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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Vivek Ramaswamy built his campaign on “TRUTH” — it crumbled because of lies

Owen Barbato
Ramaswamy’s polling numbers were rising rapidly in August. Then they plateaued. Finally, they plummeted. The turning point was in October, right around the time he visited Grinnell and mischaracterized a car accident involving a Grinnell College student and his campaign vehicle. That lie was one of many Ramaswamy told on the campaign trail, and the dishonest rhetoric ultimately contributed to his downfall.

When Vivek Ramaswamy arrived in Grinnell, Iowa for a campaign event on Oct. 5, he was strutting with confidence, riding a recent wave of media attention accompanied by an uptick in the polls. 

Ramaswamy seemed to be defying the odds. He was a 38-year-old with little name recognition and no political experience, but he was on the brink of placing himself firmly in contention for the Republican presidential nomination. Some analysts were questioning whether he could pull off a meteoric rise rivaling that of former President Barack Obama in 2008.

Ramaswamy was poised for success, but his greatest asset early in the race — the gift of rhetoric — quickly became his fatal flaw as time went on. He ultimately wrote his own obituary with the way he ran his campaign, repeatedly tripping over his own lies until voters saw through his smarm, which he had masked cleverly as charm in the early stages of his campaign.

On the campaign trail, Ramaswamy lied about the content of his own books, claimed the Jan. 6 insurrection was an inside job, misled voters about his comments on former President Donald Trump, lied about his stance on Israel and mischaracterized interactions with college students at his events.

Ramaswamy’s visit to Grinnell in October, however, was the first time that I, as a reporter, was able to get an inside look into his deceitful tendencies.

Ramaswamy was slated to record a television segment of a conversation with three undecided Republicans in Poweshiek County. As he was walking into the event, a Grinnell College student backed out from a parking space outside the event and struck a campaign vehicle across the street. 

Ramaswamy’s talks on the phone as he prepares to walk into the event in Grinnell on Oct. 5, 2023. Moments later, a Grinnell College students accidentally backed into a campaign vehicle. (Levi Magill)

The Ramaswamy campaign took to X, formerly Twitter, blaming the collision on protesters who supposedly angry were about Ramaswamy’s remarks, claiming they rammed the campaign vehicle and sped off.

Fox News ran with the campaign’s version of events, describing it as a “hit-and-run.” Daily Wire podcaster Michael Knowles called the driver a “punk” and said they should “rot in prison for years” for “political violence” that is “along the spectrum of assassination.” 

But it was all a lie — a seemingly intentional mischaracterization of the accident by the Ramaswamy campaign to push its narrative of irrational, violent liberals attacking the victimized Republicans. 

The driver was no protester, nor were they angry about any remarks. The whole incident was merely an accident, as the Grinnell Police Department quickly substantiated in a media release. 

Videos showed that the driver remained at the scene and the police report indicated that the damage was a mere $600 per vehicle, inconsistent with the violent crash the Ramaswamy campaign described.

Furthermore, the campaign vehicle had been parked illegally at the time of the accident but was strategically moved to a legal parking spot before police arrived at the scene. 

If the initial mischaracterization was not enough, the Ramaswamy campaign stood behind the story even after media coverage began disproving it.

The Scarlet & Black asked presidential hopeful Nikki Haley about Ramaswamy’s lies at her campaign event in Newton, Iowa on Nov. 17.

“I think voters can sense who’s true and who’s not, and can sense who’s being genuine or not,” former South Carolina Governor Haley told us. 

“I trust the voters. I think at the end of the day, they’re going to get it right, and I think you can look at the poll numbers and they’re already getting it right.”

The data suggest Haley was correct.

On Sept. 10, Ramaswamy was seen by voters as more favorable than unfavorable, according to the political site FiveThirtyEight

By Oct. 12, merely 7 days following his fiasco in Grinnell, Ramaswamy’s unfavorability exceeded his favorability by 5.7 percentage points.

But by Oct. 12, merely 7 days following his fiasco in Grinnell, his unfavorability exceeded his favorability by 5.7 percentage points. By the time the Iowa caucuses were held on Monday, the gap had widened with his unfavorability surpassing his favorability by 11.9 percentage points.

National Republican primary polling showed Ramaswamy peaking at 11.6% in the polls at the end of August. On Nov. 3, less than a month after his visit to Grinnell, he had plummeted to a mere 4.9%.

Ramaswamy’s policy platform consists of what he calls “10 TRUTHS,” ranging from “there are two genders” to “capitalism lifts people up from poverty.”

When used, the term “truth” conveys an inherent sense of objectivity. However, there is little objectivity in Ramaswamy’s claims.

Moreover, his contradictions are nearly as astonishing as the lying.

Ramaswamy presents himself as the voice of younger voters but threatens to disenfranchise them by raising the voting age to 25. He gained U.S. citizenship through birthright citizenship but now wants to eliminate it. He argues for “self governance over aristocracy” and free speech without “elite interference” yet is an aristocratic alum of elite Ivy League universities.

Ramaswamy’s lies and contradictions provoked a heated response from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the fourth Republican presidential debate on Dec. 6.

“You do this at every debate,” Christie said. “You say something, all [of] us see it on video, we confront you out on the debate stage. You say you didn’t say it, and then you back away.”

Christie went on to call Ramaswamy the “most obnoxious blowhard in America.” Haley chimed in by calling him “scum.”

“I liked the fact that he was willing to listen and even admitted that if someone could tell him why his ideas weren’t beneficial to the American people he would reconsider,” said Jacki Bolen, the former mayor of Montezuma, Iowa and one of the three undecided voters who Ramaswamy spoke to in Grinnell.

But as Maggie Morris, a sophomore at Grinnell College, said after the event, “The important part is to actually respond to what people are saying rather than simply the fact that they’re saying it.”

Ramaswamy has repeatedly failed to do that. He rarely takes responsibility when called out on his lies. Instead, he digs in.

Ramaswamy has rarely taken responsibility when called out on his lies. Instead, he digs in.

Ramaswamy’s faceplant in the Iowa caucuses on Monday revealed his crumbling support, causing him to drop out of the race to save face. His rapid descent, accelerated by falsehoods and dereliction, serves as a lesson for all political hopefuls regardless of affiliation. But for the Republican Party, Ramaswamy’s failure may be a flashing warning sign rather than a friendly reminder.

Trump has managed to keep his base largely intact despite using the exact same techniques that crippled Ramaswamy’s aspirations. The question now is whether the dishonest rhetoric will eventually catch up with him, and if it does, whether it will be before the November election.

A recent poll found that 61% of Americans think Trump tells the truth only some of the time or less, yet many of them still support Trump. If even a fraction of that support falters, though — potentially the result of a conviction — an election-altering number of moderate Republicans may opt for the more honest President Biden.

Former President Donald J. Trump speaks at a rally in Indianola, Iowa on Jan 14. After winning the Iowa caucuses, Trump hinted at the possibility of Ramaswamy joining his ticket as vice-president. (Zach Spindler-Krage)

It is apparent this is not the end for Ramasamy. At 38, he has decades of political possibilities ahead of him, and as a billionaire, he has the self-funding to make it happen. 

At an event on Tuesday, Trump even seemed to hint at the possibility of Ramaswamy joining his ticket as vice-president, saying,  “He’ll be working with us for a long time.” The audience responded by breaking into chants of “VP, VP, VP.”

But for now, Ramaswamy’s crash and burn is a sign that lies do matter — that the truth often has a way of catching up to people. 

Ramaswamy cannot make something true simply by labeling it as “TRUTH.” No one can. Truth runs deeper than even the deepest political divisions. 

Truth still trumps all.

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About the Contributors
Zach Spindler-Krage
Zach Spindler-Krage, News Editor
Zach Spindler-Krage is a third-year political science major and policy studies concentrator. He is from Rochester, Minnesota and has an unbelievable amount of state pride. Zach spends his time hiking, playing and listening to music, trying to submit op-eds for every class writing assignment, and wishing he was in Minnesota.
Owen Barbato
Owen Barbato, Staff Photographer
Owen is a third-year psychology and political science major from South Pasadena, California. When he's not photographing for the paper, Owen enjoys taking nighttime and landscape photos. In his free time, Owen can be found trying to learn guitar and overanalyzing music.
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  • J

    jennifer wadeJan 20, 2024 at 12:41 pm

    Excellent, diligent reporting that gets to the heart of his issues: kudos!

  • M

    Mark TolbertJan 19, 2024 at 9:32 am

    Good story, I don’t think we have seen the last of him.