RFK Jr. Announces Independent Run for President, Switching From Democratic Party
RFK Jr. Announces Independent Run for President, Switching From Democratic Party

By Jeff Louderback

PHILADELPHIA—Citing his belief in a path to victory and moved by his claim that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is “rigging” the party’s primary elections, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced on Oct. 9 that he will run for president as an independent.

“I’m here to declare myself an independent candidate for president of the United States. I’m here to join you in making a new declaration of independence for our entire nation,” Mr. Kennedy said to an enthusiastic crowd at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Mr. Kennedy continued by “declaring independence” from “corporations that have hijacked our government” along with Wall Street, big tech, big pharma, big agriculture, the “mercenary media”, military contractors and their lobbyists, “cynical elites who betray our hope amplify divisions,” and “the two political parties.”

The candidate said he took inspiration from the only president who was an independent, George Washington. He told supporters that he was declaring his independence from the Democrat party and that it was a painful decision he didn’t take lightly because of his family’s longstanding ties to the party.

“There have been independent candidates in the past. This time, it will be different. This time, the independent will win,” Mr. Kennedy said.

For months after announcing his candidacy in April to challenge President Joe Biden for the 2024 Democrat nomination, Mr. Kennedy told media outlets and supporters that “I’m a Democrat” when asked if he would consider running as an independent or third-party candidate.

During an interview with The Epoch Times in Columbia, South Carolina, in August, he reiterated that stance when asked if he would serve as former President Donald Trump’s running mate or run as an independent or a third-party candidate.

“I’m a Democrat. The Democrat party has lost its way, and I want to return it to its traditional ideals,” Mr. Kennedy said.

“I’m hoping to run in the Democratic Party. If it’s possible to have a fair election in the Democratic Party, I will run in the Democratic Party, and I haven’t made any kind of plans other than that,” he said.

Yet Mr. Kennedy has faced what he deems as multiple roadblocks to “fair primary elections” from the DNC. Earlier this year, the organization voted to give President Biden its full support. At the same meeting, the DNC voted to replace New Hampshire with South Carolina as the first-in-the-nation primary state. The organization has warned that New Hampshire will face potential penalties if that state’s Democrat primary does not comply with new primary calendar plans.

A few days later in New Hampshire, Mr. Kennedy told supporters that he would have to make a decision before Oct. 15 to run as an independent and that it would require about $15 million in funds to get on the ballot in all 50 states.

Meeting With Other Party Leaders

Mr. Kennedy met with Libertarian Party Chair Angela McArdle at an event in Tennessee in July and the two have talked since, The New York Times reported. Ms. McArdle said that she would welcome Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy as a Libertarian but had not received a commitment.

Speculation that Mr. Kennedy would declare his run as an independent escalated further on Sept. 29 when he released a video announcing an event in Philadelphia on Oct. 9 when he would share “our path to the White House.”

“I’m going to be in Philadelphia on October 9, to make a major announcement at the very birthplace of our nation. I’m not going to tell you right now, exactly what that announcement will be. I can say, though, that if you’ve been waiting to come to one of my public events, this will be the one to come,” Mr. Kennedy said in the video that appears on his campaign website.

“I’ll be speaking about how to see change in American politics and what your part and my part is in that change,” he added. “A lot of Americans who had previously given up any hope and real change come through the American electoral process have begun to find new hope in my candidacy.”

Later in the video, Mr. Kennedy noted, “Our government may be broken, but our people are kind, brave and caring that goodness is stronger than the divisions that are keeping us all apart. I see it every day on the campaign trail, and the more I see it, the more I trust it. And the more I trust that the more the path to victory becomes visible.”

Democrats Maneuvering

The DNC’s new 2024 early nominating schedule—following the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses—opens with the South Carolina primary on Feb. 3 followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on Feb. 6, Georgia on Feb. 13, and Michigan on Feb. 27.

Last week, at its fall meeting in St. Louis, the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws committee voted the newest version of New Hampshire’s delegate selection plan non-compliant.

Before the committee’s decision last week, New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley told reporters that the vote of noncompliance would likely result in President Biden’s absence on the state’s ballot.

Iowa Democrats announced on Oct. 6 that on Jan. 12, 2024, they will mail presidential preference cards for the 2024 presidential caucuses, but they will not release the results until Super Tuesday, when more than a dozen other states also cast votes in Democrat primaries.

The DNC’s Rules Committee unanimously voted that the plan was in conditional compliance.

In 2020, President Biden lost in Iowa and New Hampshire to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) before winning South Carolina.

“They’re trying to make sure that I can’t participate at all in the political process, and so I’m going to keep all my options open,” Mr. Kennedy said earlier in October at a town hall in South Carolina.

“It’s pretty clear that the DNC does not want a primary. Essentially, they are fixing the process so that it makes it almost impossible to have democracy function,” he added. “They’re effectively disenfranchising the Democratic voters from having any choice in who becomes president, the Democrat nominee.”

Mr. Kennedy continued to tell attendees at town halls in Texas and New Jersey in late September that he is “keeping his options open.”

Wide Appeal

A poll commissioned by the American Values 2024 political action committee working to get Mr. Kennedy elected president, conducted by Zogby Strategies and released Oct. 2, showed that if Mr. Kennedy ran as an independent or third-party candidate in a race against President Biden and President Donald Trump, he would start at 19 percent compared to 38 percent for President Biden and President Trump.

The results indicate that Mr. Kennedy is “pulling just as much from Trump as he is from Biden,” American Values 2024 co-chair Tony Lyons told The Epoch Times.

RFK Jr. supporters gather at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to hear him announce his run as an independent. (Jeff Louderback/The Epoch Times)

“Critics of independents and third-party candidates always claim that they split the vote and serve as a spoiler, but what we are seeing is that people are disillusioned with both major parties and they are tired of partisan politics,” Mr. Lyons said. “People are tired of being told what to do, what to think, and who to vote for by the Democrat and Republican parties, and they are open to an alternative candidate.”

“Bobby Kennedy believes in free speech, ending the Ukraine war and a strong border, so he is a classic Democrat like his father and uncle were,” Mr. Lyons said, referring to the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy, respectively. “That is the opposite of what the DNC represents. This is not his father’s Democrat party.”

During his Oct. 9 announcement in Philadelphia, Mr. Kennedy said, “Media pundits are gonna tell you that we don’t have any chance and have given me a couple of first names. One of them is ‘long-shot candidate.’”

“They say my impact is only going to draw votes from the other candidates. The Democrats are frightened that I’m gonna spoil the election for President Biden and the Republicans are frightened that I’m gonna spoil it for President Trump. The truth is, they’re both right,” Mr. Kennedy added to rousing applause.

Brent Snyder is a registered Republican who voted for President Trump in 2016 and 2020. He attended Mr. Kennedy’s announcement in Philadelphia and told The Epoch Times that “there is so much corruption with the two parties and I’m tired of it. We need someone new, someone fresh, who can bring us together.”

Mr. Snyder told The Epoch Times that Mr. Kennedy appeals to moderates and independents while President Trump has trouble reaching those voters.

“I think right now, a lot of people feel that there is a huge divide in this country. And even though I do support President Trump, I just think that he just brings too much division and too much baggage,” Mr. Snyder added.

“I mean, he can’t focus on running for president and he can’t focus on his job as president if he keeps having these indictments.”

Mr. Kennedy has drawn interest from conservatives, moderates, independents, and liberals for his vow to “heal the divide” and “unify the country” by fighting corporate corruption, ending the Ukraine war, addressing the border crisis, and protecting Second Amendment rights, among other focuses.

He has also said that he will offer 3 percent mortgages for Americans funded by tax-free bonds, ban pharmaceutical advertising on television, and “work on changing the tax code to make it more difficult for large corporations to buy single-family homes.”

Voters Weigh In

At every town hall and campaign stop, Mr. Kennedy rails against Blackrock, State Street, and Vanguard, which he notes owns more than 80 percent of the companies on the S&P 500.

Those messages resonated with three supporters of Mr. Kennedy’s presidential bid. Outside of Clark University in Atlanta, where Mr. Kennedy held a meet and greet, D’Barly Nicolas, Joel White, and John Salvesen held Kennedy yard signs and talked for an hour after the event had ended on a humid late September night.

Mr. White, a self-described “hippie,” is traveling around the country with a pickup truck towing a camper adorned with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. logos.

He lives in New York City and applauded Mr. Kennedy, who is an environmental attorney, for his work on helping improve conditions in the Hudson River through advocacy and litigation against corporations that contributed to pollution.

“I can jump into the Hudson River now. Not that I’m a big swimmer or anything, but 40 years ago, it would’ve been dangerous to my health to swim in the Hudson River. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has a track record of successfully suing corporations and government agencies that are involved in corruption, and winning. We need someone in the White House who is not afraid to fight against government and corporate corruption,” Mr. White said.

“He’s a wealthy guy. He doesn’t have to do this,” Mr. White added. “I think Trump’s nuts, too. Why the hell would you want this job with all the stress and attacks that come with it? You gotta love people. You gotta truly love America and be willing to stand up to make it better. That is what Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will do.”

Fellow Political Candidate Speaks

Mr. Salvesen is running for the U.S. House in Georgia’s 4th Congressional District. He faces a longshot bid to defeat longtime incumbent Hank Johnson in a Democrat stronghold.

Mr. Salvesen supports Mr. Kennedy because of the “Heal the Divide” message and his campaign platform designed to ban pharmaceutical advertising and make it more difficult for companies to buy single-family homes among the candidate’s other ideas.

“I have done the research, and though he’s a Democrat and I’m a conservative Republican, we’re on the same page on most of the key issues,” Mr. Salvesen told The Epoch Times. “If people take the time to listen to him and do the research on what he says and what he stands for, I think they will support him whether they are a Democrat, a Republican, or an independent.”

Ms. Nicolas, a truck driver and registered Democrat who lives in Atlanta, voted for President Biden in 2020.

“I didn’t know Biden would be the way he has been since he took office. I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but now I am,” Ms. Nicolas said. “I started reading more and kept hearing what Mr. Kennedy was saying. The more I read about him, the more I saw that I believe in what he believes, and I would like to see happen what he says he will do.”

“He’s our best hope. I think that he’s our only hope with how bad our country has become,” Ms. Nicolas added.

New Opportunities

Mark Gorton is co-chairman of the American Values PAC. He told The Epoch Times that the Zogby poll shows that “Bobby is starting with strong support from across [the] electorate. It’s not enough to win yet, but starting out at 19 percent in a three-way race is impressive.”

“This could be the weakest set of establishment party candidates that we have seen. President Biden is polling horribly and visible signs of dementia and involved in a scandal where he sold out the country. President Trump has legal issues. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the candidate who can attract conservatives, moderates, and independents—people from all sides who are tired of the establishment,” Mr. Gorton added.

Now that Mr. Kennedy has officially announced his plan to run as an independent, and he is not limited to Democrat primaries, Mr. Gorton believes that the candidate will maximize the next 13 months to get “more name recognition and get his platform known.”

“There is still a huge percentage of the American electorate that doesn’t know who RFK Jr. is because he has faced so much censorship. A lot of people don’t pay attention to politics and believe what they read and see in mainstream media,” Mr. Gorton said.

“Creating awareness about who he really is and what he will do if elected will take time, effort, and money. A year of freedom to travel around the country meeting voters, going on podcasts and social media, and having fundraisers will make an impactful difference.”

Mr. Kennedy said that, if elected, he will “build coalitions from both sides of the aisle.”

“What that means is that members of Congress will start working together across party lines in ways that we’ve barely seen for a generation. My uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, had his name on more pieces of legislation than any senator in the United States history. He accomplished that because of his capacity to reach across the aisle,” he said.

The widespread spectrum of support will ultimately propel him to victory, Mr. Kennedy believes.

“I’m proud to say that my supporters include both pro-lifers and pro-choicers, climate activists and climate skeptics, and vaccinated and unvaccinated people who for years have been on both sides of the culture war. More and more Americans are beginning to understand and for the good of our country, one cannot insist on getting one’s way on every issue. They understand that people can disagree and still respect each other,” Mr. Kennedy said.

“Independence is more than being independent of two existing parties. It’s also independence from tribal thinking,” he added. “It used to be the Democratic Party opposed censorship. It was the Democratic Party that wanted to rein in the military and the CIA. It was the Democratic Party that fought corporate influence. Remember when Wall Street and big corporations all supported the Republicans? Who is the liberal now and who’s the conservative? Who is the left who is the right? Labels make less and less sense,” Mr. Kennedy said.

“It’s gonna be very hard for people to tell whether my administration is left or right.”

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