Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a controversial Democrat, is running as an independent in 2024. Voters theorize on what that means for the presidential race.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
In American politics, the Kennedy name is akin to royalty. There’s no doubt that many voters are curious about RFK Jr. and what he has to say. With recent polls suggesting Americans want neither Biden nor Trump, some think Kennedy has a chance to make history.
Historically, third parties don’t win presidential elections in the United States, and most commenters thought a Kennedy win was unlikely. “It’s not that Kennedy would win,” as one person put it, but he could pull votes from either Biden or Trump, creating a big impact on the election overall.
Ditch the DNC
The same commenter noted that RFK Jr.’s independent run could encourage others to bail on the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and further sap the vote from major candidates. Currently, Marianne Williamson and Cenk Uygur are running as Democrats.
Not Your Average Dem
Many commenters were quick to say that while the Kennedy name is intertwined with the Democratic party, RFK Jr. is far from your typical Democrat. He’s well-known for asking pointed questions about public health policies related to COVID-19, and he’s against many standard vaccines.
Anti-Vax Repels Democrats
Because of his views on vaccines, many believed that Democrats would not vote for Kennedy. As one person said, “Anyone attracted to him based on his name alone is quickly put off once they find out his anti-vaccine views.”
A couple of people pointed out that reducing Kennedy’s campaign down to anti-vax rhetoric wasn’t really fair. “If I had to summarize him down to one issue, it would be anti-corporatism, which includes being anti-big pharma, big ag, Wall Street, military-industrial-complex, etc,” one person said. “It’s a very tempting anti-establishment, anti-status-quo platform.”
Several people pointed out that RFK Jr.’s contrarian views may align better with Trump voters. “Republicans seem to like him more than Democrats do,” one commenter said. “[RFK Jr’s campaign] will draw Republican voters who don’t want Trump but won’t vote blue,” said another.
One person noted that though many think Kennedy appeals to the GOP more than Democrats, current support for him in the Democratic party isn’t zero. “He’s been consistently polling at 16% for the Dem nomination,” they said.
Not Worth the Effort
Still, several people thought RFK Jr.’s campaign wasn’t worth paying attention to. “I don’t think RFK will be a serious enough threat to Biden that his team will spend any time on him. Dem voters aren’t going to switch, and the type of independent voter RFK would appeal to is more likely to have voted for Trump.”
A Dangerous Game
Others thought that ignoring someone like Kennedy wasn’t a good idea. “Considering how elections are won on the margins, literally doing nothing about RFK would be a foolish move for Biden,” one person said.
Another person pointed out that Biden’s 2020 win wasn’t exactly a landslide, saying, “Biden beat Trump by ~60K votes in three states; he’s likely to need every vote in ’24 again.” So, Kennedy siphoning any votes could create trouble for Democrats.
Others agreed that both Biden and Trump would be smart to spend at least some time pushing back on Kennedy’s viewpoints. “If this actually shapes into a three-way race, even with RFK Jr far behind the other two, the strategy for both Ds and Rs will be to make RFK sound palatable to the other party’s voters,” one person noted. “And unpalatable to one’s own.”
Still, many thought that the type of independent voter that would choose Kennedy over a more likely candidate wasn’t the type of voter that could be won over. They thought trying to court them to either side of the political spectrum was a waste of time and campaign cash.
Others believed that Kennedy’s candidacy wasn’t a threat to either party anyway. As one put it, “I think he’d draw a small minority of voters from both Biden and Trump. Ardent anti-vaxxers could easily be for RFK, considering both Trump and Biden expressed pro-vaccine views. But I don’t think it’s going to do much, honestly.”
Don’t Be So Sure
“He’s a libertarian Democrat with populist elements,” another commenter pointed out. “That holds a lot of appeal to a sizable number of people.” Several thought RFK’s party platform could mean trouble for Biden or Trump depending on how the next year takes shape.
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