The Candidacies of Robert Kennedy Jr and Cornell West

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #103 | By: William Borque | October 20, 2023
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With the 2024 Presidential race beginning to heat up, most of the action is focused on the Republican primary.  However, there are some outsider names on the left that have also been stirring the pot.  While neither is likely to garner any notable support, both have gotten their share of headlines in recent weeks and months.  The first is Robert F. Kennedy Jr, the son of Former Attorney General and Presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy.  Junior is running as an independent and is known for his distrust of vaccines and absurd rallies where he attempts to prove his physical prowess.

Kennedy’s views are largely conspiratorial, with many arguing that he is running for President simply to attempt relevance.  He often discusses his thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that he thinks it may have been started on purpose. He draws on his history as an environmental lawyer and does have strong pro-environment views. He supports sustainable farming practices and the elimination of fossil fuels and is in favor of the Green New Deal.  He also has views which border on the unbelievable, like that the CIA was involved in JFK’s murders and that prescription antidepressants cause mass shootings.

While Kennedy has some small pockets of support amongst the extreme left, he is not going to garner any change to electoral results based on current polls. One of his most vocal celebrity supporters is New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is notably anti-vaccine.  If RFK is to draw support away from anyone, it is likely to be President Biden, given his stances on most issues other than vaccines.

Another notable name that may draw support away from President Biden is far left activist Cornel West.  West is an activist, philosopher, and university Professor who has moved from the People’s Party to the Green Party and is now running as an independent. The Green Party is currently without a candidate since West’s departure. West has strong positions on social justice and equality, most of which he has spoken out about in his career. He is notably anti-capitalist and has spoken extensively on the subject. West also has a strong belief in public housing, the reduction of military spending, the Green New Deal, and universal healthcare for all Americans.

West is arguably further on the fringe than Kennedy Jr but may be seen as an alternative for far-left voters who aren’t anti-vaccine. West is a socialist and is supported by many in the Democratic Socialists of America, although they haven’t issued an official endorsement yet. West may swing slightly more progressive voters than RFK, which should worry Biden.  West is far less of a wildcard and holds more mainstream progressive views.  If Biden doesn’t take progressive action in the next year, progressive voters may begin supporting West to put the pressure on.

Although neither are a serious threat to win the presidency, they may be a key factor in determining whether Joe Biden retains the White House. Third party candidates have been factors in presidential races before, most notably in recent history with the Green Party’s Ralph Nader.  Nader won 3% of the national vote, taking away votes in key states from Al Gore and winning the presidency for George Bush.  Ross Perot was another notable third-party candidate, taking key voters away from Bob Dole and securing President Clinton an easy re-election.  George Washington warned of a two-party system tearing our country apart, and it seems that he predicted our current predicament. Third party candidates are a key cog in the wheel of democracy.


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