scroll to top arrow or icon

Trump's new rival, Vivek Ramaswamy

Trump's new rival, Vivek Ramaswamy
Trump's new rival, Vivek Ramaswamy | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and a happy Monday to you. Want to turn to US domestic politics for this week's Quick Take in part because there's been a surge in the GOP among the candidates. We've had Trump way out in front, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as the major challenger pretty much for the last several months until this last week, with an outsider Vivek Ramaswamy in a couple of polls showing up as number two. Certainly enjoying a surge. So thought it was worth taking a little bit of a look at him.

First of all, I mean, let's be clear, the big news remains the Trump indictments and the Democratic efforts to drive them. It's all about the politics. It is not about rule of law. That's what it should be if it were a properly functioning representative democracy. That is not the state of US politics right now. But aside from that, it's "is anyone a potential challenger to Trump on the GOP side?" And, you know, the idea that Trump is not going to participate in the Republican primary debates, as we see this Wednesday, is his political interest in showing that "I'm going to get this nomination and all the rest are pretenders to the throne." Completely understandable that that's the way he's handling that, but it's interesting to me that to the extent that anyone else is getting oxygen, it is the candidates that are most like him. In other words, those that are willing to take on his message that are proactively being supportive and engaging.

It is DeSantis and Vivek and that shouldn't surprise anyone in terms of where the Republican party is and is going as the Democratic party has increasingly become a party identified with urban elites and the Republican party increasingly with rural working and middle classes. And that is a grievance-based and anger-based "let's beat up on the establishment." It is not the center. Trump did very well as an outsider, not because his policies made a lot of sense, but rather because they really animated the emotional anger channeled the sense of disenfranchisement and otherness of people that felt like the elites were part of this shadowy, globalist deep state. Vivek Ramaswamy, in my view, has been the most effective at engaging on the political stage in that. He's basically portraying himself as the young Trump, as the person that can carry the mantle that, you know, if Trump is one more Covid episode away from not being with us,

Vivek is 38 years old. He's an entrepreneur, young kid. You know, he's an outsider. He is never been a candidate. Heck, he's barely voted most of the presidential elections. He hasn't participated in, said he was jaded at the time. That is a feature, not a bug for someone who is, you know, wants to run on "I'm not a politico, I'm not a part of Washington. I have no political experience, and that makes me better." I mean, he proactively said like, "I want to run the government the way Elon runs Twitter/X, which I'm not clear that appeals to people that care about governance, but that's not the point. This is anger and people that want to hurt the folks that are benefiting from the fruits of governance over the course of the past, say, 40 to 50 years in the United States.

He's aligned with Trump. He's aligned with Tucker Carlson, that's the lane here. I definitely see in his policy statements that, you know, anti-woke but more effective in his rhetoric on that front than DeSantis has been. Talking about the global reset versus the great uprising. In other words, anti world economic forum, anti-woke, anti global control, anti deep state, anti all of this, you know, anything that feels like the forces that you don't understand that are in control of you, Vivek is opposed to them. It's very much like Trump's drain the swamp, which again, of all the things that Trump did, drain the swamp was, you know, the one he was least actually interested in. Fantastic on the rhetoric, and then appointed all the CEOs and billionaires to run cabinet to reduce taxation. I mean, the men north of Richmond did fantastically well under Trump and likely would under Vivek.

But that's not the point. The point is not appealing to an analytic reasoned policy debate. It is appealing to a sense of anger, and we want to burn it down. And in that regard, Vivek has been most effective in some of his policy statements that really antagonizing the mainstream media. I saw this in particular, with a CNN interview that he did in talking about Russia and Ukraine and in saying, "hey, I'm going to make the Ukrainians give up some of their territory and say there won't be any NATO for Ukraine because I want to pull Russia away from China." And I mean, you can just imagine this is absolutely intended to drive mainstream media crazy, and they do, and it's a massive amount of attention for this young outsider. And he's winning, not winning for the nomination, of course, that's not the point.

But he's winning in the performative sweep that allow him to do far better from personal career perspective on the back of deciding to run. Running this presidential campaign is an absolute no brainer for someone like Ramaswamy. He'll have bigger book deals, higher speaking fees, has a decent shot of being on a Trump cabinet if Trump were to potentially win. But he also is setting himself up to be one of the younger forces that can wear the populist MAGA mantle assuming the GOP stays intact beyond this presidential cycle. And so in that regard, I find him a very important cultural phenomenon and political phenomenon. We are going to see more of this as long as American political dysfunction continues to be a primary driving force, as long as the US is more polarized, riven with more disinformation, more mistrust, and more feeling of illegitimacy than any of the other G-7 advanced industrial democracies.

This is the lane to run on, at least on the right. I think we'll see more of it on the left as well. But again, the demographics of where the GOP is doing well, it aligns particularly with this form of nativism and populism. And I do feel like Vivek has been very effective there. We'll see on Wednesday night with the debate how he does on a stage with, you know, ten folks, many of whom are fully part of the GOP establishment. I suspect he'll do very well because this is really meant for small sound bites social media, and he's going to be an effective bomb thrower there. So will Chris Christie, by the way, who's a fantastic debater and is the one that is really taking Trump on individually, but of course, Trump is going to be talking to Tucker Carlson who has said in his private texts that he can't stand the guy, thinks he's a lunatic.

But that doesn't matter because they occupy the same lane. And as political entrepreneurs for themselves, this is exactly what they should be doing, which is teaming up to make the establishment debate that the party forces want to have less relevant. And it makes Tucker Carlson more relevant to his fans and to his revenues as bottom line, and it makes Trump more relevant too. So that's where we are this week, kind of depressing state of affairs in terms of US politics, but from an analysis perspective, got to get that right either way. Hope everyone's well, and I'll talk to you all real soon.


Subscribe to GZERO's daily newsletter