The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

The Student News Site of Albuquerque Academy

The Advocate

Robert F. Kennedy Jr: an Independent Presidential Candidate

His record and his potential impact on 2024
Robert+F.+Kennedy+Jr.+%28CC+BY-SA+2.0%29
Gage Skidmore
“Robert F. Kennedy Jr.” (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A new candidate has emerged in the 2024 election: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He is running as an independent. Ordinarily, an independent candidate in the presidential race is no newsworthy topic. This is because America is rooted in a two-party system, Democrats and Republicans. Together they essentially control the country’s political sphere, which makes it extremely hard for any independent candidate to gain support in an election, let alone win. But RFK Jr. is somewhat of an exception. Because of his complex and somewhat contradictory background that intermixes Democratic and Republican ideologies, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. could potentially steal votes from the presidential candidates of both core political parties. We can’t look to history on how this will shape up, because no independent candidate has ever posed such a direct threat to both parties until now. Thus, to understand this moment in history, we must understand the person it is centered around.
Who is Robert F. Kennedy Jr? Perhaps you recognize his last name. No, it’s not a coincidence; RFK Jr. is the son of Robert F. Kennedy Sr. and more importantly, the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy. Because of these connections, RFK Jr. is an heir to one of the most powerful families in American politics. The uniqueness of this situation arises, though, because the Kennedy family is famously Democratic. Every other member of the Kennedy family who has run for political office has run as a Democrat. But Robert F. Kennedy Jr. did start out as a Democrat, and if you trace his political views, he has been an outspoken advocate for environmental issues in the past. Moreover, he started out his bid for the 2024 presidency as a Democrat. Somewhere along the line though, RFK Jr. became disillusioned with these progressive causes and began believing in conspiracy theories – especially the unproven link between vaccines and autism. His support for this issue reached a fever pitch during and after the COVID-19 pandemic when he published books like “Vax-Unvax,” that promote fringe theories while taking shots at well-known Democrats.
It might seem like RFK Jr.’s presidential campaign doesn’t really matter in the bigger picture. There have been several independent candidates that have run for president outside the confines of the two parties including Theodore Roosevelt for the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party in 1912, Strom Thurman for the Dixiecrat Party in 1948, and Ross Perot for the Reform Party in 1992. None of them have won, obviously, and most of them have been lost to history. However, there are a couple of independent candidates who have substantially influenced the elections that they were part of. The best example of this would be Green Party Candidate Ralph Nader in 2000. He took a couple million votes from Al Gore, the Democratic nominee in the extremely contentious presidential race between Gore and George W. Bush, which came down to a couple hundred votes from Florida. Ordinarily, this kind of a miniscule split would have no sway in the outcome of an election. But in the case of 2000’s presidential race, Nader’s role in taking some votes from Gore effectively lost him the presidency. RFK Jr.’s family being so deeply entrenched in the political world (an environment where historical involvement goes a long way to garner goodwill) combined with his rising notoriety means he can very well be another Ralph Nader.
Indeed, another Ralph Nader is exactly what RFK Jr. is seemingly shaping up to be. According to early polls, RFK Jr. has gained the support of 22% of registered voters, which is a monumentally high number for an independent candidate. And his support is equally high in “swing states” like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. With the 2024 election shaping up to be a rematch of 2020, these swing states will be extremely crucial. However, while Ralph Nader pulled votes from Gore only, RFK Jr. is a complete toss up, with nobody knowing which side he may siphon votes from. RFK Jr. is incredibly similar to Donald Trump – both rely on inflammatory techniques to rile up their bases and support some of the same causes (especially derogatory criticisms of so-called “radical liberals”). But at the same time, he comes from a long line of Democrats, and for that reason, might be a more appealing candidate for voters “on the fence” about President Biden.
So what will RFK’s role ultimately be in the 2024 election? The short answer is that we don’t know yet. The current chapter of American history is already completely unprecedented and tumultuous, and there’s no telling how RFK Jr. will add to this chaos. He could completely upset the Republican nominee. He could just as easily be a formidable threat to the Democratic nominee. He could also end up as one of the hundreds of independent candidates lost to history. The problem is that we have no concrete indication as to which of these it will be. In such a volatile political environment, with a polarizing figure like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., looking to the past is not a viable option; watching the present unfold is the only way to understand what the future will hold.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All The Advocate Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • G

    G. OvittJan 30, 2024 at 11:18 am

    I seriously doubt that this strange person will garner 20% or even 5% of the popular vote. Anyone who would vote for Biden wouldn’t consider him, and the Trumpies won’t be tempted since RFKJr. is the about the same commodity, minus much of the sociopathy. Thanks for reminding me of H. Ross Perot, who nearly was a spoiler in ’92 and who accurately predicted the “giant sucking sound” as American jobs fled south under B. Clinton’s NAFTA fiasco. Forget the NFL, America’s sport is somehow cultivating crazy people who want to be president.

    Reply