GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy holds Tama Co. town hall

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy held a town hall meeting at La Terraza Mexican Grill in Toledo on Monday, Nov. 20 with about 40 people in attendance. PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY

TAMA COUNTY – Entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is going all in on “overperforming” at the upcoming Iowa Caucus, and he stopped at Tama County’s La Terraza Mexican Grill in Toledo on Monday, Nov. 20 as part of that effort to reach new voters and touch on some of his key campaign themes of Constitutionalism and restoring the American Dream for future generations.

After Ramaswamy arrived at about 5:40 p.m., former Secretary of State Matt Schultz introduced him to the 40 or so attendees, noting that despite voting for Donald Trump twice and agreeing with many of his policy positions, he felt it was time to move on to a candidate who is less of a “distraction.” Vivek, who is often referred to by his first name alone, then stressed the importance of having an open conversation, criticizing current President Joe Biden and the mainstream media and sharing a bit of his personal background as the son of legal immigrants from India. He expressed frustration with what he considered as the GOP’s inability to win and said he never expected to be running for president.

“I think we’ve become lazy. We’ll criticize the other side’s vision — race, gender, sexuality, climate — and I’ve done plenty of that too. But that’s not good enough anymore,” he said. “We can’t just criticize the other side’s vision. That’s why we had the Red Wave that never came. We have to offer a vision of our own. What do we actually stand for? Individual, family, nation, God. That beats race, gender, sexuality and climate if we have the courage to actually stand for something.”

Like several other Republican candidates, Vivek indicated a willingness to send the U.S. military to seal the southern border, but he also pledged to use troops to protect the northern border with Canada as well. He called for term limits on civil service government employees to help create a government that works for the people instead of the other way around and advocated for single day voting on Election Day, which he would make a national holiday, with paper ballots and government issued photo IDs.

As an Indian-American, Ramaswamy, 38, said people of his generation grew up being taught to celebrate their diversity and differences rather than what they have in common, and in his view, the biggest measure of the country’s health is the percentage of people who feel free to say what they actually think, drawing strong applause for that line.

“Fear has been infectious in this country. But you know what? Courage can be contagious too. It just requires more of us willing to actually show up,” he said. “That’s what this campaign is all about. Speak the truth, not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. Not just to the other side or the other party but within our own party too. Speak the truth without apology. That’s what we’re doing in this campaign, and that’s what we’re doing here tonight.”

He then launched into several of his “truths” that he has recited in campaign advertisements — God is real, there are two genders, fossil fuels are a requirement for human prosperity and reverse racism is racism, to name a few.

In response to the first question about undoing Biden’s decisions if elected, Ramaswamy said there is “a war” in the country between those who believe in America’s founding ideals and those who hate it and seek to apologize for its history. He did not believe the younger generation is “lost” but rather that they were hungry for a cause they could believe in, whether it comes from the left or right side of the political spectrum.

“We’re not working with a lot of time, but I think this is our last window to revive the country that I was able to live my American Dream in,” he said. “My parents came here with no money 40 years ago. In a single generation, I’ve gone on to found multiple multi billion dollar companies… That’s the American Dream. I don’t think that’s gonna exist for our sons and their generation unless we do something about it.”

Cordt Holub of Dysart, a farmer who said he and others in the profession rely on China for trade, wondered how Ramaswamy’s tough talk against the most populated nation in the world could be balanced against the need to keep markets for American grains available. Ramaswamy said that it was still possible to hold the country’s government accountable for intellectual property theft and the COVID-19 pandemic while working out a deal that still keeps farmers profitable.

“China is in a tougher spot than we are. All we need is a president who’s actually able to deal with them with the spine to get (them) to play by the same set of rules,” he said. “That’s the way it’s gonna go on my watch.”

Another question about executive orders offered the candidate a chance to tout his Constitutional credentials and contend that he would adhere to a traditionalist view of the presidency with limited executive power, and he shared his strong opposition to the idea of a digital central currency while pledging to “rein in” the Federal Reserve as a means of stopping inflation.

When asked about the state of the current healthcare system, the candidate admitted it was “sick” but did not feel, as president, that he would have as much power to change policy as Congress would. Citing his firsthand experience as a businessman developing drugs with the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), he hoped to reduce burdensome regulations and also reform the Veterans Affairs (VA) department at the federal level.

Eddie Gonzalez, a 25-year-old Marshalltown native who now resides in Tiffin, briefly shared the stage with Ramaswamy and recounted his own experiences turning Trump and Vivek “haters” into supporters, detailing the ways he showed them laws proposed by Democrats like California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The penultimate questions of the night regarded Social Security and whether the military could be used on the border since it could violate the Constitution’s clause on having a standing peacetime Army. According to Ramaswamy, it would not be an issue because they would be “outward facing” and dealing with people in another country.

On Social Security, he said there was “too much corruption (and) not enough creativity” and called for reform to utilize the private sector as part of an effort to increase benefits. Maria Fragoso, an employee of the restaurant, told Ramaswamy she had been in the U.S. since she was seven years old but still could not gain citizenship or permanent residency. She wanted to know how asylum applications were different and if any changes could be made to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Ramaswamy took the current administration to task for “fostering” the migration crisis and opined that it actually hurts Hispanic Americans who are in the country legally the most. He then wrapped up with remarks lamenting the fact that the country is often thought of in similar to terms to the Roman Empire — a nation in decline about to collapse.

“As a nation, we’re really just a little young actually, going through our own version of adolescence, figuring out who we’re gonna be when we grow up, and when you view it that way, it makes sense again actually,” he said. “You go through your adolescence. You go through that identity crisis. You lose your way a bit. You lose your self confidence. You do some stupid things… But we are stronger for it when we get to our adulthood on the other side. So no, I don’t think we have to be that nation in decline. I think we can still be a nation in our ascent.”

He added that he wouldn’t sugarcoat things and describe the current state of the country as Reagan’s ideal of the shining city on a hill — calling the American Dream “alive and on life support” — but he hoped that if he put up a strong showing or even a win, he could change things in Washington, D.C.

During a brief interview with the News Chronicle as he boarded the bus for his next stop in Grinnell, Ramaswamy reiterated his call to end all illegal border crossings and fix the legal immigration system.

“We have to stand for the rule of law, but we also have to do it in a country that does what’s best for the interest of our citizens here at home. We do have people who want to make contributions to this country. If they wanna do it legally, come through the front door, and we should foster that,” he said.

Ramaswamy, who comes in behind former President Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in most Iowa polls, also said he expected to perform well in the state on Caucus day and hopefully catalyze success elsewhere.

“Bottom up,” he said when asked how he planned to make his goal a reality. “I think we’re gonna deliver a big surprise. A lot of the people at our events… a disproportionate number of them have never done the Caucus, they’re not polled. We’re gonna bring them out in massive numbers, and I think that’s what allows us to deliver a big surprise here. And I think we’re gonna shatter expectations.”