Donald Trump is surely watching Ramaswamy’s rise closely.
Imagine a 2024 vice presidential debate where the GOP candidate is a brown-skinned man, and he is telling a black woman, Vice President Kamala Harris, that Democrats take minority voters for granted.
Ramaswamy is preparing for that fight by taking his racial rhetoric to disturbing heights.
“I’m sure the boogeyman ‘white supremacists’ exist somewhere in America – I have just never met him,” Ramaswamy said recently on CNN.
“Never seen one…”
Say what? Keep in mind, Ramaswamy spoke a year after a white racist went into a Buffalo grocery and killed 10 people with automatic gun inscribed with the n-word.
He spoke days before another white racist went into a Jacksonville store and killed three black people with a rifle marked with swastikas.
Did Ramaswamy miss the white supremacists marching through Charlottesville in 2017? Has he forgotten Dylan Roof’s racist murder of nine Black Charleston churchgoers in 2015?
Ramaswamy’s reckless use of racial and tribal appeals to win over Republican voters was also on display at an early August event in Iowa.
He said he wants to cancel the Juneteenth holiday, which celebrates the day when slaves in Texas first heard they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. He called it a “useless” holiday.
Two months earlier, Ramaswamy had posted a social media video praising Juneteenth as a celebration of “how far we’ve come.” He added that “as a first-generation American myself, you better believe I’m proud of it.”
Former Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), who is Black, dismissed Ramaswamy for engaging in political “gimmicks and shtick [that] aren’t serious.”
But Ramaswamy has gone beyond gimmicks by making very serious racist appeals. For example, he called Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D- Mass.), a Black woman, one of the “modern grand wizards of the modern KKK.”
He associated Pressley with violent racists on the basis of a comment she made four years ago. “We don’t want any more Black faces that don’t want to be a Black voice,” she had said.
“These aren’t my words,” Ramaswamy said of Pressley’s remark. “These are the words of the modern grand wizards of the modern KKK.”
How is her comment equal to KKK cross-burning and lynching?
The most generous interpretation of Ramaswamy’s thinking is that he was trying to replicate the political bump Bill Clinton got in the 1992 campaign when he picked a fight with Sister Souljah.
Clinton harshly criticized the musician after she made the remark: “”I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”
Clinton won widespread attention for calling for an end to such extremist racial views. But Ramaswamy is doing the exact opposite. His comment about Pressley shows him seeking political gain by distorting a comment to divide Americans along racial lines.
I am a black Democrat, but I have children who are black Republicans.
I have always defended the importance of non-white conservative voices, both in my own home and in the national conversation. I’ve spoken out against liberals when they demean conservative intellectuals who are minorities.
I have disagreed with the ideas voiced by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and economist Thomas Sowell. But these conservative thought leaders are worthy of respect and serious consideration because they have sincerely proposed solutions born of their life experiences to advance racial justice.
Ramaswamy is not acting to heal the nation’s racial wounds. He is exploiting anti-Black racism to advance his political ambition as a candidate in a party that is more than 80 percent white.
His appeal is in line with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) approval of a curriculum that includes the idea that slavery had the benefit of allowing some Blacks to gain skills.
The fact that racial provocateurs can achieve positions in the party so quickly in 2023 makes me fearful for the GOP’s future and the nation.
“Is there existing racism in the United States? Of course, there is. But those [are the] last burning embers of racism — the last thing I want to do is throw kerosene on it,” Ramaswamy said on “Meet the Press” on NBC News.
In practice, this means that Ramaswamy sees no benefit in discussing racial inequality because it does not interest a lot of white Republicans.
He seems to see no benefit in reaching out to racial minorities with conservative views — Blacks, Latinos and others who celebrate family values, church and hard work but want a candidate who can speak honestly about racism.
“I think the right answer is actually to restore colorblind equality, colorblind meritocracy, embrace what unites us across our diversity, instead of celebrating our skin-deep, diverse attributes,” Ramaswamy said.
In other words, he is a brown-skinned man telling white Republicans they don’t need to deal with racial divisions and disparities that continue to challenge an increasingly diverse nation.
Almost half of Republicans surveyed by the Southern Poverty Law Center last year said they felt negatively about the prospect of whites becoming a minority in the U.S. later in the century.
The U.S. has already been injured by Trump’s racist rhetoric as a presidential candidate and later as president. Earlier this year, 61 percent of Americans told Gallup they are dissatisfied with race relations.
Vivek Ramaswamy is now reading from the Trump playbook.
And Trump is watching, no doubt calculating how Ramaswamy can further divide and inflame racial tensions to his benefit.
Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.
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