- The progressive California Congressman hopes the Nov. 1 New Hampshire event sets a new paradigm for the future when presidential candidates will engage with people on the other side.
Progressive Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Republican presidential contender Vivek Ramaswamy sparred earlier this week about the future of America, and their vision of the American dream. For an hour, the two Indian Americans with polar-opposite political views, engaged in what Politico described as “a mostly civil discussion.”
The debate, held on Nov. 1 at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, was moderated by Boston Globe reporter James Pindell, who gave instructions to avoid specific topics, such as the current presidential race. The two Indian Americans engaged in a conversation focused not on politics, but the hot policy topics like the economy, foreign policy, political reform and climate change.
When Ramaswamy spoke about his plan to cut 75 percent of the federal workforce, Khanna called it a “horrible idea because you need federal government investments to be able to scale factories.” They spared on foreign policy as well. Khanna argued Americans “need to be involved in the Middle East,” while Ramaswamy said “another prolonged conflict with a U.S. presence” is “not what advances the American interests.”
The New York Times noted that Ramaswamy “repeatedly slipped into his stump speech on the ‘black hole” in America’s collective heart.” Khanna on the other hand, “tried to articulate his economic ideas and talk up the record of President Biden against his opponent’s blizzard of words,” The Times said.
Ramaswamy also showed his “propensity to not allow the facts to get in the way of his views,” The Times said. “When Khanna boasted of the 13 million jobs that have been created under Biden, his opponent cautioned that the government was “the sector with by far the greatest growth in jobs.”
One topic that the duo agreed upon was a need for political reform, in the realm of campaign donations and term limits. They also underscored that America needs more civil discourse, which was highlighted in their responses to the final question: “What do you want polarized America to take away?”
Ramaswamy answered, “I think we have celebrated our diversity and our differences for so long that we actually forgot all the ways that we’re really the same as Americans, bound by a common set of ideals.” Khanna replied, “Our work is hard, but our work is to vindicate [Frederick] Douglass’ vision of becoming a cohesive multiracial democracy, and the more conversations like this that we have, the better shot we have of doing that.”
Politico stated that since the “2024 primary is so flat, politicians are making their own entertainment and, perhaps, setting the stage for 2028.”
His consent to debate the Democrat may also be a Hail Mary effort by Ramaswamy whose meteoric rise after the first Rebublican quickly dissipated as his seemingly cantenkerous behavior put off many in the party.
The idea of a debate with Ramaswamy was suggested by Khanna in a post on X. “The University of Chicago Institute of Politics wants to have a civil discourse with the two of us on race, identity, and the American dream. I accepted. I assume, as a speech advocate, you’re game.” In response, Ramaswamy said he was open to debating “a smart Democrat who’s willing.” He did suggest a change of location. “If you are willing to do it in New Hampshire, I’m game.”
Although Ramaswamy is hoping for a good primary showing, he is trailing several of his rivals, as revealed in the Real Clear Politics polling averages. In New Hampshire, he has slipped into fourth place behind former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former New Jersey governor Christ Christie. All of them are well behind the front-runner, Donald J. Trump.
For Khanna, the forum marked a return to a state where he’s spent time building a network among Democratic activists. His second appearance in the state this year was a testament to the frustrations that he has said he feels about how Biden and other Democrats have ceded ground to Republicans on putting forth an economic vision. It is also not lost on some observers that the Granite State is an important primary state for 2028 presidential election, in which some say Khanna is very likely to be a contender.
He acknowledged to Politico the debate was “unorthodox,” but hoped that it “maybe this sets a new paradigm for the future when presidential candidates will engage with people on the other side.” When asked by the publication if his debate with Ramaswamy was a setup for a 2028 presidential bid, the surrogate for President Biden replied that he’s “laser-focused on getting Joe Biden elected in 2024.”
However, if the question is where he “wants to be a voice in the Democratic Party in terms of the economic direction this party takes and in terms of the technology direction and foreign policy,” his answer is in the affirmative. “Absolutely, yes. And in what form and role that looks like is going to be dictated by circumstance.”
(Photos, courtesy, New Hampshire Institute of Politics Facebook page).