(NewsNation) — Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy explained how he would deter China from invading Taiwan, combat “wokeism” in classrooms and reinvigorate a unified American spirit during his first national town hall Monday on NewsNation.
“I do not want to see us march to some national divorce, I want to lead us to a national revival,” Ramaswamy said to NewsNation’s Leland Vittert.
At 38 years old, Ramaswamy is the first millennial to run for the GOP presidential nomination. It’s a designation the biotech entrepreneur has used to his advantage as he continues to paint an optimistic, forward-looking picture for a party that tends to be more popular with older voters.
The enthusiasm has resonated in recent months, and Ramaswamy is currently polling third behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump.
That puts him ahead of seasoned politicians including former Vice President Mike Pence and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, but it remains to be seen whether he poses a serious threat to the current frontrunners.
Ramaswamy reacts to the Trump indictment: ‘Not how I want to win’
Ramaswamy wants to face Donald Trump in the Republican primary debate despite the former president’s new indictment Monday evening.
“It would be a lot easier for me if Donald Trump were not in this primary, but that is not how I want to win this election,” Ramaswamy said at the start of his town hall.
Ramaswamy blasted the multiple indictments against Trump and said the next president should be chosen by the American people, not the “federal police state.”
“I do not want to see us become some banana republic where the party in power — whoever that party is — uses police force to indict its political opponents in the middle of an election,” he said.
Ramaswamy called the indictments “politicized persecutions” based on “untested legal theories.”
Ramaswamy on China’s aggression
When it comes to China, Ramaswamy said the U.S. has a vital interest in making sure that nation doesn’t control the global semiconductor supply chain. To that end, he said he would deter Xi Jinping from attacking Taiwan.
“We will do whatever is necessary until we have achieved semiconductor independence,” he said. “We will run a destroyer through the Taiwan Strait if that’s what’s necessary.”
But Ramaswamy acknowledged those interests could change as soon as 2028. At that point, he would change his strategy in the region.
A vocal critic of the ongoing U.S. support to Ukraine, Ramaswamy said avoiding war would be a “hallmark” of his administration and vowed not to send American troops to fight wars overseas.
“I will not send our sons and daughters to fight someone else’s civil war,” he said.
Instead, Ramaswamy said any use of the military would be directed at defending American soil.
A plurality of Americans (47%) think China is the biggest threat facing the U.S. today, followed by Russia (26%), according to a recent NewsNation poll.
Ramaswamy on Hindu faith, embracing ‘Judeo-Christian’ values
If elected, Ramaswamy would become the first person of Hindu faith to lead the country. When asked whether questions about his religion were out-of-bounds, Ramaswamy said he welcomes them.
“Everything is fair game to ask about in this election,” he said. “We have to build trust with the public.”
The 38-year-old said his faith doesn’t prevent him from embracing the nation’s “Judeo-Christian values.”
“I share those same values in common,” Ramaswamy said. “I live by those values more so than many self-proclaimed Christian politicians.”
“I am going to be a better protector of religious liberty than many of the Christian right politicians or else we wouldn’t see the assault on religious liberty that we see today,” he continued.
In fact, the GOP hopeful views his historically non-traditional beliefs as a strength.
“It might take somebody who’s just a little bit different to revive that which we lack,” he said.
Ramaswamy likens ‘wokeism’ to a religion
When asked how the government could protect free speech in classrooms, Ramaswamy said he would direct the Department of Justice to enforce civil rights laws “evenhandedly” to eliminate “political viewpoint discrimination.”
“Much of what we call wokeism, it meets the Supreme Court’s test for what counts as a religion,” Ramaswamy said. “You can’t force somebody to bow down to the religion of the employer, especially when that employer is the federal government.”
But Ramaswamy warned he won’t be a “political messiah” and said the president isn’t there to “solve all cultural problems.” Instead, he called on young people to make their voices heard, even if they feel outnumbered.
“Fear has been infectious,” he said. “But courage can be contagious, too.”
Ramaswamy plans to ‘shut down’ Education Department
At Monday’s town hall, Ramaswamy reiterated his plan to “shut down” the U.S. Department of Education.
“I will use that $80 billion and put it in the hands of parents … to send their kids to the best possible K-12 schools that they can,” he said.
The 38-year-old businessman also called for the elimination of teachers’ unions so public schools can “once again compete with private schools and charter schools.”
Ramaswamy said he would prioritize civic education and stood by his proposal that would raise the minimum voting age to 25, unless young adults pass a citizenship exam or serve in the military.
“We want everybody in this country to have skin in the game; that’s what our founding fathers envisioned,” he said.
Changing the voting age would require a constitutional amendment, which hasn’t happened since 1992.
Ramaswamy would strike a ‘deal’ with Putin
Ramaswamy said he would make a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin in order to end the war in Ukraine.
He said the deal would include a commitment to Putin that Ukraine would not join NATO so long as Russia ends its military partnership with China.
“The Russia-China military partnership outmatches the U.S. on nuclear capabilities, on hypersonic missiles, on China’s naval capacities,” Ramaswamy said, later adding: “Worst of all, through the Ukraine war, we’re actually pushing Russia further into China’s hands. So, I will end that (the Russia-Ukraine) war.”
When Vittert called Putin’s trustworthiness into question, Ramaswamy said prior deals haven’t been “backstopped” with the “proper self-interest.”
“I don’t trust Vladimir Putin, but I trust him to follow his self-interest,” he added.