A second-generation Indian swam into the world’s view of America’s political craziness the day India became only the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon.

S ections of the media — and Elon Musk — seem to be over the moon about Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old Indian American biotech entrepreneur from Ohio who has very white teeth, very weird views and an ugly combative belief in his own exceptionalism.

The X tycoon, Elon Musk, for instance, wrote during the first Republican primary debate of the 2024 election season, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

“Vivek is increasingly compelling.”

Enough said.

This is how crazy the American political system is getting. That one of its two major parties of government lays on a political debate stacked with fairly consequential people but discusses almost nothing about the real issues that face America. Climate change. Culture wars.

Having watched the whole debate — from 2 to 4 in the morning, UK time, I feel able to say that the eight Republican presidential candidates on the stage in Milwaukee were a largely decent bunch. There was a sitting senator, two sitting governors, a former vice president, a few former governors, a former UN ambassador, and a brash entrepreneur. Among them was one woman, one Black southern man and an ethnic South Asian man. The woman was doubly diverse (!) by gender and ethnicity, being South Asian.

Both Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley are second-generation Americans and in many ways, they could be said to epitomise the American dream. This, because their origins have not held them back and their hard work and enterprise have taken them pretty far.

That said, Mr Ramaswamy is an embarrassment, especially to people like us, which is to say, Indians.

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Whether like me, you’re born and bred in India, or your links with the country go further back — parents, grandparents, more distant ancestors — Mr Ramaswamy looked and seemed, to paraphrase former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s delightful line, an Indian prototype of “a guy who sounds like ChatGPT”. He felt like a bit villain in a 1980s Hindi film, in which people from South India were generally portrayed as both cliche and stereotypical.

He was unbearably smug, rude, and unforgiving (except to twice-impeached, four-times-indicted Donald Trump). He declared climate change “a hoax”. He wanted to cede Ukraine to Russia or at least for America to care not at all about its sovereignty. Several times, he laughed impudently when attacked. And he dismissed everyone on the stage as “bought off career politicians.”

The New York Times’ Michelle Cottle said she found Vivek Ramaswamy’s tech bro persona “insufferable”. Couldn’t agree more.

It’s a remarkable coincidence that a second-generation Indian Vivek Ramaswamy swam into the world’s view of America’s political craziness the same day India became only the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon.

What does the juxtaposition of events say? Indians can do anything. We just have to be careful what we choose to do.

PMP Magazine



Text: This piece was first published in MediumPMP Magazine on 24 August 2023. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
Cover: Flickr/Gage Skidmore & GODL-India. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)
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