There's a new Republican candidate for president — but he's somebody you might not have heard of. Politico reports that 37-year-old Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and "self-described intellectual godfather of the anti-woke movement," has thrown his hat into the ring. Ramaswamy made his case in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, writing "I am running on a vision for our nation — one that revives merit in every sphere of American life." America has forgotten about merit, he asserts, in favor of affirmative action and politically correct censorship by Big Tech companies. Who is Vivek Ramaswamy? And does he have a real shot at becoming president? Here's everything you need to know:
Who is Vivek Ramaswamy?
He is the son of immigrants from South India. The New Yorker reports that Ramaswamy grew up in the Cincinnati area, then graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School. He then worked for a hedge fund before founding a biotech company, Roivant Sciences. The company made "hundreds of millions of dollars," but its signature effort — by a subsidiary called Axovant, to bring an Alzheimer's drug to market — failed. (The company announced this week Ramaswamy has stepped down from its board of directors.) Ramaswamy called it "the single greatest failure of my career" in a 2017 interview with Forbes. He's stayed in business, launching a Peter Thiel-backed financial firm that invests in businesses that emphatically disregard so-called "environmental, social and governance" (ESG) standards that have become the bane of conservatives. In recent years, he has increasingly turned to conservative punditry, writing op-eds for the Wall Street Journal and making multiple appearances on Fox News.
Is he really a leader of the 'anti-woke' movement?
He's certainly been vocal on the topic. "His focus on wokeness supersedes all else," the New Republic notes. In 2021 he authored a book, Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America's Social Justice Scam, which attacked big corporations for ESG investing and diversity initiatives at the expense of delivering profit to their shareholders. One of his central theories is that progressive anti-racist and climate-friendly "wokeness" is literally and legally a religion. "If wokeness is really a religion, then forcing employees to actually bow to this new religion is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," he told Fox News in 2021. And he asserts that the new "secular religion" is taking the place of traditional values like patriotism, faith, and hard work. Such themes will be central to his campaign: Ramaswamy says as president he'll repeal federal affirmative action policies and "abandon climate religion."
His campaign announcement video gives the flavor of his message:
"We have obsessed so much over our diversity and differences, that we forgot about all the ways we're really just the same as Americans," he says in the video.
What do his critics say?
That he's a hypocrite. The New Republic points out that Ramaswamy has made China a central talking point in his writing and Fox News appearances — but that Roivant did business in China under Ramaswamy's leadership. (The company says Roivant is "not currently active in China.") While he has called for the U.S. to "decouple" from China — and for a ban on American companies doing business there — "the industry where he made his name and tens of millions of dollars … remains deeply interwoven with the country."
What are Republicans saying?
Fox News suggests he could be "the conservative Andrew Yang" — another entrepreneurial child of immigrants who made a splash in the Democratic primaries in 2020. Americans for Prosperity's Greg Moore told the channel that "first-generation Americans tend to be some of the optimistic people you will find, and Vivek definitely has that space." One columnist, Indiana Business Journal's Curt Smith, noted Ramaswamy's youth and suggested he has a better shot at the 2024 U.S. Senate race in Ohio, but added that "Ramaswamy is a future force for conservative values and views."
What are his odds of actually winning the GOP?
Not great. "Ramaswamy would be a long-shot candidate in what is likely to be a crowded Republican primary," National Review points out. How long a shot? It's difficult to say: Ramaswamy wasn't even listed among the GOP contenders in a recent Morning Consult poll, which showed Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as the only candidates — declared or otherwise — mustering even double-digit support among Republican voters. And Axios notes that Ramaswamy's messaging is similar to that of DeSantis who "has made this a central part of his political identity — and has achieved notable governing successes on that front." But again, Ramaswamy is just 37, so his political career may just be getting started.