Ramaswamy: Teens Would Choose TikTok Over Voting Rights

GOP Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at the Newton Pizza Ranch on Aug. 25. Photo by Ty Rushing/Starting Line

By Ty Rushing

August 28, 2023

Vivek Ramaswamy would ban anyone under 16 from having social media accounts and believes members of Gen Z would choose TikTok over voting rights if forced to decide.

The Ohio businessman and 2024 Republican president candidate shared these thoughts during Friday stops in Indianola, Pella, and Newton.

Ramaswamy was fresh off his scene-stealing appearance at the first GOP presidential primary debate, which led to packed crowds at each of his Iowa events.

A big part of Ramaswamy’s pitch to voters is his youth—at 38, he’s the youngest candidate in the field by far—but also his attacks against younger generations, particularly Gen Z and his fellow Millennials. 

Ramaswamy made national headlines earlier this year by suggesting the voting age be raised from 18 to 25 unless the person is in the military, a first responder, or can pass a US citizenship test. He didn’t mention that idea—which would explicitly target the voting rights of a demographic that leans heavily Democratic—on Friday, but added to that line of thought with the suggestion to ban teens from social media.

“If you’re not old enough to smoke an addictive cigarette by the age of 18 or have an addictive drink of alcohol by the age of 21, you should not be using an addictive social media product by the age of 16 either,” Ramaswamy said.

Iowa Republican lawmakers proposed a social media ban for anyone under age 18 during the legislative session that ultimately stalled out.  

Ramaswamy also says less than 16% of Gen Z says “they’re proud to be an American,” a statistic he uses to reinforce his attacks on young adults’ voting rights and use of TikTok.

“Sixty percent of them say they would sooner give up their right to vote than to give up their access to TikTok,” Ramaswamy said, which drew concerned mutters from the mostly white-haired audience. “I’m not making this up. This is the stuff of a national crisis unless we step up and stand from something as a nation.”

The stat Ramaswamy cited comes from a study conducted by the French-based Reboot Foundation. It was widely reported on by Fox News, the New York Post, the Washington Examiner, and other conservative-leaning outlets earlier this year.

Ramaswamy’s blindside against young voters comes as as they’ve become more and more Democratic in recent years. In last year’s midterm elections, 77% of voters ages 18-24 voted for Democratic congressional candidates, according to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization that conducts in-depth, nonpartisan research on policy and government. 

Rather than rethink their pitch to those voters or moderate their agenda, other Republican officials have also tried to discredit Gen Z voters and proposed methods to make it more difficult for them to participate in the electoral process.

Despite his knocks on young voters, Ramaswamy told audiences those voters would be drawn to him and allow him a Ronald Reagan-like ascension to the White House.

“I’m in this race because I think I’m the only person who can actually win in a landslide by bringing young people along with us, building a multi-ethnic, working-class coalition like Reagan did in 1980,” he said.

Ramaswamy’s self-comparison to Reagan, his overall pitch, and his “Truth” platform earned praise from Des Moines resident Keith West, who called Ramaswamy “a breath of fresh air” at the Newton event. The 61-year-old said Reagan’s speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention is what inspired him to become a Republican.

“You’re either the bravest human being in America or crazier than a shithouse cat,” West told Ramaswamy.

 

by Ty Rushing
08/28/23

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  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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