Dan Haar: Anti-woke presidential candidate a fitting speaker for Greenwich GOP

Gun Rights

Vivek Ramaswamy, the anti-woke candidate for president who’s the new darling of the right, will appear with the Greenwich GOP in mid-June, a fitting visit for a local party with its roots in business and its heart in the culture wars. 

The Greenwich Republican Town Committee sent out a save-the-date notice for a “Lincoln-Reagan Party to Remember” to be held on June 17, but issued no other details. Local party leaders declined to comment other than to confirm that they will host Ramaswamy on that Saturday. 

Ramaswamy, 37, has burst on the political scene in 2023 as an election neophyte with blue-chip business and academic credentials and a quirky approach designed to appeal to both populist culture warriors and conservative intellectuals. He declared as a candidate for president in a Feb. 21 appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. 

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Ramaswamy’s message, in two books including the 2021 bestseller, “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam,” is that the politically correct behavior rules pushed by the socially progressive left — diversity targets, fossil fuel opposition and Covid measures among them — have gone too far and are undermining American freedoms. “We’re in the middle of a national identity crisis,” he says in the opening of his 3-minute campaign video on YouTube. 

“Faith, patriotism and hard work have disappeared, only to be replaced by new secular religions like  Covidism, climatism and gender ideology,” Ramaswamy says on the video. “We cannot even answer the question of what it is to be an American.”

Is that too far to the right for a Republican Party trying to make inroads in a blue state where no GOP candidate has won a statewide or Congressional race since 2006? It depends on how Ramaswamy stands on policy questions. 

He told the NRA last week that he’d like to expand gun rights and shut down the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Fox News reported. And he told the New York Times on the day of his campaign announcement that he would, the newspaper reported, “repeal Executive Order 11246, which has banned discrimination and required affirmative action for federal contractors since 1965.”

Those positions and others of his seem extreme, though they’re fitting for the Greenwich Republican Party.  Driven by the Greenwich Patriots group, the committee, if not the voters, has lurched during the Trump era to the right and toward the culture wars, away from its traditional pro-business, pro-public-investment, global engagement positions of the Bush past. 

On the other hand, wokeness has gone overboard in some areas, though hardly as a threat to the nation. And Ramaswamy certainly takes a thoughtful approach, strategically co-opting phrases from Martin Luther King. “This isn’t just a political campaign, this is a cultural movement to create a new American dream for the next generation…not on the color of your skin but on the content of your character and your contributions,” he said in his video. 

“I have a dream that we can be one people again,” he concludes, using the most famous four words in civil rights (“We shall overcome” is only three words) to deliver a message softer than what we’ve heard from most candidates riding the cultural backlash wave. 

Oddly, Ramaswamy isn’t talking about traditional economic and business concerns except as they relate to the culture wars over corporate governance.

An Ohio native, the son of immigrants from India, his bio says he finished at the top of his class at Harvard. He graduated from Yale Law School and made a fortune as founder of a pharmaceutical company, Roivant Sciences — landing him on the cover of Forbes in 2015. He later founded Strive, an asset management firm that attacks progressive environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles and has attracted capital from, among others, Peter Thiel, the billionaire tech invester and libertarian activist. 

Back to the question: Will Ramaswamy’s appearance help or hurt Republicans in Connecticut, beyond the money he helps the local party raise?

“Although his credentials and pledges may appeal to the GOP base, they have proven to be unappealing to Connecticut voters, especially in Fairfield County,” former Greenwich Republican Town Chairman Dan Quigley said in an emailed comment. “Any affiliation with candidates that are wedded to far right ideals will make Republicans’ task of changing Connecticut’s political hue to purple from blue all the more difficult.”

Ben Proto, the GOP state chairman, tread carefully.  “He’s very smart, very innovative, looks at problems differently,” Proto said in a text comment to me, adding that average Americans are less interested in the cultural debates than are “extremes on both sides.”

Like countless other credible business executives who have looked in the mirror and seen a U.S. president — Andrew Yang comes to mind most recently –  Ramaswamy is not going to wake up in the White House on Jan. 21, 2025. His role is to bring new ideas. 

This early in the election cycle, it’s good and right for a local Republican town committee to hitch up with a fresh face for some check-writing and wine. Vivek Ramaswamy is not Chris Christie or Larry Hogan, moderates who would help Republicans in Connecticut. But he’s also not Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene. 

dhaar@hearstmediact.com

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