Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Democratic Party bid has grabbed the attention of the press, voters and experts trying to make sense of it since its inception, given his perpetuation of conspiracy theories and other right-wing ideals.
In what may be the clearest move of his campaign, however, Kennedy ended his pursuit for the Democratic presidential nomination on Monday, Oct. 9, by declaring himself as an independent candidate in a speech at Philadelphia.
Following the “independence” theme he has modeled his efforts around, Kennedy framed the move as freedom from oppressive institutions – ranging from corporations to “the mercenary media.”
“And finally, I declared independence from the two political parties and the corrupt interests that dominate them,” Kennedy wrote on Oct. 9. “And the entire rigged system of rancor and rage, corruption and lies, that has turned government officials into indentured servants of their corporate bosses.”
The party change – and his reasons for doing so – may be the most authentic move RFK Jr.’s made this election cycle.
“[He] isn’t really a Democrat and isn’t popular enough to gain traction as a Republican, so this is his only opportunity to be at all relevant in the 2024 race,” said Tammy Vigil, PhD, senior associate dean and professor of media science at Boston University.
Relevancy in the media seems to be focal for Kennedy, who has had countless public scandals over the years that seem to be increasing in frequency since he announced his campaign in April.
R. Craig Sautter, instructor at DePaul University and a political media strategist, said another advantage to the move is Kennedy no longer has to run in a primary.
“He can remain a player or gadfly until November 2024,” Sautter said.
Even though Kennedy has the opportunity to stick it out, Levi Allen, PhD, assistant professor of political science at Indiana State University, said he’s convinced it’s “a long shot,” citing fees associated with filing paperwork in each state and overall necessary manpower to run a national campaign.
“It takes a huge operation,” he said. “You need people on the ground that are willing to go get petitions signed rain or shine, warm or cold.”
Kennedy’s operation experienced a setback on Friday, Oct. 13, as his campaign manager, Dennis Kucinich, former mayor of Cleveland and Ohio congressman, parted ways with the 2024 hopeful.
Kucinich was replaced by Amaryllis Fox Kennedy, a former CIA agent, documentarian and Kennedy’s daughter-in-law.
Vigil said she took the departure “as a sign of dysfunction” adding that key spokespeople within the campaign were not informed. “It isn’t usual for campaigns that are on a downward trajectory to lose personnel or for experienced staffers to leave campaigns they feel have no direction to move but down,” she said.
Moreover, Allen said he’s not entirely convinced Kennedy even wants to be president.
“I think this is more about influencing opinions and politics, particularly of his own party, which he feels is sort of misguided on this point of vaccines and a broader healthcare policy,” he said.
Regardless, the removal of the “restrictions of the Democratic primary process” makes Kennedy “more of a wildcard,” according to Vigil. “He still can’t win the presidency, but he could draw away votes from either party and muddy the waters for both candidates,” she said.
Whether Kennedy will take more votes from the leading GOP candidate, former President Donald Trump, or the presumed Democratic nominee, incumbent President Joe Biden, remains to be seen – and the three experts that spoke with NYC Daily Post were divided.
“This election cycle feels totally unpredictable because so many random and monumental events could occur,” Sautter said, adding that a third party campaign will at least allow Kennedy to “pick up dissidents from both parties.”
Edited by: James Sutton