Ramaswamy Set To Tee Up a Plan To ‘Eviscerate’ the Administrative State

‘Do you want incremental reform, or do you want revolution?’ the GOP candidate asks, courting the online New Right.

Caroline McCaughey/The New York Sun
A GOP presidential contender, Vivek Ramaswamy, addresses a libertarian-leaning audience at New Hampshire Sunday. Caroline McCaughey/The New York Sun

A businessman who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Vivek Ramaswamy, says he will lay out a “legal and constitutional basis” for shutting down federal agencies with executive power during a speech Wednesday at the America First Policy Institute at Washington, D.C.  

Shutting down the Department of Education has long been a Republican talking point, but Mr. Ramaswamy and much of the New Right — a constellation of mostly young thinkers and activists unburdened by conservative orthodoxy — want to go further, promising to shut down a host of alphabet agencies, like the FBI, the IRS, and the ATF. Mr. Ramaswamy says if elected president, he will reduce the workforce of the federal bureaucracy “swamp” by 75 percent.

Mr. Ramaswamy calls the unelected bureaucrats at Washington “collecting a paycheck from taxpayers” through Republican and Democrat administrations the “fourth branch of government” — and he wants it gone. His pledge sounds a lot like President Trump’s 2016 “drain the swamp” campaign promise, but Mr. Ramaswamy’s pitch is that he is the smart, adept one who can actually get it done.

“They duped presidents from Reagan to Trump by telling them they couldn’t do it. And on solid legal authority we are, on Wednesday, going to lay out exactly how we will get that done in a way that goes far beyond any historical GOP talking points,” Mr. Ramaswamy told reporters Sunday at an event at New Hampshire. “It takes the America First movement to the next level.”

At a barbecue at New Hampshire Sunday hosted by a cryptocurrency millionaire and former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Bruce Fenton, Mr. Ramaswamy articulated his vision in revolutionary terms. The tables were adorned with Gadsden flags, tricorn hats, and faux-aged copies of the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Fenton is part of the Free State Project, a movement to get “liberty lovers” to move to New Hampshire, influence state politics, and create a libertarian homeland.

“Do you want incremental reform, or do you want revolution?” Mr. Ramaswamy asked the crowd of about 150 people. “I think that’s the real choice we face in the GOP primary.”

A 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur, Mr. Ramaswamy favors revolution, and the crowd ate it up. He painted a dark vision of the state of the country, saying that Americans are “starved for purpose and meaning and identity.”

“At a time in our national history, with the things that used to fill the void — faith, patriotism, hard work, family — these things have disappeared,” Mr. Ramaswamy said. “And when you have a black hole in your heart that runs that deep, that is when the poison fills the void: woke-ism, transgenderism, climate-ism, Covid-ism, globalism. As I sometimes joke around now, Zelensky-ism.”

This “American carnage” articulation recalls Mr. Trump and runs in direct contrast to the Reaganite optimism of Republican presidential candidates such as Ambassador Nikki Haley and Vice President Pence. “We’re not looking for a new national identity,” Mr. Pence argued with Mr. Ramaswamy at the Republican presidential debate. “The American people are the most faith-filled, freedom-loving, idealistic, hard-working people the world has ever known.”

“It’s not morning in America,” Mr. Ramaswamy shot back.

Mr. Ramaswamy’s opposition to funding the war in Ukraine is another point of departure from traditional Republicanism. These divisions reflect a larger split within the conservative movement between the Nikki Haleys of the world and the younger, über-online right that is attracted to Messrs. Ramaswamy and DeSantis and their scorched-earth vision of dismantling the administrative state, or as Mr. DeSantis said last month, when referring to reducing the federal workforce, “slitting throats on day one.”

Mr. Ramaswamy says he used to identify as libertarian and didn’t vote in his 20s because he was “jaded.” His message about shutting down government agencies, pardoning Julian Assange of Wikileaks, and freeing the founder of the dark web drug sales site Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, has earned him praise from many of the young, online right.

Several libertarian-leaning guests on Tim Pool’s YouTube show recently praised Mr. Ramaswamy for these promises. Mr. Ramaswamy is making the rounds of podcasts, YouTube shows, and other new media to attract this younger “jaded” crowd.

Mr. Ramaswamy shares the techno-libertarian origins of many in the New Right, and his diagnosis of America’s maladies aligns him with the Curtis Yarvin “democracy has failed” acolytes and “national divorce” proponents like the Libertarian Party, but his prescription is more optimistic and grounded in a unified constitutional republic. Mr. Ramaswamy opposes national divorce, embraces “one person, one vote,” and calls this a “1776 moment.”

Yet he also throws red meat to this crowd, imagining himself as a more capable Mr. Trump, the embodiment of “America First 2.0” that can successfully knee-cap birthright citizenship for offspring of illegal immigrants, secure the southern border, and speak “truth” — Mr. Ramaswamy’s campaign slogan — on culture war issues. The campaign posted signs around the Fenton property that articulated these so-called truths according to Ramaswamy: “Reverse racism is racism,” “There are two genders,” and, “Human flourishing requires fossil fuels.”

“We have to speak truth,” Mr. Fenton tells the Sun. “I have definitely been talking to a lot of liberty people and Free Staters about why I think Vivek is the guy.”

Mr. Trump is leading in Republican polls by large margins, but Mr. Ramaswamy’s rise indicates there is a hunger for this direct, “revolutionary” messaging. The main stalwarts of libertarianism, like Reason Magazine, may not be endorsing Mr. Ramaswamy’s agenda, which deviates significantly from libertarian orthodoxy, but a significant portion of the online New Right is.

Mr. Ramaswamy says the drive among Republicans to compromise in their beliefs is misguided. “I reject ‘show up in the middle and compromise,’ hold hands, sing Kumbaya,” Mr. Ramaswamy said. “We’re not going to tinker around the edges, we’re going to get in there and shut it down. That’s how you revive a constitutional republic.”


The New York Sun

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