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The growing RFK Jr coalition The insurgent candidate is relishing the struggle

The Camelot myth haunts RFK Jr. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Camelot myth haunts RFK Jr. Mario Tama/Getty Images


April 30, 2024   6 mins

The Camelot myth haunts Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He was brought up to believe that he would be the one to pick up the mantle left by Arthur, John F. Kennedy. Even as a precocious 20-year-old — having been hooked on hard drugs since 14, having been expelled from two boarding schools, and having faced a near-fatal heroin overdose — the young Bobby believed it was his “destiny” to be president.

Fifty years later, aged 70, Robert F. Kennedy has finally thrown his hat into the ring. He wants to return America to its Camelot era — that brief period of hope and promise during his uncle’s presidency — amid widespread disillusionment with the two main contenders for office. It’s a hard task. No third-party presidential candidate has received over 10% of the vote this century. But with RFK currently polling at 11.7% in the RCP poll of polls, could this election be different?

To carve out a path to power RFK must gather a vast number of signatures to enter the ballot in each state; in New York, which has the most stringent ballot laws in the country, he has to obtain 45,000 signatures in 45 days. But that’s what he’s hoping to do in Long Island. “No other presidential candidate in history has got this many signatures in such a short space of time,” he says. “We must vote out of hope — not fear.”

Invoking Franklin Roosevelt, he continues: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — is anyone here going to vote out of fear?” The massive crowd, crammed into the opulent Villa Lombardy, obligingly responds with a collective “No!” Some of the thousand-strong throng are long-time devotees, while others are merely Kennedy-curious. Yet what they all share is a political promiscuity that draws from both Left and Right. Steve, a musician, tells me that over the past three elections, he has moved from Bernie Sanders (until the DNC “rigged” the selection) in 2016 to Trump in 2020 to RFK Jr in 2024. “Kennedy talks about issues that the other two candidates totally ignore,” he says. “This is Kennedy against the uni-party — something I thought Trump did until he became President.”

It’s a sentiment that Kennedy himself has tried to tap into. He insists that Biden and Trump may appear different as far as disposition and ideology are concerned, but these differences only exist in the “culture war” space. When it comes to the real, or as he puts it the “existential”, issues facing the country — America’s debt, forever wars and chronic disease — there is very little to distinguish the two.

But there is a chink in the Kennedy armour: his position on Israel. Despite claiming to be the anti-war candidate, he has offered full-throated support for the Jewish state, calling Palestinians the “most pampered people in the world” and questioning the purpose of a ceasefire.

“The Israel stance is problematic,” says David, a student who volunteers on the RFK campaign. He agrees that it is a position which sits uncomfortably with his candidate’s dovish worldview: “I’m not part of the whole ceasefire, pro-Palestine movement but I do see the need for that war not to be expanded and for the US not to get involved in it.” He believes that Kennedy Jr would still be a better bet than Biden, who has “promoted the war machine” and “weaponised federal agencies”.

New York’s construction workers come out for Kennedy

Students, though, are not the only ones fed up with America’s forever wars. Suzanne, another Bernie-Trump-RFK supporter, admires Kennedy for his commitment to prising the US out of “foreign misadventures”. “He’s not an America First-type like Trump,” she says. “His positions are much more considered — he doesn’t want to withdraw us from the world, but merely thinks that we should not be funding all these wars abroad.” Along with various other people I speak to there, Suzanne has particular ire for the man she voted for in 2016. “Trump talked a big game, but the debt blew up under him and he was the one that implemented all the Covid shutdowns
I’ll never forgive him for that.”

While RFK’s views on Covid are well-documented, ranging from the credible to the crankish, it would be misleading to characterise all his supporters as militant anti-vaxxers. Many would rather emphasise the importance of medical freedom in general. “I was vaccinated but I was against the shutdowns and mandates,” John Myers tells me. “But this isn’t just a Covid thing — it’s about the right to choose what’s best for you and not have the government tell me what to do.”

This libertarian streak runs through all Kennedy’s supporters. They clutch signs reading “restore the constitution”, “farms not pharma” and “LIBERTY!”. And they believe in him. His heterodox worldview means that he can appear to be all things to all people: to progressives, Kennedy is the great environmentalist who took on Monsanto and cleaned up the Hudson river; to conservatives, he is a God-fearing Christian who believes in the constitution (including the second amendment), small government and individual liberty. And as a result, he attracts people from both sides of the political aisle. People such as Darleen, who is a lifelong Democrat, and Bruce, who would never vote for Biden. “I’ve never been happier to support a candidate than Robert F. Kennedy Jr,” he says proudly. Darleen, meanwhile, is simply grateful that there is someone running for the presidency who doesn’t just talk a good game on the environment, but has the CV to show for it too. “The world is on fire — literally sometimes,” she says. “Bobby is the one to put it all out.”

The crowd is certainly more Mega than Maga. Some doff their green “Make Earth Great Again” caps to each other, while others sashay around in tie-dye T-shirts looking for people to add to the ballot. Kennedy himself remains an ardent environmentalist (nine years ago, he claimed to have called for a law that “punished” people who are sceptical of global warming), touting his record as a Riverkeeper prior to running for office. This New Age vibe in the room contrasts vividly with the few Boomer liberals who came for a quick hit of Kennedy nostalgia. “I loved his father so much,” says 81-year-old Francis. “Bobby is made from the same stuff — that’s why I’ll be voting for him.”

“I loved his father so much. Bobby is made from the same stuff — that’s why I’ll be voting for him.”

Camelot nostalgia surely plays some role in Kennedy Jr’s popularity. But RFK takes inspiration from a different myth: Sisyphus, who was consigned to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity. This is who Kennedy directly compared himself with on a podcast, saying “for me to have a concrete task that I know is right. I feel like it is a gift
the more people heap abuse on me, the bigger the gift is”.

And the abuse is piling up. Most recently by Donald Trump, who castigated RFK as a “Radical Left Liberal” after new polling revealed the independent was stealing more support from Trump than Biden. But Democrats are worried too, with advisers going after Kennedy’s running mate, Nicole Shanahan, warning that a vote for Bobby is a vote for Trump. “Democrats should use every tool available to them to expose the truth about Kennedy and Shanahan,” said Doug Gordon, a Democratic operative. “Expose the fact that both Kennedy and Shanahan have peddled conspiracy theories for years. Expose the fact that their run is helping [former President Trump] return to the White House,” he added.

These threats may speak more to the paranoid mindset of campaign managers, though, than the reality on the ground. It is not uncommon for independent candidates to poll well until the election draws nearer, whereupon voters tend to get cold feet. And unlike fellow challenger candidates, Jill Stein and Cornel West, Kennedy Jr is not party affiliated, making ballot access a great deal harder.

But there is something different about Kennedy. Two decades ago, he was a liberal darling: he had been named one of Time magazine’s “heroes” of the planet, described by Rolling Stone as one of “100 agents of change” and called “America’s toxin avenger” by People magazine. In 2008, Barack Obama was even urged to select Bobby for head of the Environmental Protection Agency to “endear” the new President with liberals. Now, he is persona non grata in Democratic circles, but his journey from Left to political homelessness is one that many other Americans shared too.

He is the avatar of a newly emerging political and cultural climate, a mood even, that is distrusting of those in power. Burned by the 2008 recession, dismayed by the Great Awokening, and radicalised by Covid, many in the country are seeking something different. That both of the two leading presidential candidates have devoted resources to attacking the outsider candidate underscores just how unpredictable his effect on the race could be.

For now, Kennedy has made the ballot in nine states, and this week, he is expected to announce a further three. Given the tepid levels of enthusiasm for both of the main candidates — and a desire for something new — there might just be a tiny window for an insurgent candidate to exploit. For his part, Bobby will be hoping that the task will be Herculanean, not Sisyphean.


is UnHerd’s Newsroom editor.

james_billot

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

IDK. I like RFK. He’s very intelligent and well meaning. He’s a climate alarmist, but he’s also smart enough to see the folly of net zero. I heard him on the Ben Shapiro podcast, and he talks a lot about the debt, but didn’t have any clear policies to tackle the issue.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

That’s a good summary. The problem with Bobby Kennedy is he’s all talk. That’s even more of a problem with his vice presidential pick Nicole Shanahan. Both of them are very intelligent, well-meaning lawyers who are all hat and no cattle. Neither of them has run for office before, let alone won. Neither has built a business. Both live off money earned by someone else. They are full of theory, and completely impractical.
Who would bet on a horse to win the Kentucky Derby who had never run a race? Track records and experience mean a lot. His lack of a track record shows that Bobby Kennedy is not a serious candidate.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

“The problem with Bobby Kennedy is he’s all talk.”
Of course he is – that’s the problem with all flash-in-the-pan third party hopefuls. Because they will never get past the ‘campaign’ stage of political activism (where big talk gets you attention) to reach the ‘compromise’ stage of political governance – where you have to grapple with the fact that many or even most people disagree with you.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

I think it’s very clear that the duopoly of Democrats and Republicans needs to be challenged. A third party populist like RFK could be a huge blow to their power. I’m very excited to see how this plays out.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

The idea has merit, but it would in my view be better if the candidate were someone who is a bit less of a crank.

Stuart Bennett
Stuart Bennett
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

I heard him tell Joe Rogan that no vaccine has ever saved lives and that the diseases we have eradicated in the west were beaten by the raising of general hygiene levels. The man is a prat.

Rob N
Rob N
1 month ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

And your evidence for disagreeing with him is….? There are many data sources out there that show that Big Pharma cherrypick dates to say, for example, that Disease A reduced by 80% from 1940 – 1970 but miss out that the vaccine was introduced in 1960 and that 90% of that reduction happened before the vaccine. For many of these diseases it IS clear that increases in public health (clean water, toilets/sewage etc) were the main cause of the drop in disease rates.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

How could Bobby Kennedy be a huge blow to the power of the Democrats and Republicans? He has (in my view) zero chance of winning the election. He may tilt the contest one way or the other, but that would not strike a blow to the winner. The contest remains a binary, zero-sum game in which Bobby Kennedy will not be a player.

Obadiah B Long
Obadiah B Long
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

When a President is elected, that President makes about 1500 political appointments that make up the Administration. RFKJ will appoint at least 1250 Democrats. He’s just an eccentric Democrat in the end. Not Libertarian, eccentric, and a strong-Federal-government guy.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 month ago

Which part of RFK Jr’s views on Covid are crankish?

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Well, he is an antivaxxer for a start. In fact, he was one long before COVID.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

I’m unclear how this answers my question.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Well (in my view at least) being an “antivaxxer” is “crankish”.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

We are not talking about his general views on vaccines (which are far more nuanced than you appear to suggest) but his views on Covid. I ask again, which part of his views on Covid are “crankish”

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I just did a quick search, and found a quote by RFK Jr in CNN, in which he said “There is no vaccine that is, you know, safe and effective”. I also found a quote (referred to in the same CNN piece) in which he claimed that COVID was “ethnically targeted to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people”. The first of those quotes is “crankish”. The second is “off the wall extreme crankish”.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Indeed, and that only scratches the surface of his crankiness. The guy subscribes to all manner of oddball conspiracies.

Unwoke S
Unwoke S
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

IN RFK’S OWN WORDS ON TWITTER: “The @nypost story is mistaken. I have never, ever suggested that the COVID-19 virus was targeted to spare Jews. I accurately pointed out — during an off-the-record conversation — that the U.S. and other governments are developing ethnically targeted bioweapons and that a 2021 study of the COVID-19 virus shows that COVID-19 appears to disproportionately affect certain races since the furin cleave docking site is most compatible with Blacks and Caucasians and least compatible with ethnic Chinese, Finns, and Ashkenazi Jews. In that sense, it serves as a kind of proof of concept for ethnically targeted bioweapons. I do not believe and never implied that the ethnic effect was deliberately engineered. That study is here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32664879/

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 month ago
Reply to  Unwoke S
john d rockemella
john d rockemella
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Google search from CNN – ha ha is this a joke – are you a bot? Can you read? That is how you get your information from propagandist nonsense – please never make a comment on anything again, your view is ridiculous

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago

Remember CNN and the scientist talking about ivermectin! Talk about cranky!

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

I don’t, but Ivermectin doesn’t work against COVID, right?

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

So, your position is that RFK Jr didn’t actually say those things, and CNN just made them up? I just want to be clear.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

CNN? Laugh out loud!

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

Oh, I forgot! CNN fabricates everything, right?

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Looks pretty crankish, but the theory did not originate with him, and having just written a book on the US bioweapons program, I imagine that is what he had in mind when he referred to this theory.
Developing bioweapons that target, or exclude, populations are the holy grail of bioweapons research. Obvious if you think about it.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

It looks pretty crankish, because it IS pretty crankish! The guy is unhinged!

James Westby
James Westby
1 month ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I think his general point is that almost none of the vaccines on the childhood vaccine schedule have ever been subject to full clinical trials. Therefore its never been proven that they are ‘safe and effective’.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  James Westby

Well, if that is his general point, then it shows how crankish the man is.

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Your view is pea sized and lacks any intellectual reasoning. Boring and uninformed!

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

Coming from the likes of you, it is a criticism I wear with pride!

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Not a word of justified argument or reference to credible sources, just schoolboy level ad hominem attacks and repetition of a word you’ve picked up from mainstream media.
Perhaps you’d be more at home on the CNN comments section?

Martin Dunford
Martin Dunford
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

You mean the vaccine based on novel mRNA technology whose trial period was slashed from 5-7 years to less than 1?, that was forced on the young who were as close to zero risk as was possible? that didn’t really work very long? that wasn’t tested it stopped transmission (only reduced severity)? that made close to 100 billion for e.g Pfizer ? that China, Russian, India and other countries wouldn’t touch? That vaccine? That doesn’t smell to you, heaven help you !

Jo Jo
Jo Jo
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Dunford

Yes, the ones indemnified by gov’t (i.e. taxpayers).

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Dunford

It’s kinda funny how you speed by “reduced severity”.

Fred D. Fulton
Fred D. Fulton
1 month ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Reduced severity. Like when you doctor writes you a scrip and tells you that it will clear up your ailment in a week, but it you don’t take the meds, you should be better in 7 days or so.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin Dunford

Obviously they had to cut the trial period. There was a Pandemic on. Anyway, RFK Jr is anti-every kind of vax, not just the COVID ones.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Obviously. Kind of gives the game away, doesn’t it?

Rob N
Rob N
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

He has made it clear many times that he is not anti-vax. He is anti badly researched and dangerous vaccines. The fact that so many of them are clearly dangerous (and many more not clearly safe) is exactly the point he is trying to make. Would have thought everyone was against vaccines that do more damage than they prevent!

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob N

His views and comments are unfounded and could lead to people refusing medical treatment, for example

I can say right now there is no medicine for cancer that’s safe and effective.

The bloke is a proper loon.
https://edition.cnn.com/2023/07/21/politics/fact-check-rfk-not-anti-vax/index.html

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Robbie K
 most people here will not take you seriously if you quote CNN.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

Next you’ll be telling me that they don’t like the BBC either!

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

You mean the UK Government Propaganda Unit?

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob N

He has SAID that many times. However, it is untrue.

Rosemary Throssell
Rosemary Throssell
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

If you take the time to listen to him you will understand he is not anti vax. It is so lazy to say so.

Fred D. Fulton
Fred D. Fulton
1 month ago

The anti-vax criticism is a deception propagated by people who don’t want to see him get elected. Big Pharma also is a propagator of the same, having a clear and massive financial interest.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

He is against people taking the MMR vax. How much more anti-vax can you get?

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Pathetic reply, cant argue why his views inaccurate though can you.

Alan Gore
Alan Gore
1 month ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

Which part of RFK Jr’s views on Covid are crankish?
RFK Jr incorporates the views of the anti-science left (nuclear power, genetic engineering, childhood vaccination) and now the anti-science right (Covid vaccination, rejection of public health conventions).

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

To answer your perplexed question:
It doesn’t matter. In USA Jr. is PERCEIVED as a crank.
And in USA, perception is everything.

Benjamin Perez
Benjamin Perez
1 month ago

Nutshell: “Burned by the 2008 recession, dismayed by the Great Awokening[,] and radicalised by Covid, many in the country are seeking something different.” Yes.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

Well, you don’t get a lot more “different” than RFK Jr!

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
1 month ago
Reply to  Benjamin Perez

Can ‘something different’ form the basis for a coherent political movement? Underneath the ‘something different’ must lie a coherent set of political and ideological philosophies, in order for the ‘something different’ to ultimately turn into the possibility of an effective and persuasive political movement. I’m not clear on RFK Jr’s principles, worldview, etc.

Hans Daoghn
Hans Daoghn
1 month ago

A long-time Democrat, I have made the switch to RFK, Jr.  It feels refreshing. It has cleared my head. No longer a slave to tedious TDS, I start each day happier.  I’ve given up smoking, lost weight and stopped using Ozempic.  My friends have noticed and seem a bit envious. 

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Hans Daoghn

Love it!

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 month ago

Please could the author expand specifically on which of Kennedy’s views on Covid he considers to be “crankish”, and which he deems to be “credible”?

Please could he also explain what positions him to make such sweeping judgments?

Please could he also explain why he chooses to use the term “militant anti-vaxxers”, which is often deployed by bigots as a nasty, ad hominem slur to defend their indoctrination by shutting down reasoned debate and questioning?

What is his understanding of the term “anti-vaxxer” and can he name some prominent “anti-vaxxers”?

Has the author, as a professional journalist, interrogated in good faith the arguments, evidence, and reasoning set out by such people?

Does he believe, as his writing implies, that all of those who are able to think outside of the paradigm established by enormous pharmaceutical corporations over many years are in some way deficient or lesser than those in positions of power and authority in politics, medicine, commerce, or journalism who serve, and are served by, that paradigm?

Has it ever occurred to him that future readers may look back on the terms of the debate around Covid vaccines in a way similar to which we might look, for example, on the terms of the debate on racial segregation in the US of the 1950s?

“But we didn’t know” and “everyone I knew thought the same way” and “I didn’t want to be thought badly of by my peers” and “we just wanted to defend our livelihoods & way of life” and “everyone used that kind of language, it was normal” won’t wash, James. The evidence that something is very badly amiss is piling up. The arc of history might or might not bend toward justice but it assuredly bends towards truth.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Please could the author expand specifically on which of Kennedy’s views on Covid he considers to be “crankish”, and which he deems to be “credible”?
Good question! I too would like to know which of RFK Jr’s views on COVID are deemed “credible”! “Crankish” I’ve got covered!

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

You’re great at criticizing accomplished people. Why don’t you let us know who you actually do respect.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  T Bone

Margaret Thatcher. Ronald Reagan. Nelson Mandela. Mikhail Gorbachev.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Unfortunately, what you posted is useless. In USA the perception is: that Jr. is a “militant anti-waxxer”

And unfortunately, in USA perception is everything.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 month ago
Reply to  James Billot

Thank you for your response, James.

I watched the clip in the NY Post article you shared. I agree that with you, and Kennedy, that the disparate impact of Covid on people with different racial characteristics does not necessarily mean that it was a deliberately targeted bioweapon. He did not, though, say that certain groups of people were “immune”, he said that they were “most immune”.

He suggested that, based on the research he has done for a book, major nation states have been investing large amounts of money in researching or developing ethnically targeted bioweapons in recent years. I don’t know whether or not that is true. But it seems like a credible claim, and he probably would be able to evidence it if pushed. He suggested that it *might* be that this research and development – deliberately or not – led to the Covid outbreak. There is strong evidence that the Covid virus escaped from the Wuhan lab, where gain of function research was being conducted. His suggestion is, therefore, plausible.

You suggest that “floating the argument” was “irresponsible”. You are of course entitled to that view; it is reasonable. It does not, though, support your claim that his view is “crankish”, that is not plausible or based on a reasonable line of thought. I would also beg to disagree that it was irresponsible, on the grounds that if such plausible arguments can’t even be floated it simply won’t be possible for anyone to get to the bottom of any complex questions.

The absence of open debate and exchange of views & perspectives creates the conditions in which crime can flourish, and in which the powerful can treat the powerless like dirt. Would it have been “irresponsible”, for example, for someone in a position of influence to have floated the argument that it just might be possible that the US government was deliberately infecting hundreds of African Americans with syphilis in Tuskegee in the four decades before a whistleblower and courageous investigative journalism uncovered the compelling evidence that it was in fact so? Might floating the argument have helped bring this horrendous crime to light, saving much loss of human life and suffering?

Moreover, Kennedy wasn’t giving a considered public speech, he was having a relaxed conversation over dinner and perhaps was not even aware he was being filmed. Heaven knows that sometimes when we try to say things the words don’t come out quite right! Must we hold politicians to such high standards that they become terrified of opening their mouths, even when amongst friends? If everyone had to evidence every single claim they make life, and especially dinner conversations, would become intolerably boring!

On the “anti-vaxxer” comment, I understand the point you are making. But I don’t agree that steadfastly refusing all vaccines necessarily makes one a “militant anti-vaxxer”. That would be to conflate an active political position with personal health choices and philosophy. And what’s “militant” about declining a particular form of medical intervention, exactly? I just don’t think the term is helpful, because it is so often used as a term of derogatory abuse and without clear definition. Perhaps I over-reacted a little to your use of the term in the context that you used it, as I agree it would indeed be wrong to characterise Kennedy’s supporters in that way. I guess I just wish we could drop that label from general use because the only purpose it seems to serve is to denigrate people and silence reasoned debate and discussion.

Thanks again for your response. I appreciate it is not easy being a journalist in the 2020s!

Jerry Smith
Jerry Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  James Billot

Excellent that an author replies to a considered criticism. More of this, please, Unherd.

Hans Daoghn
Hans Daoghn
1 month ago

Democrats are screaming: “A vote for RFK,Jr. is a vote for Trump!” That is why I will be voting for him. It’s like getting to vote twice.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Hans Daoghn

I am guessing that you will be annoyed if it turns out that a vote for RFK Jr was a vote for Biden.

Andre Rego
Andre Rego
1 month ago

RFK Jr is a breath if fresh air. For the hood of all of us, not only America, I hope his coalition keeps growing
victory is a long shot but he might make that none of the other two (horrible) candidates have 170 electoral votes


Arthur G
Arthur G
1 month ago

The problem with RFK is he’s still a doctrinaire leftist on issues like abortion and gun rights. He needs to stake out some heterodox positions that appeal to conservatives that dislike Trump. As long as he espouses abortion on demand and taking away 2nd Amendment rights, no real conservative can support him.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

But there is a chink in the Kennedy armour: — > Show me the candidate who is chink-free. My god; this ‘no true Scotsman’ fixation has not benefited politics in the least. I’m not on the RFK bandwagon but if people agree with him on 60-70% of things, what exactly is the point of fixating on the balance? And, by the way, his Israel position is not exactly an outlier as Congress recently demonstrated.

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
1 month ago

Anti-vax?? Every thing he says has been cross referenced and critically appraised and no one, not one person will debate him on the subject, his book the real anthony fauci showed the true evilness of the drug production manufacturers.

Ben Carson
Ben Carson
1 month ago

This article, whilst it has it flaws, is night and day compared to the crap The Times (London) ran. Thank goodness I’ve discovered UnHerd that is prepared to challenge journalistic orthodoxy.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

BTW, James, the Camelot era refers to the period while JFK was president—not after his assassination.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

Crackpot.
He claimed that Covid was engineered to target white and black people while sparing Jewish and Chinese people.
Bonkers.
His comments about Palestinians are not far behind in terms of craziness. He’ll draw in some of the MAGA crowd because of how stupid they are but that’s about it.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 month ago

RFK has a pretty narrow window to victory, but it’s not closed entirely. The two candidates are both unpopular, people don’t trust the government, and there’s a strong anti-establishment sentiment to tap into. Trump didn’t create that and will have to compete to keep it if there’s another plausible populist outsider in the race. RFK can be the populist champion and the crusader for change that Trump pretends to be and not have to apologize or explain Jan 6th, nor does he have four years of practical governance on record complete with the usual compromises to pragmatism for anti-elites and openly anti-government types to contemplate. He can also claim the banner of traditional liberalism, environmentalism, and progressivism without the woke nonsense and the stamps of corporate approval from big donors and the military industrial complex, which Biden cannot escape because of the pervasiveness of the former in his own party and the obvious manipulations of the latter in helping Biden beat Sanders four years ago.
On the whole, the more RFK resembles neither Trump nor Biden in different aspects, the better his chances are. The more he comes across as one party or the other, the more the window closes. His path to victory is hard. Because voting for the party candidate is the default and most Americans, even independents, tend to lean pretty hard one way or the other, he has to be seen as preferable to each candidate by members of that candidate’s own party. He must be seen by Republicans as preferable to Trump and Democrats as preferable to Biden; not all of them of course, but enough to both lower the other candidate’s totals and raise his own. It’s simple math. If each party constitutes half the total pie, then in order to defeat them, he needs to get at least a third of the voters from each party equally to break even and then to win he needs more of one or the other. He can get most of one side and still lose, which is how independent candidates and third parties usually fail. They tend to take votes more from one side than the other and they not only fail to win, but they throw the election to the other side, and this happens so often the perception of third party candidates is as spoilers, not contenders, which reinforces partisan voting. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t be possible for this to happen at all. The only reason it’s even somewhat plausible now is the fact both candidates are so broadly disliked by so many on both sides.
The biggest problem he faces is structural. Everything is geared towards a two party system, both formally and informally. Yes, he faces a huge obstacle just to get on the ballot in most states but he a possibly even greater challenge is getting any media coverage in a media environment where most outlets lean pretty hard to one side or the the other. If they so choose, they can conspire to freeze Kennedy out of any sort of media coverage, starving the campaign of attention and keeping it relegated to the fringe. Kennedy has neither the personal fortune nor the personality to generate his own press the way Trump does.
By criticizing RFK, Trump is doing the man a huge favor, as it will generate attention he might not otherwise get and force media outlets that might not bother to mention him to cover RFK and actually discuss his views and platform. This surprises me not at all as Trump’s grasp of political strategy is somewhat limited to say the least. If Biden and the Democrats do the same, it will likewise be a great boon to RFK’s campaign. The best, and maybe only, chance RFK has is to get just enough support to draw the fire of the two main candidates who are each reviled by more than half of the country. In so doing, the criticisms of Trump can make RFK seem better than Biden to Democrats because their dislike for Trump is far stronger than their like for Biden and the criticisms of RFK by Biden and Democrats can make him seem preferable to Trump because a lot of Republicans oppose Democrats and Biden more than they like Trump. That’s his window. It’s a narrow target to shoot for, but it’s about the best chance most third party candidates can ever realistically expect.
My guess is that as election time draws near, Biden is more vulnerable. Trump has a lot of loyal hardcore supporters that will be hard to pry away. The Haley wing of the Republican party is significant, but in a centrist way, and it’s hard to say how much of it is driven purely by the money of big donors. If they truly do constitute a quarter of the party, the question then becomes will these centrist leaning moderates be any more enthusiastic about a populist RFK than they are with a populist Trump? The Democrats are far more vulnerable, IMHO. It may appear at first glance several months out that RFK is pulling more votes from Trump but I doubt that’s how it plays out on election day. IMHO, the likeliest outcome is the obvious one, that RFK throws the election to Trump. I’d love to see him win, but it’s like hoping for a miracle. Perhaps that’s a sign of how bad things are. We’re basically hoping for a miracle to save us from the horribleness of our politics.

Christopher
Christopher
1 month ago

Well Ross Perot gave us Clinton. Let’s hope RFK gives Trump a second go at it as Biden is Obama’s 3rd term and a disaster.

Robert Pruger
Robert Pruger
1 month ago

Depending on the poll, RFK Jr is the first choice of 11% to 16% of registered voters. His upside largely comes from Biden (though he draws some from Trump). If he gets on the ballot on all states, then his campaign has legs, regardless of whether pundits think of him as a crank, a zealot or a stalking horse.
I don’t agree with much of his specific policies but he clearly has articulated a skepticism of 3-letter federal agencies that resonates with Americans (and yes with me). He is articulate, exceedingly so after hearing Biden mumble whatever is on the teleprompter. He downplays personal attacks, which appeals to many.
Should he climb to 25% (admittedly a high %) then RFK will pivot his message to “a vote for Biden is a vote for Trump”. That’s powerful!
With his VP choice he has the bank account to mount an effective campaign. If he gets on all 50 state ballots, this fall will be very interesting.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 month ago

“Anti-waxxer”! That’s the hairy vote in the bag then

M L Hamilton Anderson
M L Hamilton Anderson
1 month ago

He is not anti-vaccines. He is a vaccine sceptic, like many of us today. And, rightly so. He sees the absurdity of NetZero. He has common sense and is grounded. He has struggled and come back from the darkest of places. RFK has my vote.