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Vivek Ramaswamy Is a Threat to Democracy
As vice president, he says, he would certify election results—but only if Congress passes new restrictions on voting.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT as the heir to Donald Trump. Like Trump, he disdains political experience, rejects institutional constraints, and floats authoritarian ideas. He has proposed raising the voting age for most people to 25. He has vowed to purge 75 percent of the federal workforce. He wants to eliminate numerous agencies—including the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission—and he has suggested that if Congress doesn’t comply, he’ll impose such sweeping changes by executive order and dare the courts to stop him.
Ramaswamy—who is already polling third and rising in the Republican field—has promised to pardon Trump on all of his 91 felony charges, even if everything alleged in the indictments of Trump is proved. But at the same time, he says President Joe Biden committed crimes, should be imprisoned for life, and should never get a pardon.
Now Ramaswamy has issued another, starker threat against American democracy. He has made it clear that as vice president, he would be willing to block congressional certification of his own defeat.
Last year, in his book, A Nation of Victims, Ramaswamy acknowledged that “Accepting the outcomes of elections and having a peaceful transition of power is part of what it means to be a constitutional republic.” He praised former Vice President Mike Pence for certifying the 2020 election. “Mike Pence, a man I have great respect for, decided it was his constitutional duty to resist the president’s attempts to get him to unilaterally overturn the results of the election, even in the face of the January 6 Capitol riot,” Ramaswamy wrote. “Our institutions did hold.”
But since the book’s publication—and since he launched his candidacy in February—Ramaswamy has changed his position. Catering to the MAGA base, he has turned against Pence and adopted many of Trump’s views about the 2020 election. He has blamed the violence of January 6th on leftist censorship (which supposedly provoked good people to rebel), insinuated that “federal agents” manipulated the crowd, and offered to pardon some people who were convicted of crimes for their actions that day. When the Washington Post asked Republican presidential candidates whether Biden was “the legitimate winner of the 2020 election,” Ramaswamy’s spokeswoman said he believed that the suppression of information about Hunter Biden’s laptop was an “illegitimate form of election interference.”
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Four weeks ago, Politico asked Ramaswamy whether he would have certified the election results, as Pence did. He repeatedly refused to answer. At the August 23 Republican presidential debate, every other candidate said Pence had done the right thing. But Ramaswamy, instead of agreeing, spoke up during that exchange only to rebuke Pence for not promising to pardon Trump.
After the debate, National Review’s John McCormack pressed Ramaswamy to answer the Pence question. Ramaswamy replied that he wouldn’t have done what Pence did. Instead, he said he would have pursued “a national compromise” consisting of four election reforms: “single-day voting,” paper ballots, voter ID, and making Election Day a national holiday. Ramaswamy said Congress should have approved these reforms in the “window between November and January” after the 2020 election. With those changes in place, he told McCormack, “I would have declared on January 7th, saying, ‘Now I’m going to win in a free and fair election.’”
Ramaswamy’s meaning was unclear, but it has since become clearer. On Friday, he called his four demands “a hard requirement for faith in our elections.” He offered to let some people vote before Election Day, but he affirmed that as a general rule, this would be forbidden. Therefore, he explained, people who anticipated that they wouldn’t be able to get to their polling place on Election Day—but whose reasons for being absent that day weren’t approved by the government—would forfeit their ability to vote.
In this regard, Ramaswamy drew no distinction between mail-in voting and early in-person voting. This is significant, because early in-person voting is just as secure as Election-Day voting. There’s no “security” or “integrity” rationale for requiring in-person voters to cast their ballots on Election Day rather than in the days or weeks before the election. The only effect of such a restriction is to make voting more difficult.
On Sunday’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Ramaswamy whether Pence “did the right thing on Jan. 6.” Again, Ramaswamy said he “would have done it very differently.” And this time, he presented his four demands as a requirement for certifying the election:
In my capacity as president of the Senate, I would have led through that level of reform; then, on that condition, certified the election results; served it up to the president, President Trump, then, to sign that into law; and on Jan. 7, declared the reelection campaign pursuant to a free and fair election.
Ramaswamy’s vision of himself as president of the Senate is fanciful. The vice president’s role as Senate president doesn’t involve introducing legislation or voting for it, except in the case of a tie. But the key phrase here, which Ramaswamy carefully enunciated, is on that condition. When you combine this statement with the version he gave to McCormack, his meaning becomes all too evident: If he had been vice president in the two months after the 2020 election, he would have required Congress to impose new federal rules on states, including not just voter ID but a general ban on early in-person voting. Only if Congress yielded to these demands would he have certified the election results on January 6.
On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell showed Ramaswamy the video of his answer on Meet the Press. In response, he explained to Mitchell that he would have used the whole two months after the election, not just the day of January 6, to press Congress to enact legislation imposing his new election rules. But he didn’t dispute that his certification of the election would be conditional on Congress passing that legislation.
Consider two scenarios. In one, Ramaswamy wins the Republican presidential nomination. He makes sure to select as his running mate someone who, following his lead, would be willing to withhold certification if their ticket loses the 2028 election.
In the other, likelier scenario, Trump captures the nomination and picks Ramaswamy as his running mate. They win the election, but the next Republican ticket loses in 2028. So Vice President Ramaswamy withholds certification of that election.
In these scenarios, what happens next? Last December, Congress passed legislation stipulating that in future certifications, the vice president “shall have no power to solely determine, accept, reject, or otherwise adjudicate or resolve disputes” over electors. But if Ramaswamy exploits some loophole in that language—the word “solely,” for example—and dares the courts to intervene, they would have only two weeks to resolve the standoff before inauguration day. If a new president isn’t sworn in by then, the speaker of the House—currently Kevin McCarthy—would become president by default. That acting president would retain power until the certification was resolved.
If the courts, invoking judicial restraint, were to leave the count unresolved—with neither presidential candidate having secured certification of the required 270 electoral votes—constitutional guidelines would relegate the decision to the House, where Republicans control most of the state delegations and could therefore choose the winner.
These scenarios aren’t far-fetched. We were on the brink of them two years ago. What saved us was Pence’s decision to certify the election without conditions. That’s exactly what Ramaswamy is telling us he won’t do.