Vivek Ramaswamy’s extraordinary discussion with Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson has made a name for himself by analyzing in accessible terms the spiritual and ideological emptiness that underlie so many of America’s and Americans’ ills. It turns out that Vivek Ramaswamy is aware of these problems and is basing his perhaps quixotic presidential campaign on leading Americans out of this ideological wilderness into a strong recognition of what America means. He believes (as I do) that without this foundation, there is nothing any politician can do to reverse America’s decline. To watch Peterson and Ramaswamy discuss these issues is a rare treat and it offers something of vital importance to America’s survival.

I haven’t made secret my interest in Ramaswamy’s unexpected dive into national politics, and I say this so that you can recognize my biases up front. (Here, here, and here.) That doesn’t mean I’m endorsing him; it means I’m keeping an eye on him. He’s interesting, and he’s saying things I’ve long thought needed to be said.

As far as I’m concerned, Donald Trump was a terrific president, and he won 2020 by a mile. Having said that, one of my chronic problems with him was that he never articulated a unifying vision of what holds America together. He is obviously a true patriot, and his diagnosis of the political ills vexing our nation was spot on. After all, Trump represents the pinnacle of the pragmatic problem-solver: Identify the problem, then solve it. We need people like that.

My limited complaint about his presidency was one that I have about every single Republican politician: They govern in the negative. Leftists come up with bad ideas, and Republicans say, “Those are bad ideas.” They’re correct, but they’re not offering a vision of what America stands for and what binds us together as a people despite the left’s relentless efforts to fragment Americans into microscope groups, all of which are hostile to each other.

Image: Jordan Peterson and Vivek Ramaswamy. YouTube screen grab.

Even Ron DeSantis does the same. On the ground, he fights back against the worst leftist ideas. Then, he gives speeches about those battles, and I agree with his take on them. He was right about COVID, and he’s right about blocking America’s education establishment (and Disney) from using our children as sexual pawns to achieve larger political goals. Nevertheless, like Trump, he’s a pragmatist and a problem solver. I have no sense of an underlying vision.

As an aside, since DeSantis is a warrior in the battle against the dangerous transgender movement, an old friend said to me, “I don’t understand transgenderism.” Thinking about it, I finally came up with an explanation that has nothing to do with sex or psychology:

Transgenderism is a leftist-induced mental illness that is intended to achieve two very specific ends that will empower statism: First, it destroys the family. This is overtly achieved by the groomers in and outside of schools who tell children that “we’re your family,” and more covertly achieved by making these mentally damaged people physically and emotionally incapable of having children. Second, it makes these same people utterly dependent on the government to pay for the lifelong medical costs associated with hormones and surgery.

And now back to my original post.

As noted, neither DeSantis nor Trump (nor anyone else on the Republican side) talks about the essence of America. The problem with this silence is that America is different from all other countries in that it is not bound together by a single race, culture, religion, or even a common history (given that our nation is not even 250 years old and has grown by bits and pieces in disparate locations). The only thing that has held America together is the idea of America. It’s tragic and dangerous that conservative politicians cannot articulate the American idea, won’t honestly tell us that it’s in its death throes, and don’t offer solutions for its resuscitation.

This is a real problem because, without a binding idea, America is just a giant geography with tax collectors that funnel money to a city that governs the entire country solely for the benefit of its most wealthy, powerful inhabitants and their cronies.

And that’s where the conversation between Peterson and Ramaswamy is so different and important. The two men discuss America’s practical problems, especially crony capitalism, but they also strive to explain where America is ideologically broken and how that can be fixed. Significantly, they recognize that, while leftism is toxic and contains the seeds of its own destruction, it is an affirmative belief system for its followers. Meanwhile, Republicans only offer “No, not that!”

I recognize that the conversation is long, but it’s mesmerizing watching these two agile, brilliant, and very deep thinkers dig into America’s problems and the spiritual and ideological solutions. I bet that, once you’ve started listening, you won’t stop.

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