Robert F. Kennedy Jr., testifies during the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government "Hearing on the Weaponization of the Federal Government," in Rayburn Building on Thursday, July 20, 2023 (Photo: Tom Williams)
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., testifies during the House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government "Hearing on the Weaponization of the Federal Government," in Rayburn Building on Thursday, July 20, 2023 (Photo: Tom Williams)

Democratic Heritage, Independent Present, Novel Future? – A Portrait on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

The U.S. presidential elections are a year away. The biggest political event every four years will be a battle over whether Donald Trump regains the White House, or whether Joe Biden revalidates his mandate. However, the only political dynasty proper in the U.S. is reluctant to stay away from power, as evidenced by the decision made by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who will run as an independent. There had always been the Libertarian Party as the way to break the bipartisanship, but they have never had any real chance to come to power. The highest number of votes was achieved by Gary Johnson, candidate who in 2016 managed to draw 4 418 051 votes, which represented 3.29 percent of the total votes. 

This time, it will be Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (or RFK Jr. from now on) who will try to put in check the American bipartisanship in the presidential election. Many have said that this could benefit the Republicans, but other analysts differ, stating that this would benefit the Democrats. One thing is clear, when there is an independent candidate there is only one loser, bipartisanship.

An Introduction to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

His last name gives away his past, as the Kennedy name is well known. Robert F. Kenneth Jr. is the nephew of John F. Kennedy, former 35th President of the United States between 1961 and 1963. He is also the son of the Attorney General of the United States from 1961 to 1964, in addition to being a senator for the State of New York.

President John F. Kennedy visits with his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; RFK, Jr., presented his uncle with a salamander, "Shadrach." Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C. (Photo: Abbie Rowe)

President John F. Kennedy visits with his nephew, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; RFK, Jr., presented his uncle with a salamander, “Shadrach.” Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C. (Photo: Abbie Rowe)

Robert Kennedy is a well-known lawyer, having worked at Morgan & Morgan PA and Kennedy & Madonna, LLP, while being a partner in both firms.

Kennedy is a specialist in environmental law, in fact, he is a staunch defender of the environment, having made countless claims and acts in favor of the protection of the environment.

RFK Jr. started his career in 1985 as a young attorney for the environmental nonprofit RiverKeeper, prosecuting polluters, ensuring safe drinking water for American families and preserving fishing as a viable livelihood in the United States. During his tenure there, he successfully sued dozens of corrupt municipalities to force compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Building on the success of the local Riverkeeper model, RFK Jr. co-founded the WaterKeeper Alliance and served as its President for 21 years. Under his direction, it became the world’s largest nonprofit devoted to clean water.

In 2005, he authored a book entitled “Crimes Against Nature: How George W Bush and his Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy.”

RFK Jr. was also an early and vocal critic of President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and the U.S. enhanced interrogation program at Guantanamo Bay and around the world.

Kennedy has always declared himself a staunch Democrat as it is something that has always been present in the Kennedy family. In fact, Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s only living daughter, is also in the Democratic Party, as is JFK and RFK’s brother, Ted Kennedy. Likewise, he has always been critical of all presidents, especially the Republicans, but he has also been critical of the Democrats, although he has ended up supporting many candidacies, such as that of Barack Obama.

Controversies: Vaccines, 9/11, Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Covid-19 and the War in Ukraine

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. during his life, has been a person who has had controversial opinions. He has not been a “typical” Democrat with politically correct views, which is why, throughout his time as an activist and now as a presidential candidate, he has made several controversial statements.

RFK Jr. is the president of Children’s Health Defense, an advocacy group that alleges that a large proportion of American children suffer from conditions as diverse as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, food allergies, autism, cancer and autoimmune diseases due to exposure to certain chemicals and radiation. This agency has blamed and campaigned against vaccines, acetaminophen, aluminum, wireless communications, drinking water fluoridation and others.

Kennedy has made statements linking mandatory children’s vaccines to autism. In 2017, at a press conference, along with famed actor Robert De Niro, he made statements about vaccines and their dangerous nature.

Kennedy has also made controversial statements about Covid-19 and the vaccines that were manufactured to combat the virus. One of his biggest controversies was saying that Covid-19 was designed to tar Caucasians and African Americans.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. during an interview for journalist Peter Bergen’s podcast was asked if he “believed” the U.S. version of 9/11, the politician was not so sure.

In a WABC radio interview, RFK Jr. claimed that the CIA assassinated his uncle, John F. Kennedy. “There is overwhelming evidence that the CIA was involved in his assassination. I think it is beyond reasonable doubt at this point,” Kennedy said. He also asserted that aside from the assassination, they were also in charge of covering it up.

Another big issue in this presidential election is the Russo-Ukrainian war. Kennedy, distanced himself from his party’s interventionist vision in the conflict.

Running as Independent

In April 2023, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run for the Democratic Party in the 2024 presidential election.

However, Kennedy’s views, coupled with the fact that he saw Joe Biden and the Democratic Party as no longer what his father and uncle had stood for, he decided to forgo the primaries and run for president as an independent.

In October, Kennedy made it official that he was dropping out of the Democratic primary and running as an independent, claiming that he represents a grassroots movement that challenges the left-right divide. 

Stack of lawn signs for RFK Jr. 2024 presidential campaign in Lyman, New Hampshire (Photo: Artaxerxes / Wikimedia Commons)

Stack of lawn signs for RFK Jr. 2024 presidential campaign in Lyman, New Hampshire (Photo: Artaxerxes / Wikimedia Commons)

At his campaign rally to declare his candidacy as an independent, he made a tough speech against the establishment, that is, against bipartisanship, big tech and so on.

“I’ve come here today to declare our independence from the tyranny of corruption, which robs us of affordable lives, our belief in the future and our respect for each other. But to do that, I must first declare my own independence. Independence from the Democratic Party and from all other political parties”.

He also concluded that with this, he was also declaring independence to the entire economic sector, Big Tech, Wall Street, the pharmaceutical companies and the arms industry that has so much power over the Democratic Party and a certain sector of the Republican Party.

“The Democrats are frightened that I’m going to spoil the election for President Biden, and the Republicans are frightened that I’m going to spoil it for Trump,” he said. “The truth is, they’re both right. My intention is to spoil it for both of them.”

Currently, the candidate’s financial support has been backed by American Values 2024, raising approximately $17 million so far, with expectations of raising another $10 million following the announcement of his independent candidacy.

While that may seem like a lot of money, as far as a presidential political campaign in the United States is concerned, is not a big sum.

Main Proposals

After Kennedy announced he would be an independent candidate and would not represent the Democratic Party, many analysts and U.S. citizens are waiting to see what the independent candidate’s program is.

In the economic measures, Kennedy focuses on housing and the cost of living, two things that have not stopped rising in the United States without a corresponding increase in wages, since there has not been an improvement in productivity to meet the increase.

Under the Biden administration, the price of an average home has risen from $250 000 to around $400 000, and mortgage rates have more than doubled. 

What does Kennedy propose to solve this problem? First, Kennedy believes that the state must intervene in the economy, proposing the raise of the minimum wage. Secondly, decrease housing costs by $1000 per family and make home ownership affordable by backing 3 percent home mortgages with tax-free bonds. Third, Kennedy has always talked about the advantage of large corporations in the U.S. for political benefits and that this directly hurts small businesses, so he proposed the support of small businesses by redirecting regulatory scrutiny onto large corporations. Fourthly, he wants to expand free childcare to millions of families with programs like that pioneered by the State of New Mexico. The program he mentions is to subsidize the cost of child care for families who are at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level and who are working, studying or seeking employment. Fifth, to reduce the cost of home ownership, he proposes to make 3 percent government-backed mortgage bonds tax free, to bring the mortgage interest rate back to 2019 levels and even lower.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 2007 (Photo: Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons)

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 2007 (Photo: Daniel Schwen / Wikimedia Commons)

Kennedy, as we said at the beginning of the article, is a great defender of the environment. That is why it is important to see what he proposes in this sector. First of all, he will shift agricultural subsidies so as to encourage regenerative practices. In second place, he will incentivize the transition of industry to zero-waste cycles and clean energy sources, and forge agreements with other countries to implement these policies throughout the global supply chain. And in third place, Kennedy team will protect wild lands from further development, by curbing mining, logging, oil drilling, and suburban sprawl.

It is worth mentioning the issue of borders is being commented on by all politicians, as in recent months there has been an increase in the number of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the country.

“There are two ways people enter this country illegally. One way is by sneaking in. The other is by simply walking across at an entry point, claiming asylum, and disappearing. We have to address both”.

He proposes to tighten border security to regain control over the border. He says that they will use technology that was installed at the border then dismantled by the Biden administration, such as cameras, lights, and motion detectors, coupled with physical barriers in key areas as there is no need to build a wall across the entire 2 000-mile border. Secondly, get on top of asylum claims. They claim they need to fully fund the courts, services and border agencies to allow legal immigration under U.S. law and deny access to those who do not comply, and appoint more judges to process asylum cases.

A long-term solution, Kennedy’s team propose the end of the military adventurism that destabilizes other nations and generates millions of refugees and top supporting despotic governments, juntas, coups, death squads, and repressive regimes that persecute and impoverish their own people.

Finally, the issue of the Russian-Ukrainian war has been one of the big issues in this election. For this reason, all the candidates in the bipartisan primaries and Kennedy have pronounced themselves on the subject.

Kennedy says it is the time to end the imperial project and attend to all that has been neglected: the crumbling cities, the antiquated railways, the failing water systems, the decaying infrastructure, the ailing economy. Annual defense-related spending is close to one trillion dollars. We maintain 800 military bases around the world. 

Kennedy states that in Ukraine, the most important priority is to end the suffering of the Ukrainian people, victims of a brutal Russian invasion, and also victims of American geopolitical machinations going back at least to 2014. He wants to find a diplomatic solution that brings peace to Ukraine and brings their resources back where they belong. Kennedy will offer to withdraw troops and nuclear-capable missiles from Russia’s borders. He says that Russia will withdraw its troops from Ukraine and guarantee its freedom and independence.

UN peacekeepers should guarantee peace to the Russian-speaking eastern regions. He says that he will put an end to this war, as per his views.

Just How Possible is it for Robert F. Kennedy Junior to Be President?

Never in U.S. history has an independent candidate managed to win the U.S. presidential election and it looks like that will continue to be the case. Although Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has the political surname, some interesting ideas to attract people from both parties (Republican and Democrat), there is no poll that shows such a case, besides, there is no political analyst to certify it. Going as a candidate without having the money and promotion of the major parties makes campaigning really difficult, so winning the election is an almost impossible milestone to achieve. For this very reason, Donald Trump, who meditated several times to run as an independent, never ended up doing it, because he knew that if he wanted to have real options, he had to run under the acronym of a party.

According to the Quinnipiac University’s survey, in a hypothetical three-way race Kennedy would get 22 percent of the vote. Biden, by contrast, would take 39% of the vote, and Trump would come away with 36%.

A positive sign for Kennedy, he came away with the backing of a plurality of independents: 36 percent chose him, compared with 31 percent for Trump and 30 percent for Biden. The poll also suggests that Kennedy is pulling more support from Trump than Biden. However, the Democrats can’t relax, since Kennedy was the leading choice for young voters, aged 18-34 according to the same poll. 

Having 22 percent in a presidential election as an independent is quite a merit, at the beginning of the article we already saw the results of the “rival” to the bipartisanship, the Libertarian Party, a party that has only managed to have 3.29 percent. There is still a whole year left for the elections, the campaign, Donald Trump’s judicial processes, Hunter Biden’s case, the Russian-Ukrainian war, Israel’s conflict with Hamas and maybe many more things. In politics anything can happen, nobody expected a Donald Trump victory in 2016 and it happened. So we will have to wait and see how Kennedy’s campaign progresses to certify anything, the only thing that can be said is that it will not be easy for him.

Sergio Velasco
Sergio Velasco is a Spanish political scientist, analyst and political commentator. He is the founder of Filosofia Política, a social media-based enterprise where he details and offers his take on Spanish, Hungarian and Polish political developments. A columnist in Hungarian and Spanish press, he is often invited on television to share his thoughts with the viewers.

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