Tara Reade: Is Kennedy Jr’s presidential run as an independent just an illusion of choice for voters?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has dropped his candidacy as a Democrat to run as an independent for President of the United States

On Monday, Robert Francis Kennedy Junior announced that he was dropping out of the presidential election race as a Democrat and would be instead running as an independent candidate.

His announcement was not a total shock after the Democratic establishment and even some of his own siblings blasted the candidate for running against Joe Biden. The Democrats shut out RFK Jr.’s candidacy in the media and YouTube has pulled some of his interviews off the platform.

The Biden administration has also denied RFK Jr.’s request for Secret Service protection, despite his campaign having submitted a report detailing credible risks “aside from commonplace death threats.” As per a CNN explainer, there was no basis for giving him such protection, given that he is not deemed a “major” candidate and it’s too early in the election cycle to do so anyway – except a precedent exists, where Senator Ted Kennedy, an uncle of RFK Jr., was given Secret Service protection before he even announced his 1980 candidacy. That decision was justified by the fact that two other Kennedys – president John Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy (RFK Jr.’s father) – were both assassinated in the preceding years – a family history that RFK Jr. also shares. Recently, a man with a loaded gun, impersonating a US Marshal, was arrested with guns at a RFK Jr. speech. Still, the Biden administration would not budge. The Democratic National Committee circled its wagons around Biden, ignoring Kennedy while apparently keeping [California Governor] Gavin Newsom in the wings as a placeholder to replace Biden.

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Kennedy announces independent run for US president

RFK Jr. is running on his family name and the public’s desperate need for a political hero. He has a strong track record of fighting environmental pollution and calling out the greed of Big Pharma. He calls for a pushback against corruption in the intelligence community and the war machine of the military industrial complex. He uses the buzzwords that appeal to people fed up with the direction of America when he talks about abandoning the uniparty, protecting free speech, stopping endless wars and holding corrupt politicians accountable.

All this is what the politically homeless from both parties want to hear. But it is enough to win the 2024 presidential election? While RFK Jr. calls out the elite establishment, he is most certainly a part of it.

His son Conor fought for Ukraine in its current conflict with Russia. His daughter in law works for the CIA. His family is probably the second-most politically famous after the British royalty and his gritty Irish American roots fighting for the working class are decades behind him.

Another signal of RFK Jr.’s real alliances is evident in his condemning speech about the recent Israel/Palestine violence. He used terms like “unprovoked attacks” and made it clear he stood with Israel despite the tragic number of Palestinian civilian deaths. Instead of calling for peace, he flies with the neoliberal and neoconservative hawks. His position caused outrage from the antiwar both left and right.

The question remains, does his candidacy even matter? Polls for Biden remain dismally low, hovering at an approval rating of 30%, and Trump still has his strong support base, recently galvanized by his arch-enemy Hillary Clinton publicly calling MAGA supporters “cult members” who need “deprogramming.” But then she was never able to read the room.

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MAGA power rocks the US establishment

According to RFK Jr. he hopes to pull votes from both Biden and Trump. His ultimate impact on the logistics of the election remains to be seen. Many third-party candidates get their names removed from the ballot or are not allowed to run at all. American Values 2024, a super PAC supporting Kennedy, says it raised over $11 million within six hours after he announced his switch to an independent candidacy. Many supporters see him as a truth-teller and an outsider maverick even with his famous family name.

According to recent national polling, one out of every seven voters backs Kennedy.  In an election with high voter satisfaction that is significant. According to a recent poll by Gallup, a whopping 63% of Americans want a third-party candidate. Whether all of these factors will translate into more votes pulled from Trump or Biden remains to be seen.

However, one thing is clear – there will be huge obstacles for all the candidates to clear to get past Biden’s elite defenses. For Trump, it’s his 91 felony charges and various gag orders as the establishment tries to eliminate opposition for Biden. For Kennedy, its the media suppression and the potential efforts to keep his name from the ballot, on top of the usual uphill battle faced by every third-party candidate.

Ultimately, in the smoke and mirrors of the political theater that is an American election, RFK Jr. may put on just enough of a show to give voters what they long for – a believable illusion of choice – without actually endangering the uniparty establishment he so dramatically opposes.

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