Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at a podium that reads "Grand Hotel" Mackinac Island for annual Michigan Republican conference. 
Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at the Michigan Republican conference on Mackinac Island Saturday. Courtesy of Shannon Stocking

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy spoke at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference Friday evening. The conference was held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and featured talks from various keynote speakers including Kristina Karamo, chair of Michigan’s Republican Party, U.S. Senate candidates Michael Hoover and J.D. Wilson, along with other party leaders in the state.  

Currently, 12 Republicans have declared their candidacy for the 2024 presidential race. Ramaswamy, who is nationally polling in third place behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, was the only candidate to attend the conference. Trump is scheduled to make an appearance in Clinton Township next week, meaning that he will not be participating in the second Republican primary debate in Simi Valley, Calif.  

Ramaswamy began his remarks by referencing current issues including affirmative action, climate change and immigration, which members of both major political parties have shared different opinions on over the past couple of years. A recent study done by the Pew Research Center found that Democrats and Republicans in Congress are currently farther apart ideologically than any time in the past 50 years.

Ramaswamy said he believes political polarization is overexaggerated in the media and by other politicians, adding that all Americans should be able to agree on certain basic elements of policy regardless of party affiliation. 

“You will be taught to believe that this is a 50-50 tug of war in this country, we’re on our way to a breaking point — that’s false,” Ramaswamy said. “I can tell you as somebody who has now been to a majority of states over the last couple of years and for this campaign, that division is artificial. It is made up. It is a projection designed to divide and conquer the people.” 

Ramaswamy highlighted his commitment to reducing the federal workforce by 75% if elected, as first outlined in a policy speech Sept. 13. Ramaswamy’s proposed plan would eliminate more than 1.6 million federal jobs, according to the New York Times. As part of his plan, Ramaswamy said he plans to completely dissolve certain federal agencies including the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Education.  

“As your next U.S. president, if you all put me there, we will shut down the unconstitutional ‘fourth branch’ ,” Ramaswamy said. “We’re not just gonna get in there and tinker around the edges, put a good Michigander on there — Betsy DeVos or whoever else — and say, ‘Fix it.’ No, we are going to get in there and shut them down.”

Throughout his campaign, Ramaswamy has portrayed himself as a younger version of Trump, supporting similar policies including reducing the federal workforce, ending military aid to Ukraine and restricting immigration. He has also centered his campaign around policies that would disenfranchise large groups of voters, including raising the voting age to 25 and requiring a civics test to vote. 

Ramaswamy, who has previously said he believes climate change is a hoax, reaffirmed at the event Friday that he feels policies to support renewable energy development are detrimental to the United States’ global economic position. 

“We will drill, we will frack, we will burn coal, we will embrace nuclear (energy),” Ramaswamy said.

Ramaswamy praised Trump and his achievements as president, but said he believes he is better suited to advance conservative goals. 

“I’m an America First conservative,” Ramaswamy said. “But I am not just a Trump-first conservative. The America First agenda does not belong to one man, it does not belong to Donald Trump, it does not belong to me. It belongs to you, the people of this country.”

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