March 27, 2024 - 4:00pm

Robert F. Kennedy Jr is considering putting his name on the Libertarian ticket come November.

He’s currently running as an independent, but the Libertarian Party could be his best pathway to the ballot in all 50 states; he’s currently only on Utah’s ballot, and his campaign and super PAC have said he has enough signatures to get on seven more — a far cry from what he’d need to win 270 electoral college votes.

This week, the 70-year-old announced his running mate, attorney Nicole Shanahan, to the disappointment of libertarians. Shanahan, a registered Democrat and ex-wife of Google’s co-founder, donated more than $4 million to RFK Jr’s campaign, much of it to help fund his Superbowl ad. She previously supported President Joe Biden.

Past Libertarian candidates have been strongly aligned with the party. For example, there was 2016’s Gary Johnson, who was famously so unconcerned about foreign policy that he had never heard of Aleppo, or 1998’s Ron Paul, a staunch libertarian. But RFK Jr breaks with them on several key issues.

The candidate is libertarian on foreign policy, criticising US support for Ukraine and calling politicians who support direct confrontation with Iran “warmongers”. He also aligns with libertarians on abortion, which he supports throughout pregnancy, and vaccine mandates, which he famously opposes.

However, the candidate endorses more government power than libertarians would be comfortable with on a number of fronts: gun control, economics, the environment. Far from a free market absolutist, he supports nearly doubling the federal minimum wage to $15, providing government-funded childcare, restricting natural gas exports and using government power to bring down housing costs.

Nevertheless — and perhaps most importantly for libertarians — RFK Jr wants to limit the power and size of the federal government. “Government and tech platforms conspire to surveil and censor the public. Regulatory agencies have been captured by those they are supposed to regulate… Pharma controls the CDC, NIH, and FDA. Big Ag controls the USDA. Big Tech has captured the FTC”, his site reads.

He has called for greater government transparency, protecting whistleblowers and restricting the circular movement of lobbyists between government and lobbying jobs. He’s pledged that, as president, he would pardon Julian Assange.

His best-known critiques of government power involve the handling of the pandemic. RFK Jr had been a vocal critic of civil liberties violations during the pandemic, including vaccine mandates and the closure of businesses and houses of worship, as well as coordination between government and private social media platforms to censor dissent.

The former Democrat’s distrust in the feds is likely related to his belief that the CIA was responsible for the death of his uncle, John F. Kennedy, one shared by a substantial portion of Americans, and he has speculated the agency was responsible for his father’s killing too.

Since the US has a two-party system, with third-party candidates standing no realistic prospects in a presidential race, those who vote for Libertarian candidates tend to be very ideologically committed. The party’s theme for its 2024 conference is “become ungovernable”, and their platform endorses the legalisation of recreational drugs and prostitution, along with a number of proposals far outside the political mainstream.

While RFK Jr may not be a perfect ideological match, he does align on a number of issues, not least scepticism about the role of government. For Libertarian voters, whose other choices are an increasingly populist GOP and a Democratic party that strongly supports Big Government, that may well be enough.

is UnHerd’s US correspondent.