By Radhya Comar, October 18 2023—
Standing before members of the Hawkeye state is a man. A businessman, an innovator and an Ivy League alumnus. He ambles across the stage, points his fingers and passionately waves around his hands in a frenzy of melanin. He tells the citizens of Iowa that they have a lot more in common with him than they think. They are united under god. He quotes bible verses to the largely Christian voter base and promises a religious revival should he win the Republican Primaries.
The man is Vivek Ramaswamy; the South-Asian businessman who started campaigning to be the Republican Candidate for the 2024 Presidential Election earlier this year. Overall, he may just be the fruit of the GOP’s longstanding efforts to appeal to the Indian diaspora.
Born in 1985 to Indian immigrants, Ramaswamy quickly established himself as an overachiever He was a nationally ranked tennis player and even became the Valedictorian of his elite Christian private school. After high school, he studied biology at Harvard. This armed Ramaswamy for his future career in pharmaceutical investments at the hedge fund QVT. During a seven-year run at QVT, Ramaswamy made millions and managed to graduate from Yale law school. However, much of his massive net worth was accumulated after leaving the hedge fund when he founded Roivant Sciences.
In his self-composed article “10 Truths”, Ramaswamy states that everyone has a god-shaped hole in their heart and if religion does not fill it, “climatism” “covidism” and “transgenderism” will. His stance on border security is also unsurprisingly militaristic. Ramaswamy continues the Trump-era tactic of framing illegal immigration at the southern border as an invasion.
“It’s not just illegal migrants, human trafficking and fentanyl, but even armed cartel gunmen are directly invading our homeland,” he writes in the article.
With his white-collar background, Ramaswamy represents a small sect of well-to-do South-Asian Republicans and overall increasing interest in the GOP from the ethnic group.
Historically, the majority of the Indian-American vote has gone to the Democratic Party. In the last election, a whopping 72 per cent announced their intention to vote for Joe Biden. One of the more obvious reasons for this longstanding allegiance is the blue party’s approach to immigration. For example, 70 per cent of Republicans feel that the large influx of immigrants into the United States is a threat compared to 18 per cent of Democrats. Findings also show that the right wing is in favour of reducing legal immigration, whereas Democrats would like to increase it.
At this point in the election cycle, there is no actual empirical data to suggest that Indian-Americans are shifting toward the Republican party. However, the online outpour for Ramaswamy has led some to question whether this may be the case in 2024. However, this growing interest from the diaspora is rooted in far more things than just Ramaswamy’s rants.
On Sept. 22 2019, Donald Trump invited Narendra Modi to a football stadium in Houston, Texas in an event called “Howdy Modi.” In a direct audience with the second largest immigrant group in the country, Donald Trump praised the South Asian community. He continually told the crowd that he loves India, Indians and Modi. This was drastically different from the messages given to other immigrant groups. Trump was not only recognizing their contributions to America but also ensuring a healthy relationship with their home country.
Even without Trump’s kinship with Modi, the Republican Party is still able to appeal to the South Asian community. The GOP has always sold itself as the party of low taxation. While this may not be the reality, this is highly attractive to many members of the community as Indian Americans are the highest-earning immigrant group.
However, are these factors enough for South-Asian immigrants to identify with the Republican Party and by extension, Ramaswamy? He boasts his knowledge of the bible at every event, calls his last name “funny” and demands that America become a race-blind meritocracy. Every time he begins the story of his parent’s migration, it ends with the fact that he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. Ramaswamy paints the picture that amassing wealth allows one to transition from a “bad immigrant” to “good,” thus graduating from a separate class. Should Indian Americans and Republicans as a whole choose to elect Vivek Ramaswamy, are they making the supposedly progressive choice or just trading in one brand of divisive categorization for another? Only time will tell.
This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.