By: Ella Marrufo
Following a relatively unsuccessful campaign as a Democratic candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced to a crowd at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Oct. 9 that he would run for president as an independent instead. After realizing he had little chance of winning over incumbent President Joe Biden, Kennedy decided to switch tactics — potentially altering the outcome of the 2024 election.
This decision is not entirely surprising as Kennedy has been a harsh critic of the Democratic party for months, calling the party corrupt and accusing them of failing to uphold basic principles. However, Kennedy has little interest in the Republican party either, saying, “The Democrats are worried I’m going to spoil the election for President Biden, and the Republicans are frightened that I’m going to spoil it for Trump … My intention is to spoil it for both of them.” By doing so, Kennedy alienated both parties as well as his family; his four siblings have since denounced him, calling his candidacy a danger to the country.
There were two main reasons for Kennedy’s move to drop his Democratic affiliation. First, the party was pushing to change the first primary state from New Hampshire — a state Kennedy enjoyed significant support from — to South Carolina for the state’s key role in Biden’s election in 2020. Secondly, the party essentially blacklisted Kennedy, refusing to set up any debates between him and Biden and quietly ignoring Kennedy’s candidacy.
Though formerly a Democrat, Kennedy has long appealed to Republicans. His embracing of far-right political figures and anti-vaccine, pro-conspiracy attitude has amassed a significant online following, especially in 2020 when his theory that the government used COVID vaccines to implant microchips in people surged in popularity. Because of this, it is the Republican Party that currently has the most criticism regarding Kennedy’s recent switch. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said Kennedy was merely a “Democrat in independent’s clothing,” and other Republicans warned voters not to be swayed by Kennedy’s false promises and pretend conservative values.
An independent has never become president, and it is highly unlikely that Kennedy will be the one to upset this trend. In many ways, this is a relief for Biden, who now only needs to go up against Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson. Kennedy’s switch to independent will allow Biden to focus on competitors like former president Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis instead of spending time campaigning for the party’s nomination. While Kennedy originally intended to open a new path to the presidency by electing to run as an independent, he has instead made enemies with all parties and decreased his support from American citizens.
(Sources: ABC News, CNN, New York Magazine, NY Times)