Vivek Ramaswamy, destruction
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Vivek Ramaswamy should not be allowed to play with matches — or our future.

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It is not too early to sound the alarm regarding what may be the driving motivation behind the GOP’s rapidly rising star, Vivek Ramaswamy, who is still a longshot but whose numbers are way up

Let’s start with what the suddenly-so-public political candidate said during the first GOP presidential debate — a bald statement that is absolutely incorrect and incredibly dangerous: 

I’m the only candidate on stage who isn’t bought and paid for, so I can say this: The climate change agenda is a hoax.

The anti-carbon agenda is the wet blanket on the economy … And so the reality is, more people are dying of bad climate change policies than they are of actual climate change.

Of course, none of that is true. So why would Ramaswamy, who does not appear to be completely ignorant or deranged, say such a thing? Surely, lust for power is one motive for a man on a mission to curry favor with the MAGA masses — along with many of today’s would-be “leaders,” especially those who have never worked in public service for even one day in their lives.

But this is mainly about the other historically important motivator of amoral behavior: greed. 

What I say below has been said, in varying ways, by others. But it’s surely time to bring what has been brewing behind the scenes to the foreground — making transparent the deep cynicism of this man and those whose interests he serves. 

This is not some sideshow. This is our survival we’re talking about. For a random example, see this article about how wildfires in the Mediterranean — fueled by record-breaking heat not anticipated until 2050 — are devastating the region.

Putting ‘Woke’ to Sleep

Ramaswamy — whose family is “Brahmin, the highest caste in the Hindu hierarchy” — originally made his money in biotech, in large part with a pump-and-dump stock scheme involving a failed Alzheimer’s drug. But in the last several years he seems to have hit on a perfect formula for further enrichment.  

What if he could promise right-wingers in charge of public and private money that they could realize a better yield and stay true to their beliefs by opting out of “socially responsible investing?”

What if he could tap into the cultural pushback against the empowerment of people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, etc., and against the drive for equality and humanistic and humane policies in government and industry?

What if he could introduce a way for conservatives in government to decouple from everything they disdain as “woke”? What if that easy-to-understand, “populist” appeal could be harnessed to a more complex, less sexy effort to rid corporations of their societal obligations? 

What if it could be launched by providing state and local officials a way to get off the train headed to ESG — environmentally and socially conscious investing (Environmental, Social, Corporate Governance)? 

With more and more state and local offices held by movement conservatives, this would have a natural appeal. It could offer a clever new way of revitalizing an old, failed effort by the dirty industries to extend their lives and further enrich their owners and enablers. 

As the climate newsletter Heated noted so well:  

The anti-ESG movement … was originally created by fossil fuel industry operatives to try to delay the renewable energy transition. The movement fizzled in the early 2000s. But it was revived in 2022, when Ramaswamy launched Strive with the help of billionaire investors Peter Thiel and Bill Ackman, as well as the same fossil fuel industry-connected group that spearheaded the original movement.

Let’s pause to contemplate that. Ramaswamy is doing the bidding of Peter Thiel — the quasi-fascist tech financier who has far eclipsed other Libertarian billionaires like the Kochs when it comes to bulldozing institutions and initiatives dedicated to a more evolved society, and who developed a reputation for sheer fierceness in seeking revenge, in at least one case through a surrogate. 

Thiel, worth an estimated $6 billion, doesn’t need another penny, and, arguably neither does Ramaswamy, although, since the latter is apparently not quite a billionaire, old-fashioned greed is still operative in his case. 

Ramaswamy is just getting started with this line of enrichment. He’s reported to own around $50 million in holdings in Strive, whose mission seems to be getting us to extract and burn more fossil fuel than we already are doing. 

The largest fund at Strive — called DRLL — “invests in U.S. energy companies and urges them to keep drilling for oil so long as it’s profitable, ”according to Semafor.

By its own admission, 93.6 percent of DRLL’s investments are in oil, gas, and pipeline companies — which is unhedged economically and unhinged environmentally.

And the growing cohort of hard-righters in government positions overseeing the investment of vast holdings such as pension funds are, as underlined in the publication The Lever, certainly animated by this. 

Anesthetizing the Public

One thing I don’t yet see from those journalists who responsibly cover climate change is the recognition that some of the people leading the global warming denial movement are suffering from what amounts to self-destructive mental illness — and when I say “self-destructive,” I mean, of course, destructive of all of us trying to survive what’s happening to our fragile ecosphere.

This dovetails with a related development that I have previously written about: a diabolical (no other adjective suffices) plan to take over the federal government with people who will assure that climate change is not addressed in public policy — as laid out in an approving manifesto by the right-wing establishment’s covertly funded Heritage Foundation. 

This compulsion among the super-rich to make way more money than they need and penalize humanity in some kind of unfathomable score-settling requires a political-action plan based on massive deception: It can only achieve its ends by lining up enough people who do not understand what’s happening… and persuading them to vote against a viable future for themselves, their children, and their children’s children. 

The average MAGA voter does not want to think about something as complex and weighty as climate change, and so Ramaswamy’s assurance they can just sit back, surrounded by their favorite screens and distractions, hits home. 

But to win elections you have to get people off the couch periodically and motivate them to cast ballots. So Ramaswamy and his ilk season their climate denial deceptions with the heady froth of pushback-against-woke rabble rousing. And the latter — which conflates scary people who are different ethnically and sexually from “us normal people“ with the inconveniencing demand that we change our energy habits — has often proved to be a winning electoral formula. 

Walks Fast, Talks Faster

As a candidate for the post-Trump era, Ramaswamy offers a well-tailored package. He’s a “minority.” He went to Harvard. He comes from super-cool tech. He’s young. He’s energetic. He’s photogenic. He’s, in a way, as much of an “anti-Biden” as Trump. Maybe more. 

As a candidate, Ramaswamy is extremely light on his feet, and even more of a blur than Trump when it comes to parrying blows concerning his self-interests and inconsistencies. He’s an expert at the technique of overwhelming audiences and opponents with a barrage of rapidly delivered, dubious claims; this has become known as the “Gish Gallop.” 

And his whole concept is so radical that he’s able to paint major corporate entities like BlackRock — previously seen as villains by progressives and now at least paying lip service to ESG — as part of the “woke problem.” 

A vast constituency exists within the Republican old guard for anything that will relieve further pressure for reform and even reverse concessions made reluctantly in the past:  

What if corporations don’t have to be green? What if they don’t have to hire anyone they don’t want? What if all they have to do is make money, pure and simple, with a clear conscience? 

This is the spiked Kool-Aid Ramaswamy is offering — and expecting something lucrative and satisfying in return.

Ironically, he doesn’t need to be “bought and paid for” in the manner of candidates who depend on others to provide them with campaign funds. No, because his is a much more direct form of financing: His key positions help him get rich, and then he can fund his own campaign. 

At the end of the day, whatever happens during the election, this gambit is almost certain to fatten his bank balance. 

Having allies like Elon Musk take over key public communication and debate platforms like Twitter (now “X”) was yet another crucial step in this power grab by a dangerous alliance of the glamorous, the brazen, and the demented. 

Perhaps we can bend over backwards to give them all the benefit of the doubt and conclude that, despite their Ivy League degrees and other elitist credentials, “They know not what they do.” If so, then we need to save them from themselves. And thereby save ourselves too.  

Vivek Ramaswamy is unlikely to be the GOP nominee. But the entire situation is, with Trump’s indictments, fluid. And even if Ramaswamy’s not the nominee this time, he now has a powerful platform on which to build this dangerous new movement — so we’d better start paying attention.


  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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