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GOP 2024 hopeful: 'We're in the middle of this national identity crisis'
11:20 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Republican presidential candidate and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said Sunday he is “running distinctively on my vision for this country” and not his biography or business credentials when asked why he believes he can win the party’s nomination as a political outsider and relatively unknown figure to most Americans.

“We’re in the middle of this national identity crisis, where if you ask most people my age, really any age – what does it mean to be an American today? – you get a blank stare in response. And I think that is the vacuum at the heart of our national soul,” Ramaswamy told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “State of the Union.”

The 37-year-old biotech and health care entrepreneur launched his long-shot bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination last month, joining a primary that already includes former President Donald Trump and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley.

“A lot of the conservative base actually is familiar with me,” Ramaswamy told Collins, citing books he’s written, including “Nation of Victims” and “Woke, Inc.”

“The opportunity for the GOP is not just to complain about wokeness, or gender ideology, or climate ideology, but actually to go upstream and fill that black hole with a vision of American national identity that runs so deep that it dilutes these agenda to irrelevance and actually unifies us as a country,” Ramaswamy said.

“We’ve celebrated our diversity for so long that we’ve forgot the ways we’re really just the same,” he later said.

Asked by Collins how he defines the term “woke,” Ramaswamy responded: “Being woke refers to becoming alert to invisible societal injustices, generally based on genetically inherited characteristics like race, sex, and sexual orientation, and then being called upon to act on those injustices, using whatever potential legally means are necessary, including the market, to do it. That’s a neutral definition that even most proponents of wokism in the United States would agree with.”

But he added that it was “inherently divisive to tell us we’re nothing more than the characteristics we inherit on the day we are born. That divides us on the basis of race, and sex, and sexual orientation.”

“And then, when that merges with capitalism, which is what I have actually been the biggest critic of, what it does is, we lose the sanctuary, the apolitical sanctuary in our economy, that otherwise brings us together, whether we’re Black or White, even whether we’re Democrat or Republican,” Ramaswamy said.

Asked about the move by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – a potential primary rival – to take more control of Disney’s special district after the entertainment giant spoke out against a classroom instruction bill backed by the governor, Ramaswamy said he “would’ve handled that situation a little bit differently,” citing his philosophy of keeping politics out of the corporate boardroom.

He took aim at asset management firms that are among Disney’s largest shareholders, saying they promote environmental, social and corporate governance, or ESG, agendas and “set a cultural tone that causes these companies to behave in politicized ways from their boardrooms on down.”

“That’s a problem that needs to be fixed through the market. And I don’t really believe in governments, whether it’s on the left or on the right … using the bully pulpit as a way to drive corporate change,” he said.

Congressional Republicans recently led a push to rollback a Labor Department rule allowing ESG factors to be considered in investment decisions, which passed both the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic-led Senate, though President Joe Biden is expected to veto it.

CNN’s Jack Forrest contributed to this report.