Nichols: Vivek Ramaswamy Brings a Breath of Fresh Air to the GOP

by | Dec 11, 2023 | Opinion

If you tuned into the recent Republican presidential primary debate, you likely witnessed another electric performance from political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy. In a stage filled with familiar establishment faces rehashing the same old arguments, Vivek brought a fiery anti-elitist message tailor-made to ignite the GOP base, with his confident style harkening back to Donald Trump’s rise in 2016. Now the question is whether Vivek himself can harness that same anti-establishment energy to ascend in future elections.

As both a libertarian-leaning conservative and observer of the political game, I came away downright impressed with Vivek’s fearless debate presence. He seemed utterly unintimidated staring down a stage of former/current governors, and landed attack after attack on veteran politicians like Nikki Haley while vigorously defending his stances when questioned.

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What’s more, he displayed a depth of knowledge and clarity of conviction sorely lacking in many career politicians. I always respect when someone plainly states their principles rather than hedging to please every audience. Agree or disagree with Vivek, his transparency of belief makes him far more trustworthy than your average DC double-talker.

When it comes to issues, Vivek showed a readiness to challenge stale Republican dogma. He stood out as the lone voice unwilling to keep funneling taxpayer billions to Ukraine in an endless proxy war unlikely to meaningfully impact Americans’ lives. And he spoke common sense by pointing out our insane, unsustainable federal deficits demand fiscal discipline before politicians promise the moon in new spending.

In style and substance, Vivek counters the brainless mainstream narrative that Republicans are the party of backwards-looking elderly white men oblivious to young people and changing culture. He brings the perspective of a 38-year-old son of immigrants ready to shake up hidebound DC traditions. His hybrid background blending health, business, and law makes him difficult to pin down for critics obsessed with narrow identity boxes.

Some establishment pundits try smearing Vivek as a “Trump clone”, as if that will scare primary voters. But from a libertarian vantage point, we should see replicating Trumpian appeal with more intellectual consistency as an upgrade- not a flaw. Vivek himself admits admiration for Trump giving voice to forgotten Americans while highlighting ways he’d govern differently.

Through flashing wit and showmanship combined with a meticulous command of policies, Vivek embodies libertarianism far better than muddled “third-way” compromisers who drive away more people than they attract. The essence of libertarianism isn’t nitpicking purity tests –
but making the ethical and practical case for empowering people over centralized power in their lives.

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Like Trump’s base, I sense libertarians hunger for champions who understand the crushing challenges ordinary Americans feel day-to-day in this rapidly changing country. We crave public figures talking directly to us eye-to-eye, not holier-than-thou councils speaking down in abstractions. If Vivek makes inroads with the populist right, perhaps he could build bridges to libertarians who feel politically homeless – staring down another depressing choice between unappealing authoritarians.

Some party purists try applying a sort of “No True Scotsman” test wherein no figure is sufficiently loyal unless they check all boxes of allowed opinion. This is self-defeating cliquishness. Perfect should not become the enemy of good. Libertarians must open the tent to unusual allies taking stands against suffocating state power and wokeness in a hostile cultural moment. Vivek forges his own path more concerned with succeeding for his principles than dutifully following somebody else’s.

Could Vivek realistically capture the Republican nomination this cycle? Probably not, with Trump remaining the heavyweight frontrunner. But he’s undoubtedly left his mark in this fourth GOP debate and carved a foundation for greater influence should he run again down the road.

Call me overly optimistic, but I believe Vivek Ramaswamy represents the thoughtful, solutions-focused face the next generation of conservatarian leadership needs. He articulately communicates the core ideals of individual responsibility and free enterprise that resonate when detached from the baggage of stooging for billions of dollars in special interests. Vivek seems to grasp that upholding Constitutional liberties and using populist themes in style can forge an unbeatable formula.

In a society dominated by woke mega-corporations and administrative bureaucrats with scarcely accountable power, we need leaders who stand firmly on the side of the people. Vivek Ramaswamy just may fit that bill. His striking debate performance should put the Republican establishment on notice—while giving nonconformists outside the two parties someone to watch with rising hopes.

Brian Nichols is host of the Brian Nichols Show at the We Are Libertarians Network. You can follow Brian on X at @bnicholsliberty.

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