Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., since April, has been running a very curious presidential campaign. A descendent of a famous Democratic family whose uncle was president, whose father was assassinated while running for president, and who has had numerous relatives run for and hold office, always as Democrats.
Kennedy, however, has run a Democratic campaign that has been boosted most often by Republicans, while pushing the sorts of conspiracy theories more associated these days with the right rather than the left. Kennedy has frequently been interviewed in right-wing media and been praised much more from the right than the left.
The Democratic Party Left Him
In addition, the DNC has made clear since the start of the campaign that they are supporting the Biden-Harris ticket, and that there will be no presidential debates on the Democratic side this cycle.
More than one pundit has predicted that Kennedy will endorse Trump (or if not him, whoever ends up as the Republican nominee) at the 2024 Republican National Convention, with a prime-time speech about how he’s a lifelong Democrat from the nation’s most famous Democratic family, but today’s Democrats have just gone too far, and he didn’t leave the party, the party left him.
But there is another option for Kennedy: He could run as a third-party candidate.
That possibility is raised in an op-ed in The Hill. by Douglas MacKinnon, a former Reagan and Bush speechwriter. Following a long preamble comparing Kennedy to the protagonist of the old movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, he says Kennedy has been “ostracized, smeared and silenced by a powerful political machine acting on behalf of President Joe Biden.”
As is usually the case with those who praise Kennedy in the press, McKinnon is a lifelong Republican who has worked in multiple GOP White Houses.
“It’s pretty clear that the DNC does not want a primary … Essentially, they are fixing the process so that it makes it almost impossible to have democracy function,” Kennedy said last week in a Forbes interview, per the Hill piece. “They’re effectively disenfranchising the Democratic voters from having any choice in who becomes president, the Democrat nominee.”
Kennedy is at about 20 percent in most Democratic polls, and it’s far from rare for a party to back an incumbent president and not hold debates.
But Kennedy hinted at something else.
A Third Option
“If the DNC is going to rig it so that it is simply impossible for anybody to challenge President Biden, you know I need to look at other alternatives,” the candidate had said in the Forbes interview. “Because I can’t go back to the people who support me and to my donors and say you know I’m in this to make a point. I need to show them a road to victory.”
This was interpreted by the author as Kennedy hinting that he was going to pursue a third-party run for president, although Kennedy did not say that outright in the Forbes interview.
Also this week, a man was arrested attempting to enter a Kennedy event in Los Angeles with a loaded weapon, while also carrying a bogus badge claiming he was a U.S. marshal, and asking to see Kennedy. The incident took place in the same city where Kennedy’s father was assassinated in 1968.
Kennedy had made hay, earlier this summer, of his having been denied Secret Service protection by the Biden Administration. However, per CNN, candidates are rarely granted such protection during the primary season in the year before the general election. Such decisions are made by the Secretary of Homeland Security, not by the president.
Per The Daily Beast, the man arrested at the event appears to share Kennedy’s anti-vaccine views but has described himself on social media as a supporter of Donald Trump. He was booked on weapons charges but has not been charged with planning to directly harm Kennedy.
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.
From the Vault