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Vivek Ramaswamy proposes new ‘American Revolution’ during Concord town hall

Moments before Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy took the stage in a congested Phenix Hall in downtown Concord on Thursday night, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” played over the speaker system.

The song tells the story of a revolution; the album cover itself derives from an 1830 French painting, “Liberty Leading the People,” highlighting the lesser-known July Revolution in France that occurred 41 years after the start of the better-known revolt. Intentionally selected as part of the playlist or not, it served as an apt precursor to the discussions that were to come at the Politics and Pies event, hosted by the Concord GOP.

“Do you want incremental reform in this country, or do you want revolution?” Ramaswamy asked the audience. “I stand on the side of the American Revolution. Those 1776 ideals. … I believe the moment for incremental reform has long passed if it ever existed.”

Ramaswamy, a 37-year-old entrepreneur from Ohio with an estimated net worth of $630 million, spoke for over 90 minutes with both optimism for the future of the country but also deep pessimism of how the American government currently functions. He spoke of his great hope that he could restore what he calls traditional American values: focus on the individual, the family, the nation and God, but also with cynicism about the “managerial bureaucratic deep state.”

As of May 2022, the executive branch of the United States government employs over two million people, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ramaswamy enthusiastically promised to eliminate 75% of the federal bureaucracy.

“When we have government agencies that should not exist, from the U.S. Department of Education, to the FBI, to the ATF, to the IRS, to the CDC, we will not just reform and tinker around the edges,” he said to a captive audience of Concord Republicans on Thursday. “We will shut them down and restore the integrity of a constitutional republic.”

Despite Ramaswamy’s claim about the size and bloat of the federal government, statistics show the government workforce is shrinking. However, the number of grant and contract workers has grown. In 1980, at the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s eight-year presidency that began with an inaugural address articulating that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” the federal government had about 2.16 million workers compared with about 2.13 million three decades later, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management

Ramaswamy also noted he wants the government to “incentivize trade schools over hollow college degrees,” despite his call to scale back an entity where nearly one third of the current employees did not attend college.

When asked about the value of New Hampshire maintaining its first-in-the-nation primary during the town hall portion of the event, Ramaswamy underscored what it means to the country, saying an outsider candidate like him would have no chance to win the presidency if not for the opportunities the state’s storied primary provides.

“I am a first-in-the-nation-primary evangelist for New Hampshire,” he said, reiterating the beliefs of most of the state’s politicians, both Republicans and Democrats. “It’s a special responsibility that you have, that you take seriously. It’s why you guys are here late into an evening on a hot night without air conditioning, fans turned off in an old theater that celebrates our nation’s history, to vet a presidential candidate who’s interviewing with you for a job.”

Despite a lower national profile than much of the rest of the Republican primary field, Ramaswamy’s seen an uptick in support. While a recent New York Times/Siena national poll had him in sixth place, tied with former New Jersey governor Chris Christie with 2%, he’s up to fourth place in a NYT/Siena poll of Iowa Republicans and third place in the FiveThirtyEight aggregated national polling averages. 

There’s still a ways to go for Ramaswamy to even have a chance of being a top choice of Republican primary voters, but for Meredith Republican Don Ewing, Thursday’s event left him with a positive impression of the candidate.

“I like him. I think he’s right: People have forgotten about what it means to be an American and what the benefits are of the United States and of our society,” he said. 

He also noted Ramaswamy’s youth and energy as a refreshing addition to the primary field, led by 77-year-old Donald Trump and to the country’s 80-year-old President Joe Biden.

Ewing said he has not yet made up his mind on who he’ll cast his vote for in the primary. He likes Trump’s policies, he said, but acknowledged that his personality can alienate people. The foremost factor that will determine his decision will be who can win in the general election.

“I think the most important thing is that we have a Republican president inaugurated in 2025,” he said. “For me, that’s the most important. So whoever I think is our best chance for that, that’s who I expect to support.”

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