Bitcoin has suddenly found itself at the center of campaign trash-talking and chest-thumping ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
Biotech-entrepreneur-turned-Republican-candidate Vivek Ramaswamy told CoinDesk in an interview that he is the only candidate who understands Bitcoin deeply enough to discuss it intelligently on the presidential debate stage.
His remarks came after fellow hopeful and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday launched his own presidential campaign on Twitter – amid a myriad of technical glitches – and promised to “protect the ability to do things like Bitcoin.”
Ramaswamy says even the language DeSantis used reveals a shallow understanding of the world’s dominant cryptocurrency.
“I understand this stuff in a much more deep and rich way,” Ramaswamy told CoinDesk in an interview. “Even the way he said that, ‘Do things like bitcoin.’ When we think about the leader we want in the White House, that needs to be somebody who understands the ‘why.’”
Ramaswamy wrote the book “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam,” which DeSantis is reported to have read. Ramaswamy says DeSantis borrowed many concepts he originated, including the importance of Bitcoin and the denouncement of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).
“Since the time I wrote Woke, Inc.,” Ramaswamy explained, “DeSantis has studied it and he has adopted many of the proposals as his own, and I think that’s a good thing. I’m not sure he has the same understanding of it that I do, be it central bank digital currencies or Bitcoin. But that’s okay. He’s saying the right things.”
CoinDesk sent an email to the DeSantis campaign asking for a response to Ramaswamy’s comments but had not received a response as of press time.
Longshot versus Trump, DeSantis
Some consider Ramaswamy a longshot in the presidential race. According to the website FiveThirtyEight, Ramaswamy is polling 3.5% among declared or presumed Republican candidates for the 2024 race, behind Donald Trump’s 54%, DeSantis’s 21% and former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s 5.1%.
He is certainly not the first politician to take up the cause of Bitcoin or other digital assets. Robert J. Kennedy Jr. delivered a keynote speech at the Bitcoin 2023 conference.
“I am an ardent defender and a lifelong defender of civil liberties,” Kennedy said. “And Bitcoin is both an exercise and a guarantee of those freedoms.”
But Ramaswamy – who also spoke at the same conference – might be the only pro-Bitcoin candidate who claims a sophisticated understanding of the cryptocurrency.
Conversely, former U.S. President Donald Trump once referred to Bitcoin as a “scam,” according to a story by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). It’s not clear if he will maintain that stance during his second run for the presidency.
Ramaswamy says he’s pro-Bitcoin because he views it as a “decentralized alternative” to the U.S dollar, augmenting the country’s financial infrastructure by holding the “existing system’s feet to the fire.”
“Competition breeds strength,” said Ramaswamy. “I view it as a source of competition to the existing system.”
He says Bitcoin antagonists like U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, are “blinded by their quest for power, dominion, control and punishment.” Warren’s team didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
“Even some more intelligent minds lose the ability to think with clarity when it comes to their natural guttural tendencies to seize power as much as possible,” Ramaswamy said. “Many of them may think they’re starting with good intentions and think they’re protecting people by doing so, but in fact, they end up harming the very people they purport to protect.”
He says if he became president, he would slash headcount at the Federal Reserve by 90% and that he would be open to overhauling the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), especially given what he described as its “vague enforcement discretion.”
“A lot of our existing securities regulation apparatus is outdated and broken. We can actually learn from allowing units of measurement like bitcoin to roam free of SEC regulation,” Ramaswamy said. “The administrative state in its entirety needs to be reformed.”
Ramaswamy’s Bitcoin backstory
The 37-year-old former high school valedictorian and summa cum laude Harvard biology graduate says he first came across Bitcoin while at Yale Law School.
“When I was in law school I had a full-time job as a hedge fund manager too. So I was entrenched in financial markets,” Ramaswamy explained. “Then I heard this completely parallel system under the mantra ‘code is law.’ That’s when it caught my attention.”
The “code is law” principle is popular in the crypto community and considers actions triggered by computer code just and fair despite being potentially controversial. The most popular instance of this is the 2016 Ethereum DAO hack.
Ramaswamy, who has a reported net worth of around $630 million, eventually bought some bitcoin (BTC), but for the sake of “best practice” during his campaign, no longer self-manages his personal portfolio and can’t confirm if he still holds any.
During a speech at the Bitcoin 2023 conference, he claimed to be the first Republican candidate in the current election cycle to accept bitcoin donations and the first ever to do so over the Lightning Network, a Bitcoin scaling solution for cheaper and faster transactions.
“We’re accepting donations via the Lightning Network,” Ramaswamy said. “I will elevate these issues that we just talked about to the center of the Republican debates in the primaries.”
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