It's no secret that Vivek Ramaswamy—the most googled candidate participating in the Republican primary debates last night, and one of the debate's winners, according to some polls—loves to rap. Here's his performance of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" at the Iowa State Fair earlier this month, and here he is "free styling" on Fox News. I love this Twitter user who commented, "I don't hate myself nearly enough to watch this," and this one who said "If I hear Vivek rapping one more time, I'm going to puke." Dear reader, I will not blame you for feeling the same way."
Ramaswamy apparently has a long history of "rapping"—he performed often as "Da Vek" at Harvard back when he was in college. Back in 2006, Alexandra Wood, writing for The Harvard Crimson, stated that Ramaswamy "raps libertarian prose with the utmost of ease." Politico further explains:
Before he was an upstart candidate for president and a philosophical leader of what he dubs the "anti-woke" movement, before he was a New York Times bestselling author and wealthy biotech entrepreneur, Vivek Ramaswamy was a rapper.
During his time as an undergrad at Harvard, Ramaswamy had a side-hustle as a libertarian-minded rap artist who went by the stage name "Da Vek." The gig was an early sign of the extroverted, self-assured personality that has propelled him far further in the primary than virtually anyone expected.
Politico provides more details about Da Vek's libertarian rapping project:
Ramaswamy's first actual gig would come the spring of his freshman year — and the eyes of Harvard were on him. In 2004, he got word that Harvard was doing an open call for student performers to be warm-up acts for Busta Rhymes, who that spring was to perform at the school's Lavietes Pavilion. Ramaswamy took a shot. It was the first time he tried it. And it worked.
"That definitely got him notoriety with the class, for sure," said Paul Davis, who met Ramaswamy at Harvard and is a longtime friend of the now-candidate.
Over the next four years, Ramaswamy became a regular at Harvard open-mic nights, where he often rapped "Lose Yourself." He also experimented with lyrics tinged with libertarian themes, which he would embrace down the road as he became more politically active.
But don't let the bad (and, oh, is it bad) rapping distract you from Vivek Ramaswamy's far-right political views. Here's a quick rundown:
Molly Taft of Gizmodo calls Vivek a "darling of the right-wing war against environmental, social, and corporate governance investing," explaining:
Ramaswamy, the former CEO of a pharmaceutical company, rose to prominence over the past few years by making himself the face of the right-wing's crusade against environmental, social, and governance investing, or ESG, the practice of investors using social values to guide their investment decisions.
And Van Jackson, writing for The Nation, provides this critique of Ramaswamy's "shock-value foreign policy" and "anti-woke" agendas:
The Ivy League–educated, hedge-fund plutocrat's presidential campaign had been a goofy mash-up of full-throated Trumpism and promises to end the scourge of "wokeness." To those planks, Ramaswamy was now bolting on a shock-value foreign policy agenda, which he dubbed the "modern Monroe doctrine."
At first blush, Ramaswamy's foreign policy can seem vaguely thoughtful, even coherent. His voice has a nerdiness that makes his ideas sound logical even when he's uttering absolute nonsense. Upon closer scrutiny though, his ideas reveal themselves as a bricolage of bad history, MAGA references, and imperial intentions.
Ramaswamy said he believes America is in the midst of a "national identity crisis." In his theory of politics, the reason for Americans' existential angst isn't growing economic precarity, looming environmental catastrophe, or the dramatic rise in all forms of violence in America—it's the replacement of traditional religion with secular gods that he described as "Wokeism, transgenderism, climatism, Covidism, globalism."
To him, inequality and climate change are not nearly as threatening as the attempts to remedy them. And the far more menacing prospect is a world where we respect personal pronouns and alter bathroom signs to accommodate gender diversity.
Kelly Garrity at Politico reminds us that Ramaswamy believes that the climate change agenda is a "hoax":
GOP candidates during the first Republican debate argued over climate change, with Vivek Ramaswamy calling the agenda over the issue a hoax.
"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," he said.
And Tori Otten at The New Republic provides an overview of Ramaswamy's long history of forwarding conspiracy theories:
Ramaswamy is under fire over a profile published Monday in The Atlantic, in which he spouts conspiracy theories about January 6 and 9/11, including wondering how many federal agents "were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers." He later doubled down on the comments during an interview with CNN.
Ramaswamy is no stranger to spreading conspiracies. Last week, he blamed the tragic wildfire in Hawaii on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. His other major talking points include battling "wokeness," taking away rights, and, apparently, caving to Russia and China.
Let us also not forget that Ramaswamy has only voted twice in his life, once in 2004 for a libertarian presidential candidate (which he lied about until being confronted with voting records), and then in 2020, for Trump. He also wants to raise the voting age to 25.
I think Twitter (whoops, there I go again, I mean X) user Law Hawk speaks for all of us when they say:
Who cares whether he can rap. He wants to destroy the safety net and wreck protections for worker safety and the environment all so billionaires like him can get more tax breaks. He's an extremist hack, regardless of how he packages himself.