RFK Jr.’s independent run a potential spoiler in the 2024 election

Michael TaubeIt’s becoming clear that the 2024 U.S. presidential election will be a repeat of 2020. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, will likely face off against former President Donald Trump, a Republican.

Several things will be different in this year’s election cycle.

Trump is ahead of Biden by roughly three percent. This would be a reversal of the 2020 election result. He could end up as only the second President (after Grover Cleveland) to have two non-consecutive terms in the White House.

There are also two notable Independent presidential candidates. One of them, Cornel West, a far-left academic and political activist, is sitting around three percent and likely won’t make a huge impact. The more high-profile candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is hovering at 13 percent and could play spoiler in the election.


Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

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RFK Jr.’s presidential run has been both fascinating and controversial. The 70-year-old environmental lawyer, a member of the prominent Kennedy family, had previously considered running for political office. A longtime Democrat, like all Kennedys who have entered public service, he could have potentially given Biden a tough battle.

It wasn’t to be. RFK Jr. abandoned the Democratic presidential race on Oct. 9, 2023 and is running as an Independent. Why did he do this? A big political hurdle he would have faced was impossible to overcome. Most delegates of the party that his family was synonymous with didn’t want him on the presidential ticket.

Even his own family has repudiated him. Four of his siblings, Rory, Kerry, Joseph and Kathleen, posted this message on Instagram on Oct. 10, 2023, “The decision of our brother Bobby to run as a third party candidate against Joe Biden is dangerous to our country. Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment. Today’s announcement is deeply saddening for us. We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country.”

What’s going on here? It’s simple. Whereas the RFK Jr. of old was a reliable Democrat with mostly liberal ideas and a pro-environment agenda, today’s version dabbles in libertarian-style policies and peddles in conspiracy theories.

This political transformation started in 2015. That’s when he teamed up with Eric Gladen, founder of the World Mercury Project, and helped transform the struggling organization into the Children’s Health Defense. Both incarnations expressed skeptical positions about certain vaccines and were completely opposed to other vaccines.

AP reporter Michelle R. Smith’s Dec. 15, 2021 article noted that RFK Jr.’s view on vaccines changed “after a mother told him she believed her son developed autism from exposure to mercury in a vaccine.” It’s an outrageous theory that’s been repeatedly debunked by the scientific community. Thimerosal, a form of mercury, “was removed from childhood vaccines years ago with no effect on the levels of autism.” Regardless, he and others “continue to argue, against the scientific consensus, that vaccines are linked to autism, food allergies and a host of other medical problems. Among the ingredients he tells people to watch out for are common substances such as aluminum, acetaminophen, fluoride and food additives.”

RFK Jr. has published several books that espouse anti-vaccine ideas and concepts. This includes The Real Anthony Fauci, released in 2021 by Children’s Health Defense and Skyhorse Publishing. I recently purchased an inexpensive copy out of morbid curiosity. He’s not wrong in suggesting that Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made mistakes during COVID-19 as chief medical advisor to then-President Trump. Alas, the book itself is little more than a paranoid fever dream with hyperbolic language every few paragraphs.

Fauci was depicted as a “ringmaster in the engineered demolition of America’s economy” who “may have played a role in triggering the global contagion that two U.S. presidents entrusted him to manage.” Meanwhile, Fauci’s “mask deceptions were among several ‘noble lies’ that … revealed a manipulative and deceptive disposition undesirable in an even-handed public health official.” Those three quotes were actually taken from the first few pages!

RFK Jr.’s policies on other issues are also a mixed bag.

His view that Russia should join NATO and the U.S. should de-escalate tensions with China are both foolish, but his support of Israel seems genuine. His recognition of the erosion of the middle class is valid, but his support of a wealth tax and belief that the U.S. economy is based on corporate welfare are nonsensical. His critique of Big Pharma’s influence and the levers of powers in the Environmental Protection Agency are logical, but his support for the Green New Deal and regenerative farming have far less appeal.

RFK Jr., like previous Independent presidential candidates (Ross Perot, John Anderson, Evan McMullin) and third-party candidates (Gary Johnson, Strom Thurmond, George Wallace), has little to no chance of winning. There seem to be enough voters willing to give him a second look, if nothing else.

His support currently comes from both major parties. He’ll ultimately capture more votes from Biden than Trump due to his Democratic roots. He could do well in toss-up states like Georgia and Texas. Independent-minded states like Maine and New Hampshire could support him. It’s not impossible to believe he could also win a few electoral votes.

It’s therefore conceivable that RFK Jr. could be a spoiler in this year’s U.S. presidential election. Otherwise, he may end up as a fairly successful Independent candidate who had minimal impact on a presidential election that led to a second term for either Biden or Trump. Time will tell.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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