Opinion | Trump’s Running Mate? It’s Gotta Be Vivek Ramaswamy.

The conventional wisdom has long been that a presidential candidate should pick a running mate who provides some extra vitamins or different flavors. If you’re a rib-eye, you do broccoli. If you’re pralines and cream, you choose cookie dough.

But if you’re Donald Trump, that makes no sense whatsoever. You double down, which means you double Donald.

Because if you’re Trump, your whole brand — your whole point — is to defy norms and break rules. Everyone else calls Putin a snake in the grass? You declare him the bee’s knees. Everyone else says tomato? You say ketchup.

And if you’re Trump, you think — no, you know — that your greatest asset is your supreme, inimitable, undiluted Trumpness, so you want a second serving of that, a force multiplier of it, a walking, talking tribute to, emulation of and genuflection before it.

You want Vivek Ramaswamy.

After all, you tried the whole rounding-yourself-out thing the first time around, and look what that got you: a white-haired wimp who babbled about the Constitution when his marching orders were a coup. You don’t make the Mike Pence mistake twice.

You look for extreme unscrupulousness, peak opportunism. And while the pickings are plentiful in the MAGAverse, where Kari Lake looms and J.D. Vance vamps and Marjorie Taylor God-Help-Us turns paranoia into performance art, not all moral contortionists have the same limberness and not all suck-ups are created equal. Ramaswamy takes the cake. Then he feeds it to Trump baby-bird-style and wipes the glistening corners of the orange emperor’s mouth with a fine linen napkin.

I have no idea, really, if Trump is seriously considering Ramaswamy. I have zero ability to get inside Trump’s head and even less desire to. It’s a squalid place.

But I know that Ramaswamy is doing one of the most concerted and repellent vice-presidential auditions I’ve seen, and that’s what really rivets me: Ramaswamy as emblem and harbinger of a potentially unprecedented season and spectacle of sycophancy. Ramaswamy as ultimate sellout. Ramaswamy as pure expression of the dark passions that roil the MAGAverse.

One of the more bizarre and depressing stories of the week is the MAGA freakout that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce are vaccine-loving secret agents of President Biden’s re-election campaign — at least I think I have that right — and who do you suppose positioned himself in the dead center of that delusion?

Ramaswamy! “I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl,” he wrote in a social media post on Monday. “And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall.”

For my part, I wonder how much of what he spouts he really believes, and how much is an attempt to convince Trump and Trump’s minions that he’s loopy and shameless enough to be admitted fully into the fold.

After all, he has some penance to do. People forget that. I don’t. Just the other day, for my own perverse amusement, I reacquainted myself with what he was saying as recently as late 2022, upon the release of his book “Nation of Victims,” which lumped Trump and his enablers together with woke progressives as whiners trying to shift responsibility for their woes onto anyone but themselves.

Politico published an excerpt, which included Ramaswamy’s assertion that the “worst victimhood narrative that afflicts modern conservatives is their budding belief that any election they lose must have been stolen.” He added that while Trump “promised to lead the nation to recommit itself to the pursuit of greatness, what he delivered in the end was just another tale of grievance, a persecution complex that swallowed much of the Republican Party whole.”

Yes, this is the same Ramaswamy who, in the course of his recent, failed presidential campaign, cast Nikki Haley as the pawn of some globalist cabal; called the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, an “inside job”; accused the U.S. government of suppressing essential truths about the Sept. 11 terror attacks; and all in all worked overtime to feed Republicans’ persecution complex.

This is the same Ramaswamy who, in a Republican presidential debate in August, called Trump “the best president of the 21st century.” This is the same Ramaswamy now stumping for Trump anywhere and in any way that a fawning surrogate can stump.

Like Vance and so many other Republicans, Ramaswamy has gone from looking down on Trump to batting his eyelashes at him, from wagging a finger to doing cartwheels, and he evinces not an iota, not a scintilla, not a glimmer, not a wisp of mortification about that.

No, he just stands exultantly beside Trump onstage in New Hampshire, gushing over Trump’s victory in that state’s primary and taking the microphone long enough to tag the people rooting for Haley to remain in the presidential race as “ugly Democratic George Soros juniors.”

Oh, how Trump must have loved that bit of nastiness. How he must bask in Ramaswamy’s performative adoration. What a peerless pair of unprincipled peacocks they are. It’s a match made in MAGA heaven.

In The Times, Ginia Bellafante seized the occasion of the new television series “Feud: Capote vs. the Swans” to reflect on the writer Truman Capote’s transactional relationship with Manhattan doyennes. “The terms of the exchange were relatively simple: his wit and company, his brocaded stories and dazzlingly foul mouth, traded for the devotion of the thin, beautiful, unhappily married women, up and down Fifth Avenue, who were still wearing white gloves past Stonewall and Woodstock, past Watergate and the fall of Saigon,” she wrote. (Thanks to Al Larkin of Boston and Julie Fouhy of Brookline, Mass., among many others, for nominating this.)

Also in The Times, Amanda Taub mulled fiction, finance and family: “If Jane Austen made a pretty good case that an economic system reliant on inherited wealth is a bad idea because it might pressure your brilliant daughter to marry her idiotic cousin, Agatha Christie added the compelling argument that the idiotic cousin is probably going to murder you next time you invite him to visit for a long weekend.” (Matthew Plunk, College Station, Texas)

Melissa Kirsch captured the relationship that many of us have with Netflix, Max, Apple TV+ and the like: “Streaming invites a kind of snacking, a standing-in-front-of-the-fridge asking oneself ‘What am I hungry for?’ The result is often a chaos meal, consisting of bites of whatever looks appealing, which don’t always add up to nourishment.” (Julie Kennedy, South Lyon, Mich.)

Paul Krugman compared the welfare of Europeans with that of Americans: “It should count for something that there’s a growing gap between European and U.S. life expectancy, since the quality of life is generally higher if you aren’t dead.” (Peter Morreale, Longmont, Colo., and Dwight J. Penas, Minneapolis, among others)

And Kenneth Chang mourned the passing of a flying robot that enhanced our cosmic knowledge: “Ingenuity, the little Mars helicopter that could, can’t anymore.” (Diane Weiss, Reno, Nev.)

In his newsletter The Loaf, Tim Kreider rued the self-trivialization of onetime titans. “I saw Hunter S. Thompson — once an important writer to me — speak after he’d become a professional Hunter S. Thompson impersonator: He sat onstage holding boozily forth drinking Chivas Regal and whacking things with a rubber squeak-toy mallet,” he wrote. “It was like seeing an animal that once could’ve skwapped your head off with one paw dressed in a tutu and riding a unicycle.” (Barbara K. Lane, Kings Park, N.Y.)

In The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., Bill Church took friendly issue with another journalist’s characterization of a hugely beloved, unabashedly meaty local fast-food chain that President Biden visited on a recent trip to North Carolina: “A pool reporter described Cook Out as ‘a small eatery known for its shakes.’ That’s like describing the U.N.C.-Duke basketball rivalry as a ’boutique indoor activity matching friendly neighbors in a vigorous board game involving crafts such as hoops and nets.’” (Garrie Kingsbury, Durham, N.C.)

In Foreign Affairs, William J. Burns explored Putin’s diminution by the war in Ukraine and recalled the “short-lived mutiny” led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose “ragtag mutineers made their way up the road to Moscow” last June: “For many in the Russian elite, the question was not so much whether the emperor had no clothes as why he was taking so long to get dressed.” (Joyce Vining Morgan, Brattleboro, Vt.)

And now to Donald Trump, slayer of joy, enemy of decency, prompt for prose. (The latter does not redeem the rest.) In The New Republic, Walter Shapiro proposed an unusual logo for an unscrupulous party: “The G.O.P. should rename itself the ‘Trumpicans’ and exchange the elephant as a symbol for a vulture feeding on the carrion of democracy.” (Linda Mathieson, Escanaba, Mich.)

In The Washington Post, Monica Hesse noted that Nikki Haley “has critiqued Trump only in the most passive terms — talking about how ‘chaos follows’ Trump as if chaos were a homeless dog and Trump were an innocent tourist.” (Steve Casey, Gig Harbor, Wash., and Sherry Greene-Starr, West Barnstable, Mass., among others.) Hesse also called Trump a “bipedal black hole of need.” (Wende Lewis, Chapel Hill, N.C., and Rich Whiting, Elkridge, Md., among others)

And in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick explained that the role of Alina Habba, the attorney who defended Trump against charges of defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll, was as much to indulge his martyr complex as to debate the actual merits of the case: “She is the stage mother who comes to all his ballet recitals and T-ball games and tells him he’s a star and that everyone else is doping. And if a little lawyering happens on the side, well, that’s a solid day’s work.” (Sandie Roberts, Mountain View, Calif., and Susan Conlon, Guilford, Conn.)

To nominate favorite bits of recent writing from The Times or other publications to be mentioned in “For the Love of Sentences,” please email me here and include your name and place of residence.

We Americans may not make things like we used to, but we’re awfully good at ruining them.

Look at Taylor Swift.

As recently as a week and a half ago, when I had nine dissimilar friends over for dinner, I was thinking about — reveling in — what a rare and glorious point of connection she was for so many Americans, the common language she’d given us, how people of different generations and bents could at least share a regard for, and engage in conversation about, her.

Those friends of mine straddled political divides and ranged in age from late 30s to early 60s, and the topic of discussion that consumed more of our time than any other was … Taylor Swift. We debated whether the proper antecedent for and analogue to her was The Beatles or Bob Dylan. We pondered whether her primary genius was artistic or commercial.

And I was struck anew by the special role that Swift has been playing in modern America, one that built on itself and explained her transcendence more than the considerable merits of the music and its marketing.

Sometime over the past few years, she reached a tipping point and became a source of interest for an audience whose pan-regional, pan-educational, pan-partisan breadth was exotic in this fragmented era of ours, when entertainment options seem infinite, when technology lets each of us pluck from them in a wholly individual manner, and when precious few cultural experiences or figures cross all that many of the fault lines running through American life.

Swift didn’t cross them all. The crowds at her concerts didn’t come close to mirroring the full diversity of the country — the steep tariff alone left most Americans in the lurch. But she seemed, as my Times Opinion colleague Bret Stephens observed earlier this week, to be “nearly the last unifying force in America, bringing together country and pop, young and old, left and right.”

That was just before Jonathan Weisman, in an article in The Times, and Ross Douthat, in an Opinion column, noted the MAGA freakout over Swift that I mentioned near the beginning of this newsletter. The political right is atwitter and the conservative internet ablaze with rumors about her political agenda, rancor about her imagined ideological affiliations, rage for the sake of rage. Down another rabbit hole goes the terrifying share of Americans who thrill to such subterranean adventures.

Are we losing even Swift? I don’t mean as an entertainer and artist but as a meeting ground, a truce of sorts. I fervently hope not, because she has done as good a job as anybody else of turning this country’s cacophony into a melody.

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