RFK Jr. Turns Left

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. tapped California attorney Nicole Shanahan as his running mate for vice president during an event in Oakland, California, on March 26, 2024. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images)

A couple of months ago, I argued that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. might pose a more significant threat to the electoral hopes of former President Donald Trump than to Kennedy’s former fellow Democrat, President Joe Biden.

My reasoning was based on several things, but principally that Kennedy’s only reliable path to ballot access was through the Libertarian Party, whose members Kennedy had been assiduously courting. To win the Libertarian nod at the party’s May convention, the longtime environmental activist would have to play up his anti-government radicalism (e.g. on vaccine mandates) instead of his ecological radicalism.

Kennedy’s other positions, like his unabashed support for Israel in its war with Hamas but opposition to support for Ukraine, line up very nicely with the current mood of the nationalist right. As does his tough stances on border security and access to elective abortions. Anti-vax, anti-Ukraine, pro-Israel, pro-border crackdown, and pro-life? Put this guy in the Freedom Caucus, already.

But Kennedy’s greatest threat to Trump’s support among the MAGA base is on vibes. Where Trump finds himself trying to maintain his posture as simultaneously a transgressive outsider intent on disrupting the system and the maximum leader of a major political party, Kennedy can pretty much say or do whatever he likes. While Trump has to both say that he is too rich to be bought and look to billionaires for bailouts, Kennedy remains the consummate outsider’s insider.

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