Ramaswamy Confronts America’s ‘National Identity Crisis’ at Summit
At the Pray Vote Stand Summit (PVSS) in Washington, D.C. on Friday, venture capitalist Vivek Ramaswamy confronted what he described as a “national identity crisis.” Said the 38-year-old Ohioan, “Faith, patriotism, hard work, family — these things have disappeared. And that leaves a moral vacuum in its wake.”
Ramaswamy compared human beings to blind bats, finding their place by echolocation. “We send out a signal. It bounces off of my family. … It bounces off of my belief in this country. … It bounces off of my faith in God. That is true. That is real. That comes back. It says, this is where I am.”
But, “What happens when those things each disappear — we send out these signals and then nothing comes back? That is the void,” Ramaswamy continued. He diagnosed the national identity crisis from the “rise of these different secular religions.” He decried the “cult of racial wokeness,” the “cult of gender ideology,” the “cult of climate,” and “one secular cult after another.”
“The reason we have a crisis of national pride in this country … is that young people don’t value a country that we just passively inherit; we value a country that we have a stake in creating, in building, in knowing something about,” added Ramaswamy. He identified this as “the reason why we have a 25% recruitment deficit in our U.S. military, the reason why less than 16% of Gen Z says they’re even proud to be an American, the reason why 60% of young Americans say they would sooner give up their right to vote than to give up their access to TikTok.”
“It is my job and responsibility to make faith, and family and hard work, and patriotism cool again, actually — I think they’re pretty cool — for the next generation of Americans,” said Ramaswamy. “We are hungry for a cause,” he said of his own generation, millennials. “We are starved for purpose and meaning and identity at a point in our national history when the things that used to fill that void — belief in God, belief in country, belief in self — these things have disappeared.”
“If you’re 19 years old, if you’re 20 years old, you want to stick it to the man. You want to be a hippie. You want to be countercultural. That’s where this stuff came from in the first place. … That became the new system,” said Ramaswamy. “Today, if you want to be countercultural, you want to be a revolutionary, you want to stick it to the man, try calling yourself a faith-based conservative. Say you want to get married to someone of the opposite sex. And stay married. And have children. And raise them to believe in God and pledge allegiance to the flag.”
“The question of our moment” is, “what does it mean to be an American?” continued Ramaswamy. For him it means believing in America’s founding ideas, in the rule of law, and “in a radical dream … that the people who we elect to run the government ought to be the ones who actually run the government.”
These ideals led Ramaswamy to explain his policy proposals. He promised “term limits instead of civil service protections for the bureaucracy,” the dismantling of “toxic, corrupted government agencies that are unreformable,” and a civics test as a requirement to become a voting citizen. But, most of all, Ramaswamy pledged to defend and champion free speech.
“The best litmus test for America’s civic health is the percentage of people who feel free to say what they actually think in public,” asserted Ramaswamy. “Right now, we are doing poorly because fear has spread like an epidemic across this country — fear of losing your jobs, fear of your kids getting a bad grade in school, fear of ending up as a hate group on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list if you’re a religious group in this country.”
Ramaswamy argued that courage is the antidote to this culture of fear, and he challenged the audience to personally build a culture of courage. “When you are the only person in a room who believes what you do — maybe it’s a parent-teacher conference; maybe it’s a board meeting; maybe it’s at the dinner table with your kids or with your parents —when you are the only person in a room who believes what you do,” he urged, “you have an obligation, now more than ever, to stand up and say it. Say it with conviction. Say it without apology. Say it with respect. But part of respect is respecting your neighbor enough to tell them the truth.”
Ramaswamy concluded by alluding to the Roman Empire’s fall as a comparison to the current American moment.
“We’re taught to believe we’re at the end of the ancient Roman Empire. All we have left is to fight over the scraps of a shrinking pie,” he said. “I don’t believe that we have to be ancient Rome. I don’t think we have to be a nation in decline.”
“I think the truth is, as a nation, we’re really just a little young, actually, going through our own version of adolescence, figuring out who we’re really going to be when we grow up,” said Ramaswamy. “When you go through your adolescence, you go through that identity crisis, you lose your way a little bit. … But we are stronger for it when we get to our adulthood on the other side.”
A political newcomer, Ramaswamy stands in third place in the Republican presidential primary, according to the latest Fox News poll, trailing former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, both of whom also spoke Friday night at PVSS.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.