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The Vivek Lesson: What the GOP Must Learn from Ramaswamy on Gen Z



My phone screen lit up. 


It was a friend from a previous campaign in Pennsylvania. She sent a simple text that I should have paid closer attention to at the time: “Heads up - Vivek entering the race tomorrow. Keep an eye on him. Going places”.


Vivek? Who was Vivek?


I responded, “The Fox News guy?” That’s the only Vivek I knew! He had been on Fox seemingly every day for the past few months, promoting his new book, Woke Inc. I was just starting to recognize him. A presidential run? No. She must be talking about somebody else.


“Yes,” she replied, “that’s him!”.


I did a quick Google search. Vivek Ramaswamy, Biotech Engineer. A Big Pharma guy running for the White House as a Republican? “Well, this is going to be interesting!”, I texted her back.


The next night, Vivek would announce his candidacy for Leader of the Free World.


Fast forward to last week. Vivek dropped out after Iowa, endorsed Trump, and has been the face of Trump’s ground operation in New Hampshire ever since. Chants of “Vivek for VP” have broken out at more than one Trump rally in the last week. 


What happened? How did a no-name author become on the shortlist for Trump’s VP…in less than a year?


I’ve gotten to meet Vivek three separate times on the trail since his announcement. The first time, he was gracious enough to come on my podcast, “The Brilyn Hollyhand Show,” from the Iowa State Fair. It was my first time in Des Moines, and I was also going to be a first-time voter in 2024. That’s the first question I asked him.


“You’re the youngest in this race. You have no political experience. Why should my generation vote for you?”


He threw the question back in my face.


“You’re right; I am the youngest. I am an outsider. That’s why you should vote for me.”


He continued talking to me for 10 minutes and ignored his team twice who waved at him to move on to the next interview. That ended up being my most-watched interview ever. He told me afterward that what I was doing was important. Getting his message out to my generation was important to him. Little did I know how much that would be true!


The next time we ran into each other was a few weeks later in Milwaukee at the RNC’s afterparty following the first Republican Presidential Primary Debate. He was the only candidate who showed up. We made eye contact when he walked in the door, and he immediately remembered me. His face lit up. “You’re that guy! Great interview, man! Very important stuff!” I introduced him to my friends, who were also fellow Gen Zers. 


A few months later, he came to my hometown of Tuscaloosa for the fourth and final Republican Presidential Primary Debate at the University of Alabama. He had broken the internet that night by holding up a handwritten sign that read “Nikki = Corrupt” from the debate stage. He had hundreds of requests the next morning, but he took the time to come back on my show to talk about the night before and his future in this race. I even asked him if he would consider Megyn Kelly as his White House Press Secretary if he made it to the Oval Office. She was the debate moderator the night before and made waves for being willing to ask the tough questions. 


He laughed. “We’ll see," he said. “I hadn’t thought about that.”


Remember when I was concerned Vivek would be a Big Pharma enthusiast? Yeah, that was the furthest thing from the truth! I realized from my first sit-down with him that he actually wanted to bring change to the party. He truly wanted to abolish a handful of government agencies and had a plan to do so, when I pressed him on it. They weren’t just TV talking points. He was genuine. He was real.


That’s what won my generation over.


All we know is fake. Fake Instagram pictures. Fake people in our lives. Fake promises from our leaders. Vivek was different.


How did he go from a no-name to a potential VP in less than a year?


He was genuine. He listened. He told it like it is. He had real thought-out ideas about how to destroy the broken system and rebuild it. He used social media to harness his message and get it directly in front of my generation, and it worked!


While his opponents were on traditional cable getting their message out to our parents and grandparents, he was on TikTok getting his message out to us!


I’ve traveled with a bunch of candidates over the past few cycles. Vivek is the only one I’ve been asked about by my peers when I get back to school the next day. My generation fell in love with the guy. How? Why? Through social media.


He filmed viral videos with Jake Paul. He invited famous influencers to shadow him on the trail. He sat down with teenagers like myself and made us a priority.


Even though his candidacy wasn’t successful, we all know he’s not done, and his strategy shouldn’t be thrown out either!


If our party wants a shot at winning the White House in November, we must follow Vivek’s lead. We must communicate our agenda clearly and authentically. We must harness social media to reach my generation directly. We must partner with influencers who are already on the app with large followings. 


We must be genuine.


Vivek is out of the race, but his strategy should be adopted by our party if we want to win.


 

Brilyn Hollyhand is a 17-year-old political commentator, the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Truth Gazette, and the Co-Chair of the RNC’s Youth Advisory Council.




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