A Wealthy ‘Anti-Woke’ Activist Joins the 2024 Presidential Field
Vivek Ramaswamy, a multimillionaire entrepreneur and author, entered the Republican presidential race on Tuesday with an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show and a video centered on opposition to social justice activism.
Mr. Ramaswamy, 37, is a former biotechnology executive and hedge fund partner who has made a name for himself in right-wing circles by opposing corporate efforts to advance political, social and environmental causes. He has particularly denounced environmental, social and governance investing, or E.S.G., a framework under which financial companies consider the long-term societal effects of their investment decisions.
His announcement video signaled that he would focus his campaign on the notion that conservatives are being culturally victimized by a social and political focus on the effects of racism and other forms of bigotry.
“We’re in the middle of a national identity crisis,” the three-and-a-half-minute video begins. “Faith, patriotism and hard work have disappeared, only to be replaced by new secular religions like Covidism, climatism and gender ideology.”
His use of the word “religions” was intentional: He wants to cast diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, or D.E.I., as religions, which would prevent companies from forcing employees to abide by them.
If elected, Mr. Ramaswamy said in an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday, his first action would be to repeal Executive Order 11246, which has banned discrimination and required affirmative action for federal contractors since 1965.
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In the interview, Mr. Ramaswamy defined “Covidism” as a “stop-it-at-all-costs mentality” against the pandemic — even though state and federal officials are not promoting such an approach, and Mr. Ramaswamy acknowledged that “that ship has mostly passed.”
He similarly described “climatism” as “prioritizing the goal of containing climate change at all costs,” and suggested that fossil fuel and nuclear-powered advances could be used to adapt to and overcome climate change. (Climate scientists are clear that avoiding the worst effects of climate change requires moving away from fossil fuels.)
And gender ideology — a term many on the right use to disparage public acceptance of transgender people — he described as seeking purpose and fulfillment in “artificial sources of identity or skin-deep sources” instead of “the household, the family, the state, the nation, a god.” Earlier in the interview, he had put “transgenderism” on his list of “secular religions,” suggesting that being transgender was a problem; when asked what he meant, he said he had misspoken and should have said “gender ideology.”
He also called for “making political expression a civil right” — meaning it would be illegal for private companies to discriminate against anyone based on their political views. (The First Amendment protects only against government intervention.)
Mr. Ramaswamy’s self-described “anti-woke” message — he wrote the book “Woke, Inc.” — is common among Republicans, who have cast coronavirus mitigation measures like mask and vaccine mandates as tyranny; pursued hundreds of restrictions on transgender people’s medical care, sports participation, bathroom use and more; and accused social media companies like Twitter and Facebook of suppressing conservative voices.
He said what distinguished him from the other Republicans who are running, or are likely to run, was “a vision of national identity that dilutes these other agendas to irrelevance.”