Standing before thousands of supporters on the lawn of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, presidential candidate and lifelong Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced he was abandoning his bid for his party’s nomination and is running as an independent candidate for president.
“I am here to join all of you to make a new Declaration of Independence for our entire nation,” Kennedy said.
“We declare independence from the two political parties and the corrupt interests that dominate them, and the entire rigged system of rancor and rage, corruption and lies, that has turned government officials into indentured servants of their corporate bosses.
“We declare our independence from these corrupting powers because they are incompatible with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that our original Declaration of Independence invoked in 1776.”
Kennedy, 69, a scion of the Kennedy Democratic political dynasty, is the son of Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy. Both his father and uncle were assassinated. He acknowledged it was painful to leave a party his family helped lead, but he had concluded there was no other choice in order to make real change for the country.
Kennedy is an environmental lawyer and a writer. Many of his ideas are considered outside mainstream dogma, particularly on vaccines and various public health issues. Many accuse him of being a conspiracy theorist, and polls show he is unpopular among likely Democratic primary voters.
How his candidacy will affect the reelection campaigns of President Joe Biden or the presumptive GOP nominee, former President Donald Trump, is an open question.
“RFK Jr. stands as the first significant third-party (or) independent candidate since Ross Perot. He’s polled well into double digits against Joe Biden among Democrats but also has significant support among Republicans. It’s hard to tell at this point into which bucket he will dig deeper,” said political consultant Charlie Gerow, CEO of Quantum Communications in Harrisburg.
In the speech, Gerow noted the independence Kennedy declared was “more than being independent of the two existing parties. It is also independence from tribal thinking. It is to be free of the reflex of taking sides. Instead of ‘Which side are you on?’ it asks, ‘What do you care about? What do your children need? What are your troubles? Who do you love?’ Because our country is never going heal if the only formula is for one half of the population to beat the other in pitched battle.”
Some of Trump’s supporters fear Kennedy may draw as much support away from Trump as from Biden.
Jason Miller, a Trump advisor, said on X, “More than two decades of Kennedy’s own statements, social media posts, and even arrest records reveal a candidate who has repeatedly espoused extreme environmentalist and radical socialist beliefs.”
And in another sign the GOP is worried, the Republican National Committee released a list Monday entitled “23 reasons to oppose the candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.” It included references to his support for a ban on fracking and his support for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Joe Foster, a national Democratic committeeman from Montgomery County said, “I understand that he could never have been endorsed or stop Biden’s candidacy, so I understand his decision. But I can’t see that many voters joining him – too much will be at stake in 2024 for voters to become whimsical or through their own sense of protest against a system aid the election of Donald Trump.”
An Elkins Park man who formerly supported Trump but now supports Kennedy told DVJournal he is pleased that RFK Jr. is running as an independent. But the man, who asked that his name not be used because he owns a business, thinks Kennedy hurts Biden more than he does Trump.
“I think Trump’s base is growing,” he said.