NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, October 11th, 2023

The “vanity candidacy” of Bobby Kennedy, Jr.: A very dangerous distraction

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., billed the Philadel­phia launch of his inde­pen­dent can­di­da­cy as “an address to the nation”, but the pres­i­den­tial hope­ful went unseen or was or bare­ly glimpsed in Mon­day tele­casts, as news cov­er­age zeroed in on Hamas’ assault or Israeli set­tle­ments and mil­i­tary posts bor­der­ing the Gaza Strip.

Bob­by Jr., is, how­ev­er, a per­son who can strut sit­ting down, and will seize on any vehi­cle – anti-vaxxer con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, pick­et­ing by strik­ing work­ers, oppo­si­tion to the U.S. aid­ing Ukraine – to thrust him­self into the pub­lic lime­light. He has skin in the 2024 game, the White House but also high­er lec­ture fees.

He also has Amer­i­can Val­ues 2024, a PAC that has raised $28 mil­lion and begins the inde­pen­dent bid with $11.28 mil­lion in the bank. The PAC has a big Mel­lon con­trib­u­tor and is court­ing Elon Musk. But Kennedy’s poll rat­ings, once four­teen per­cent when run­ning as a Demo­c­rat, have fall­en as vot­ers become aware of his embrace of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and flir­ta­tion with the extreme right.

The Repub­li­cans are wor­ried, as well they might be.

The reli­able Quin­nip­i­ac Poll asked vot­ers’ views of Kennedy. Forty-eight per­cent of Repub­li­cans gave him a thumbs-up while eigh­teen per­cent disapproved.

Just four­teen per­cent of Democ­rats approved of RFK, Jr., while fifty-sev­en per­cent gave him thumbs down. Inde­pen­dents were split, thir­ty-six per­cent approv­ing and thir­ty-sev­en per­cent disapproving.

A quar­ter of the elec­torate don’t know Kennedy. The Trump cam­paign, which feasts on con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, moved imme­di­ate­ly to address the threat.

“Vot­ers should not be deceived by any­one who pre­tends to have con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues,” spokesman Steven Che­ung said in a statement.

Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rona McDaniel opined: “Make no mis­take: A Demo­c­rat in independent’s cloth­ing is still a Demo­c­rat. RFK, Jr., can­not hide from his record of endors­ing Hillary, sup­port­ing the Green New Deal, fight­ing against the Key­stone Pipeline and prais­ing AOC’s tax hikes – he is your tra­di­tion­al elit­ist lib­er­al and vot­ers will not be fooled.”

True, once upon a time Bob­by was being arrest­ed out­side the White House in a demon­stra­tion against the Key­stone Pipeline.

Late­ly, how­ev­er, we’ve seen him fuel­ing a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that Bill Gates some­how was involved spread­ing the coronavirus.

Bob­by showed up in Olympia as anti-vaxxer Repub­li­cans’ chief wit­ness when Wash­ing­ton leg­is­la­tors took up (and lat­er enact­ed) leg­is­la­tion strength­en­ing vac­ci­na­tion require­ments for chil­dren in our state’s pub­lic schools. (Bob­by was kicked off Insta­gram in 2021 for spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion about vaccines.)

Democ­rats, how­ev­er, have rea­sons to wor­ry as well.

The Green Par­ty can­di­da­cy of Ralph Nad­er almost cer­tain­ly helped flip the pres­i­den­cy to George W. Bush in 2000. Remem­ber, Nad­er took 100,000 bal­lots in Flori­da while Al Gore lost the Sun­shine State by just 500 votes.

Nad­er cam­paigned almost entire­ly in “blue” states, includ­ing Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon. I inter­viewed him on an Octo­ber swing through the North­west. He railed against the Clin­ton Admin­is­tra­tion, debunked Gore’s envi­ron­men­tal cre­den­tials, while utter­ing hard­ly a word crit­i­cal of Bush.

Four of Bobby’s sib­lings – Rory, Ker­ry, and Joseph P. Kennedy II plus Kath­leen Kennedy Townsend – denounced his can­di­da­cy in a state­ment Mon­day. “Bob­by might share the same name as our father,” they wrote, “but he does not share the same val­ues, vision or judg­ment. Today’s announce­ment is deeply sad­den­ing for us. We denounce his can­di­da­cy and believe it to be per­ilous for our country.”

Jack Schloss­berg, grand­son of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, filmed a video denounc­ing his cousin for “trad­ing on Camelot, con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and con­flict for per­son­al fame and gain.”

“I know him, I have no idea why any­one thinks he should be pres­i­dent,” Schloss­berg added. “What I do know is his can­di­da­cy is an embar­rass­ment. Let’s not be dis­tract­ed by somebody’s van­i­ty project.”

Kennedy faces a daunt­ing chal­lenged try­ing to get on the bal­lot in even half of the fifty states. Expect that he will direct fire at the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee, and not at the Trump cam­paign. Expect selec­tive cov­er­age by Fox News, which will select clips of Bob­by denounc­ing the Democrats.

In 2000, some North­west Democ­rats – includ­ing a Seat­tle City Coun­cil mem­ber – flirt­ed with Nad­er before return­ing, late in the game, to Gore.

The dam­age? Gore had to expend resources in our region which should have gone to Ohio, a state he nar­row­ly lost.

Schloss­berg put it best: “Joe Biden shares my grandfather’s vision of Amer­i­ca, that we do things not because they are easy but because they are hard.”

Pro­gres­sives face a hard task turn­ing back a MAGA move­ment built on con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, lies, and dem­a­goguery, all of which is broad­cast on right-wing media and under­writ­ten by wealthy donors. Noth­ing less than the free­dom of our repub­lic is at stake. This is no time to indulge Bobby’s lec­ture fees.

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