I noticed an interesting phenomenon over the weekend. Democratic presidential challenger Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. kept popping up. Even more shockingly, he kept popping up in MAGA circles.
I’ll give you a few examples. The biggest was the internet kerfuffle in which Joe Rogan interviewed RFKJr sparking a Twitter clash with a vaccine scientist. A second example is a JFK assassination podcast that somehow became linked with our Racket News Substack. When I kept seeing notifications pop up about the podcast, I gave it a listen and it was full of conspiracy theories and RFKJr.
My last example involves a Twitter poll that asked users if they would support a Trump-Kennedy unity ticket in 2024. The poll by an account, the Calvin Coolidge Project, is not scientific, but more than 3,400 users voted and 49 percent were open to the idea. Getting 3,400 votes in a Twitter poll is a bit of an accomplishment in itself for a relatively unknown account.
To most of us, a unity ticket between Donald Trump and RFKJr seems like, well, a crazy idea. And it is. But there seems to be a substantial portion of MAGAland that thinks this idea could become reality and would be a good thing.
As one Twitter user commented on the poll thread, “It might be the only unifying ticket. Kennedy is sure redpilling democrats and normies. I don’t particularly believe all the disclaimers about it being a nonstarter, there’s a lot of kayfabe going on these days.”
If that’s not as clear as mud, here is a translation: “It might be the only way to bring the country together. Kennedy is showing Democrats and nonbelievers the truth. I think it could really happen because there are a lot of apparent rivalries that are staged.”
Kennedy is a real candidate. He is currently polling in second place in the Democratic primary with about 15 percent support.
Kennedy is not a serious candidate. My interpretation is that he is a protest candidate for Democrats unhappy with Biden. They don’t necessarily like Kennedy, but they want to register their disapproval with the status quo. Kennedy is no Bernie Sanders when it comes to igniting the progressive wing of the party.
The dynamic is similar to the Republican primary where Donald Trump polls with a majority of support while DeSantis is at about 20 percent. Everyone knows who is going to win, even if there is committed minority opposition and a widespread lack of excitement for the front-runner.
“If [Democratic] voters knew more about RFK Jr.'s actual record, that support would drop,” political scientist John Pitney told Newsweek.
RFKJt is an anti-vaccine activist who blames Zelensky and NATO for inciting the war in Ukraine. His famous name probably accounts for much of his support among Democrats who are unaware of his stances that are out of step with most Democrats.
And then there are his more fringe beliefs. For example, like Alex Jones, Kennedy is reportedly concerned about chemicals in the water supply that allegedly turn frogs gay. There is also another clip of Kennedy telling a crowd that the pandemic was an excuse to install 5G “in all of our communities to begin the process of shifting us all to a digital currency, which is the beginning of slavery.” This is crackpot stuff.
On the other hand, his very un-Democratic Party beliefs on a few hot-button issues and some conspiracy theories may be what is attracting Republican and MAGA admirers. His anti-vax and Putinophile positions are right at home with the GOP’s MAGA wing and his conspiracy beliefs fit in with the tinfoil hatters and QAnon adherents on the right.
The Kennedy connection probably doesn’t hurt either. Remember that the QAnon crowd was all aflutter at their prophecy that John F. Kennedy, Jr. would emerge from hiding and for some reason join Trump in his quest for whatever. Maybe there’s a bit of Kennedy worship on both sides.
I think that to some extent, the Kennedys are blank slates. Both sides try to co-opt JFK and Camelot for their own issues. Each side can pick and choose quotes or policies from JFK that fit their own agenda.
As an example of malleable the Kennedy legacy is, take the plots of two novels. [Spoiler alert!] In Stephen King’s “11/22/63” (one of my all-time favorite novels), a man travels back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination in order to stop the tragedy of Vietnam from happening. In another book, “The Third Bullet” by Stephen Hunter, a rogue CIA officer orchestrates the assassination in order to stop the tragedy of Vietnam from happening. It’s tough for both points of view to be correct.
The rub is that Kennedy’s MAGA supporters probably don’t know what else he stands for. For instance, he is pro-choice and pro-gun control, he favored Trump’s impeachment, he supports climate change regulation, and he thinks schools should teach critical race theory.
Will MAGA still love him when these positions come out? Maybe not. But maybe they will. After all, Trump is already starting to abandon his relatively new rightist positions. In MAGA world, the only issue that really seems to matter is, “How do you feel about Trump?”
Whichever way MAGA comes down on RFKJr, the Trump world’s dalliance with the Democratic Kennedy is a lot like its embrace of Kanye West. Both men are obviously troubled and mentally unbalanced, but the MAGA right latches onto them because their values align for at least the moment on a few issues. He is valuable for the moment as Joe Biden’s most viable challenger.
Robert Kennedy, Jr. is a flash in the pan. His campaign will go nowhere. The few Democrats who back him will mostly dump him when his quackery becomes known. He will remain as a guest of fringe right talk shows like Tulsi Gabbard, but his liberal beliefs will prevent him from changing parties or becoming a part of a unity ticket.
Plus, Kennedy fails the most important litmus test for Republican voters. He may wear a tinfoil hat, but he does not seem to be a fan of Donald Trump, even if their views on some issues align. And RFKJr is much farther out on the fringe when it comes to vaccines than Trump is. (It’s ironic that one of Trump’s greatest accomplishments, quickly bringing COVID vaccines to widespread use, is now a liability in the Republican primary.)
Ultimately, Kennedy is just a curiosity. His celebrity is an illustration of the confusing nature of our politics in which a failing Democratic candidate could emerge as a popular figure among Republicans because he happens to share a number of their conspiracy theories. That’s an indictment of both Kennedy and the Republican base.
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JACK SMITH GEAR: Axios reported that merchandise featuring the special counsel has become popular since The Former Guy was indicted. As for me, I’m not going to wear shirts or wave flags with a disgraced former president’s name, but I don’t want to wear a shirt with a government lawyer’s name on it either.
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That is probably game, set, and match for the classified documents criminal case.
HUNTER BIDEN GUILTY PLEA: The Wall Street Journal reports that Hunter Biden has agreed to plead guilty to failure to pay income taxes. Axios reports that there is also a plea on a nonviolent gun charge that involves probation.