Rise of a Salesman
Who is Vivek Ramaswamy?
The other day, one of my readers was reflecting that there’s an aging class of establishment Republicans who spent their summer dreaming of a “normal election” on the other side of Trump’s arrest. It’s no wonder, then, that they can’t stand Vivek Ramaswamy.
Who is Vivek Ramaswamy? A very good question, to which there’s more than one possible answer. By his own account, he’s a businessman, a self-made millionaire, an outsider, and emphatically not a politician. This is a clever sleight of hand, of course. He may not have begun his professional life as a politician, but he obviously is one now.
Still, there’s no denying his communication chops, or his ability to think on his feet. A recent clip has been going around where he’s impressively unfazed by a “pansexual” questioner. But I was more impressed with a moment last month when he addressed a woman who began heckling him at an Iowa event, screaming that Republicans were “rapists” who hated women. She’s clearly much lower-class than he is. She’s on the verge of being ushered out when he stops his bouncers and invites her to come back to the front. What follows is an absolute masterclass in public relations. Ramaswamy asks the woman her name, allows her to share vulnerably about raising a child of rape, then encourages the crowd to respect her free speech and applaud her perseverance as a mother. This bit of gentlemanly judo is so successful that the woman actually gives him a thumbs up on her way out. The moment highlights an important respect in which he differentiates himself from Trump: He doesn’t punch down.
He’s more than happy to punch sideways though, which was abundantly evident in his recent debate performance. He even had the cheek to announce that he was the only candidate on the stage who isn’t “bought and paid for.” Sparks flew when Chris Christie called him a “ChatGPT” candidate and noted that he’d ripped off Obama’s old laugh line about being “a skinny guy with a funny last name.” Not to be one-upped, Vivek invited Chris to “come and give me a hug and help me get elected, just like you did to Obama.” All pretty silly and ephemeral, but then debates are by nature pretty silly and ephemeral. However, my attention was caught by one particular exchange with Mike Pence.
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