Will RFK Run as an Independent?
The Kennedy takeover of the Libertarian Party is nascent
A week from today, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. plans to make an announcement in Philadelphia that will almost certainly entail running for president as a third-party candidate.
The signs have been there for months that RFK’s politically unique appeal would be crushed by the Democratic Party’s process, which is heavily skewed toward renominating Joe Biden by acclamation. The possibility of Biden debating Kennedy was always out of the question — not because they don’t take his challenge seriously, but because for all their dismissiveness, Democratic leadership takes it very seriously indeed.
The logistics of an RFK independent run would be the challenge — unless, given the unique changes that have taken place in their leadership over the past few years, he is able to run under the standard of the Libertarian Party. According to the New York Times, Kennedy already met with party chair Angela McArdle over the summer. Already on the ballot in all fifty states, the party would offer Kennedy the chance to skip a major challenge for outsider candidates, presuming that he can win the nomination over the objections of delegates who find him insufficiently libertarian.
The irony of this situation is that it was always in the interests of the Democratic Party to be more welcoming of RFK’s challenge. They fear the potential he would have to undermine an already weakened Biden re-election effort, yes — but how much more damaging will he turn out to be as a non-Democrat?
At least according to a super PAC backing RFK, these concerns are overblown. In a poll commissioned through John Zogby, they find that Trump and Biden would be statistically tied at 38 percent if Kennedy were in the race, with the third party candidacy garnering 19 percent of voter support.
If anything, it’s hard to see this Democratic scion appealing more to Biden voters than to Trump’s given the emphasis he places on medical freedom, a foreign policy arguing for more restraint, and the fact that much of his effort has been publicized through right-leaning podcasts and media appearances.
Should Kennedy make the leap next week into the independent track, expect far more negative media attention to focus on him in the months to come. To this point, CNN and others have largely dismissed him as a kooky outsider who won’t have a real impact. Now, they’ll have to cover him as the threat he is.
Given the divisive nature of this political moment, with one party renominating an aged, swaying president and the other bent on nominating a candidate who may spend more days in the courtroom than on the campaign trail, the appeal of a third option has rarely been higher in our history. But there’s a long path from theory to reality.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Transom to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.