Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the longtime environmental lawyer and vaccine skeptic, announced this Monday that he’s parting ways with the Democrats to venture into the presidential race as an independent candidate. This move adds an unexpected layer to the 2024 race, which many anticipated to be a one-on-one rematch between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican President Donald Trump.
Hailing from one of the most iconic Democratic families in the political arena, Kennedy’s decision to go independent surprised many. However, with better favorability ratings among Republicans than Democrats, Kennedy’s shift might not be entirely without strategic calculation. While Kennedy’s GOP favorability might not necessarily predict his general election performance, especially when up against Trump, both Trump and Biden loyalists have voiced concerns about Kennedy potentially playing spoiler for their respective candidates.
RFK, Jr. officially announces an independent presidential bid. pic.twitter.com/hpL17ERfMS
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 9, 2023
But why the abrupt switch? Reports indicate Kennedy has been expressing dissatisfaction with the DNC’s handling of the primary process. Weeks before the announcement, Kennedy accused the DNC of “rigging” the primary against him. He voiced discontent over the committee’s decision not to host debates between Biden and other contenders.
Kennedy’s announcement was made from Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, a historically significant site where America’s founding documents were adopted. The venue seemed fitting, not just because of its historical ties to the nation’s early struggle for independence but also due to Kennedy’s message. “I’ve come here today to declare our independence from the tyranny of corruption which robs us of affordable lives, our belief in the future, and our respect for each other,” he declared.
Emphasizing unity, he continued, “We declare independence from the corporations that have hijacked our government.” The crowd’s response? Echoes of support as attendees chanted, “RFK, all the way!” Campaign signs were seen teasing a new campaign slogan: “Declare Your Independence.”
Among the crowd of Kennedy’s supporters were not just loyal Democrats but several attendees who didn’t align with either major party. Take Julia Hill, a 23-year-old New Jersey student who expressed her admiration for Kennedy, saying, “He tells it how it is. He doesn’t sound like a politician.” Brent Snyder, a South Philadelphia disabled veteran, shared his sentiment, emphasizing the need for a unifying figure amid current political divisions.
This announcement adds another layer to the evolving presidential race, especially given last week’s revelation of progressive activist Cornel West shifting from a Green Party bid to an independent White House run. Such independent pursuits are not just isolated incidents; the centrist group No Labels is also reportedly in the process of securing ballot access for a yet-to-be-disclosed candidate.
As the news unfolds, it is evident that the 2024 race will be far from predictable. Kennedy’s move does not just signify a personal decision; it reflects an undercurrent of discontentment among voters seeking an alternative to the status quo. How this shift will play out in the broader landscape of the presidential race remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the game is changing.