political processes.
Vivek is not the guy. At least, not yet.
Twenty twenty-four is about sovereignty. Are we a nation or an "economic zone"? Do we govern ourselves, or are we ruled from afar? Can we say who enters our homeland, or does America belong to the world? Do we have privacy, or is someone always watching? American citizens deserve real answers to these questions, from politicians who will converse with them instead of simply talking at them. Whether or not Vivek rises to this challenge is entirely up to him.
Ben Patterson is a pen name.