My Opponents Are Cowards

A conversation with Republican Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

Recently I interviewed Vivek Ramaswamy by phone. I was eager to speak with him because of all the presidential candidates he seems to be the one most aware that we are in a war, call it a “cold civil war.” And as Ramaswamy is fond of saying “you can’t win a war if you don’t know you are in one.” He understands that wokeism, the revolutionary ideology of the woke regime, is out to kill our regime, the American regime.

Today, America has two regimes or two societies that have radically different, unbridgeable understandings of what constitutes a just society. One side believes in merit, the other side believes in group quotas. As Ramaswamy rightly says, you can’t have both. It’s one or the other. This is what makes it a war.

But virtually all Republicans disagree, or at least they remain silent on the subject. It is irresponsible for politicians to stay silent: whether or not we are in a war is the most pressing question of the moment.

Tom Klingenstein: Let’s get down to brass tacks. How do you pronounce your first name?

Vivek Ramaswamy: “Vivake” as in cake.

TK: Good. We’ve settled that. Let’s turn to what I think is the crucial distinction between you and your competitors: you think we are in a war and your competitors do not. Most of your competitors would probably say that we’re in a period of unusual division, but not war.

VR: We are absolutely in a war with the fate of the country at stake. And you had better know it. You know you are in a war when there is no middle ground, no room to compromise. Either you believe in free speech, or you believe in censorship. You can’t have both. Either you believe in a meritocracy, or you believe in group quotas. You can’t have both. Either you believe in the founding ideals of this country or you believe America is systemically racist. Either you think it’s an honor to fly the flag or you are embarrassed to fly it. You can’t have it both ways. If you think America is systemically racist, you hate America. If you think America’s founding principles are the world’s greatest remedy for racism, you love America. These differences are simply too large to bridge. This is what makes it a war. If you don’t recognize that you are in a war, then you will negotiate with the other side, but that will only lead ultimately to surrender.

And if we lose this war, we will have full-fledged tyranny. You see, if people are free, then there will be group differences in outcomes because often groups have different preferences and talents. The only way you can make groups equal in terms of outcome is by force. 

Those who hate America are in power practically everywhere. In effect, the woke regime is a hostile occupying power not so different than Germany when it occupied France during WWII. Now, we need someone to lead the resistance.

TK: Does anyone else see that we are in a war?

VR: Trump. He knows we are up against an enemy that doesn’t want to improve America but destroy it. I give Trump a lot of credit for this. In a war you must have clarity, you can’t be beating around the bush.

TK: Why don’t your other competitors for the nomination see what you and Trump see, that we are in a war? The same question could be asked about Republican leadership generally. 

VR: Because they are stuck in the past, stuck in old ways of thinking. What they think they see is that we’re going through one of the ups and downs that America has gone through time and again but has always found its way through. They can’t imagine that this time she may well not. They fight over tax or welfare reform. This is the same fight that Republicans and Democrats have been having for all of modern American history. But this is not the fight today.

They are all establishment politicians, so they tend to follow the crowd and they want to be liked by the establishment; they want to be interviewed by mainstream media and invited to establishment think tank events. So, for example, they are unwilling to say BLM is a racist organization—which is exactly what it is—because they don’t want to be called “racists.” Every Republican who does not criticize BLM is part of the problem. BLM received billions of dollars from cowardly corporations. How many lives did BLM save? Approximately zero. It was all a scam. CEO’s were forced to bend the knee. But I refused to do so. And it’s the same with ESG which is all the rage. Here too, I refused to go along. 

But there’s another more important reason why Republican leaders shrink from acknowledging that we are at war. Like most people, political leaders have a strong inclination to delude themselves rather than face harsh truths. I think if we don’t face these truths, we will lose our country.

TK: Are you saying you opponents are cowards?

VR: Yes. Which is why they have their heads in the sand.

TK: What exactly are they afraid of?

VR: Being called “racists.” But no one can be an effective leader in our time who is cowed by this phony charge.

TK: That certainly will get their attention.

VR: I hope so. If they disagree with me about the war, then they should say so. Right now, they are running away from the issue. I challenge my opponents to tell me where I am wrong.

TK: Do you think they will respond?

VR: If they are patriots, they will. If they duck the defining question of our time, they are not patriots.

TK: What do you make of all these antisemitic, pro-Hamas demonstrations going on at our colleges and universities?

VR: I think they are vile, but they shouldn’t surprise anyone. We have been teaching students that white people, in this case Israelis, are oppressors. So, for the protestors, who cares whether Israelis have been butchered, raped, and beheaded? To the protestors, the Israelis had it coming. This is straight out of DEI and critical race theory.

One of the things I am going to do when I am president is get rid of the Department of Education which is using $80 billion a year to effectively force schools to adopt the DEI, anti-American curriculum.

TK: That’s what Republicans have been saying for decades. It never happens.

VR: There has just been an absence of will and an uncooperative Supreme Court. Both have changed. The crisis has never been as great as it is now. Parents across the country of all political persuasions see that the educational system—starting at the top—is weaponized against their kids. I myself have seen the front lines of this battle. A teenager could not go to the college that he otherwise would’ve gone to.  Why? Because he refused to identify himself as “privileged” in a game that they were playing in class. It’s happening to kids across this country. We have to understand that this is one way our educational system has been weaponized. They are teaching our students to hate their country.

The educational system imposes woke ideology by coercion or bribery. It says to local schools, you do not get federal funding unless you teach that: America was born in sin; your identity is based on your skin color; if you’re black or a woman, you’re oppressed. That if you’re white, you’re privileged. This is why I plan to get rid of the Department of Education.

TK: I say in all sincerity, “good luck.”

VR: I’m going to prove you wrong.

TK: I hope so. 

VR: The financial system has also been weaponized.

TK: Let’s put that on hold for a minute. Were you always a Republican?

VR: I was for a long while a libertarian, but I am now an unapologetic America first nationalist. And I am proud to refer to myself as a “nationalist.”

TK: You didn’t vote in the three elections before 2020. How come?

VR: I was jaded for most of my twenties. Most of the professional politicians that the system served up were corrupt. I was focused on driving positive change and achieving success in other ways. I’m not saying that I would recommend not voting or that I would do it again were I to have the chance, but I do understand why many young people today are disaffected. Part of winning this war is going to require recruiting many of them to our side. I can relate to these people.

TK: Your wife is a doctor?

VR: A throat surgeon, one of the best.

TK: And children?

VR: Two boys, ages 3 and 16 months

TK: Your dad, what did he do?

VR: He was an engineer at GE. And my mom was a geriatric psychiatrist. She took care of patients with Alzheimer’s.

TK: And you are a first generation American?

VR: Yes, my parents emigrated to America more than 40 years ago.

TK: Why?

VR: For the reason most immigrants come here, for a better life.

TK: Where did you grow up?

VR: A small township called Evendale. It’s just outside of Cincinnati.

TK: How would you describe it?

VR: Squarely middle class. The home that I grew up in probably cost $80,000 or $90,000. My dad drove a two-door, rusty Honda. We did not have much money but we were never left wanting because my parents worked very hard. We didn’t have any luxuries but that gave us ambition.

TK: And before you went into politics, you were a very successful businessman.

VR: I started and built a biotech company, a health technology company, and a financial services firm. And yes, I have been very fortunate. 

TK: What made you get into politics?

VR: It’s very simple really. I saw the best country the world has ever seen, our country, going down the tubes, I thought my country needed me. And I thought I was in a position to help.

TK: Let’s get back to the financial system which you say has also been weaponized.

VR: Right. Most Americans do not realize people who are deemed enemies of the state cannot get banking services like checking accounts. This is the case if you have the wrong view on say, vaccine mandates, climate change, ESG, or are a gun manufacturer. These are the people that are also getting censored by the large Tech platforms in cahoots with the government.

Social and mainstream media are the propaganda arm of the woke regime. Truth is what they say it is. Tech companies are our enemies.

In Britain, those who dissent are deprived of health care services. Don’t think this can’t happen here. You saw where our government prioritized agricultural subsidies based on race.   

And not only are the woke zealots weaponizing the financial system, they are also weaponizing the practice of law. Lawyers who represented Trump are now the target of organizations that seek to disbar them. It won’t stop there. If we do not do something pretty soon, any lawyer associated with an anti-woke cause will be unable to practice law. This is more evidence that we are in a war.

TK: You mentioned the climate change agenda.

VR: It’s a hoax. It’s an excuse to destroy the nation state. And it helps China. But we do not seem to care. Our elite have a death wish. The same with energy dependence that Biden manufactured. Most of our involvement in the Middle East in the last 35 years would’ve been avoided had we been energy independent. We would have saved the lives of thousands upon thousands of American sons and daughters. And America is responsible for the Hamas attack on Israel to the extent we promoted Iranian oil sales which in turn financed Hamas.

And the justice system, of course, it too is being weaponized. You see this in these ginned up prosecutions of Trump. This is what you expect from a totalitarian regime. By the way, I will pardon Trump on my first day in office. DeSantis has made no such promise. And he has adopted DOJ/Special Counsel Jack Smith talking points about Trump and J-6; DeSantis has done nothing to help the Floridian J-6ers who have been and still are being persecuted.

TK: You used the word “totalitarian.” Most people, even many on the Right, would say you are being alarmist. Where are the gulags, they ask?

VR: Woke America hasn’t yet achieved full Stalinist status. But if you want to see gulags being built, you don’t have to look any further than the treatment being given by the Biden justice system to the so-called “insurrectionists” of January 6. This is the treatment being prepared for all who oppose the woke tyranny, who are already branded “domestic terrorists.” And while they are preparing these gulags, the woke Left can accomplish their purposes in other ways. They censor, shame, spy on citizens, fire them, require loyalty oaths, deprive people of services—all totalitarian tactics that get to the same place as gulags; they neutralize dissenters.

Here’s how it works. The woke leftists says white supremacists are the nation’s biggest threat. And then they manufacture an incident that they call the work of white supremacists. They say “we told you so.” Next they exert more centralized control. Let me say something about immigration.

TK: Before you do, I’d like to ask for your impressions of your competitors for the Republican nomination. Let’s start with Governor DeSantis.

VR: Very competent. He has done a good job in Florida but he does not connect with voters all that well. A leader not only has to accomplish things, he or she must inspire people. This is not Governor DeSantis’s strong suit and he is likely to buckle under pressure when the Republican establishment wants to go to war. He did that with Ukraine. He first expressed skepticism about the war in Ukraine but then he effectively changed his mind after coming under Republican pressure. All that said, I would consider DeSantis for a domestic position in my administration.  As I said, he is competent.

TK: Would you consider Nikki Haley for a position in your administration?

VR: That’s a hard “no.” She’s a RINO who doesn’t know what time it is, and she hasn’t met a foreign war she doesn’t love. She has no vision. Also, today she is critical of BLM but at the time of the riots she was busy honoring George Floyd as some kind of patron saint. She, like many Republicans, was rolling out the red carpet for BLM. She condemns antisemitism today, but she was not saying anything in 2020 when it was perfectly clear that BLM was antisemitic.

TK: I saw where you called on Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel to resign.

VR: She should have been forced to resign long ago. I am sick & tired of this Republican Establishment that has made us a party of losers. Where is the accountability for years of losing: 2018, 2020, 2022 and now 2023?

TK: You said Nikki Haley does not have a vision. What is your vision?

VR: I stand for truth. The truth that: God is real; There are two genders; Human flourishing requires fossil fuels; Reverse racism is racism; An open border is no border; Parents determine the education of their children; The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to mankind; Capitalism lifts people up from poverty; There are three branches of the U.S. government not four; The U.S. Constitution is the strongest guarantor of freedoms in history.

If there is one thing I want the reader to remember it is this: We are in a war. If you agree with that, vote for me.

TK: But why not vote for Trump? You say he also understands we are in a war.

VR: Because I would be a better commander-in-chief. Trump understands that we are in a war, but he can’t explain how this war works. I can. I am young and full of energy. Being young, I have an appreciation of what much of the country is going through. I am a bona fide outsider which makes it easier for me see the rot in Washington. Also, I’m not co-opted by the establishment. I am beholden to no one. And as a businessman, I know how to run things. And I bring something else unique, which is a personal understanding of the law and the Constitution. That’s a rare combination, but that’s what it’s going to take to get us back on track.

TK: Now, what about your immigration policy?

VR: Simple. Whatever advances the interests of the American citizens. That means no more funding for sanctuary cities. It means using the military to seal the southern border, and aquatic barriers in the Rio Grande. Not a dime of foreign aid to Central America or Mexico or anywhere else until they’ve dealt with their part of the border crisis.

We are ushering into the country millions upon millions of immigrants with very different cultures; this is destroying the American way of life.

TK: But your parents are immigrants.  

VR: My parents did not come to America to be part of a foreign community of Hindus. They came here to be full-fledged Americans. And America accepted them as such. By the way, this wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world. It is one of the glories of America.

TK: I heard you say in a recent Presidential debate that you are against birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

VR: Yes. That’s one thing that draws in illegal immigrants. People think birthright citizenship is a constitutional requirement. It isn’t. It’s ridiculous. The American people don’t buy it.

If I can’t get Congress to clarify the Constitution on this matter, which I admit will be difficult, I will issue an executive order banning birthright citizenship.

TK: For a similar reason, I gather you want an English only amendment.

VR: We can’t be a functioning democracy if we cannot talk to one another. In some parts of the country, ballots are written in multiple languages. This ought to be prohibited.

TK: I can already hear the cries of “racism.”

VR: That’s just a way to shut down debate. Political leaders, state and federal, simply must laugh in the face of such charges.

TK: The woke radicals say Americans are racist.

VR: I have traveled all over this great country. I have brown skin. I rarely see or hear about a racial incident. And when I do, it’s not just white against black. It operates in multiple different directions.

TK: When they call us “racist” they usually mean that racism is structural; they accuse America of being “systemically racist.” For example, they say the two-parent family is racist.

VR: Ridiculous. I can say from experience the two-parent family is the cornerstone of the privilege that I enjoyed. We talk about “white privilege.” What we ought to be talking about is “family privilege.” If you grow up in a two-parent family—whether you are rich or poor, black or white—you have a real head start. We need strong families because they are the foundation of our Republic.

TK: Has being Hindu been a problem for you in the primary?

VR: Not at all. I saw the other day an organization called “Christians for Vivek.”

TK: I have heard you talk about the military being weaponized as well.

VR: Absolutely. General Milley says that white rage is of greater importance than the rage of the terrorists on the other side of the world. So why should we be surprised that there is a 25% shortfall in recruitment? What young person in his or her right mind would want to risk their life to defend drag queen happy hour?

TK: Can you fix that?

VR: Absolutely I can fix it. When I am commander-in-chief, I’m going to fire all the woke generals. Right now, I am working on a list of them. I will make it public by January of 2024. Then you’ll have the names of every woke general whom I will boot out.

TK: You want to cut head count in the administrative state by 75%. Your opponents think this is pie in the sky thinking. Even your supporters think it is rather optimistic.  

VR: Yes, 75% sounds like a lot, but with the necessary resolve, and a team of committed lawyers, trust me, it can be done.

TK: My understanding is that it’s very difficult to fire civil servants.

VR: Individual civil servants, yes, but under some conditions, mass layoffs are permissible. The president already has the authority to shut down agencies and that’s just what I’ll do.

These are war times. War requires bold action. Citizens must understand that it is the administrative state that carves the channels through which wokeness flows. It is the administrative state that executes the woke agenda.

The war I wage as the next president will not be against non-threatening foreign states, it will be against the administrative state and that most definitely includes our security apparatus, which, as we saw in the Trump administration, has been weaponized by the woke Left.

TK: Do you have a final word?

VR: I don’t want my two sons to grow up in country where censorship, brain washing, and self-loathing are the norm. Where religion is practiced only by the so-called “deplorables.” Where a boy can use a girl’s bathroom. Instead, I want my boys to grow up in the country my parents came to from India more than 40 years ago. That country valued faith, family, hard work, patriotism, and colorblindness, not group quotas. Many of the people reading this interview also have young children or grandchildren. They share my hope of a return to that better America. I want them to know that I am in this fight for them and with them.

TK: Lastly, even you would have to admit that you are a long shot to win the Republican presidential nomination.

VR: America is the land of long shots.

TK: I like your optimism.

VR: America is also the land of optimism.

TK: Thank you, Vivek.

VR: Thank you.