Vivek Ramaswamy, Republican Jewish Coalition, Las Vegas, NV
Vivek Ramaswamy speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition's 2023 Annual Leadership Summit in Las Vegas, NV. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

What’s Vivek Ramaswamy doing in the 2024 race? Picking bits of attention from the teeth of Donald Trump.

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Many people have been wondering what Vivek Ramaswamy is trying to accomplish in the Republican primary. He’s clearly not trying to defeat Donald Trump, whom he hardly ever criticizes, so what’s in it for him? 

In the end, it’s all about the grift and the attention.

That was on full display Wednesday night. 

In many ways, Ramaswamy epitomizes a new generation of right wing grifters. If you’ve ever watched gators being fed in Florida, you know there’s an entire ecosystem of hangers-on who are happy to consume the scraps, up to picking them out of the teeth of the apex predators, to get their fill. This perfectly encapsulates the MAGA ecosystem. Donald Trump gets his, but there are so many leftovers that a lot of people are getting fat (and rich) off of them. 

None of these lesser animals would be stupid enough to get between the gators and their food, and similarly, the most important rule for thriving in the MAGAverse is to bend the knee and kiss the ring of Trump. That’s precisely why Ramaswamy never takes him on; the former president is his meal ticket. 

But he’s happy to do Trump’s bidding, including on the debate stage. That’s why Ramaswamy used his first response on Wednesday night to attack Nikki Haley as “bought and paid for” and “far more corrupt that I even imagined when I entered politics.” For Ramaswamy, going after the rest of the field offers lucrative opportunities and, perhaps more importantly, the attention that is one of the currencies of our time.

Like a true troll, every time Ramaswamy opens his mouth, he’s trying to get a rise out of somebody. That was on full display in one response in which he listed one right wing conspiracy theory after another

Why am I the only person on this stage at least who can say that January 6 now does look like it was an inside job? That the government lied to us for 20 years about Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11? That the Great Replacement Theory is not some great right-wing conspiracy theory but a basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform? That the 2020 Election was indeed stolen by Big Tech? 

Ramaswamy continued on in this vein; and the reason he is the only candidate on stage talking about this is that the others are running for president, while Ramaswamy is trying to ingratiate himself with Trump and make a buck and a name for himself. 

As per usual, Trump gets the best of both worlds: He doesn’t actually have to be on stage and can pretend he’s above all that, but he still has a representative there who will do his bidding… and Trump wouldn’t have it any other way.


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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