A Return to Camelot?

Regardless of where you get your odds on who will win the 2024 Democratic Party presidential nomination, the prohibitive favorite, for some strange reason, is Joseph R. Biden. Way below Biden on the list are seeming no-hopers, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Oprah, Rachel Maddow, and Megan Markle. In an even lower tier of ignominy we find the most recent entry in the Democrats’ presidential sweepstakes: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the late, great Robert F. Kennedy, and nephew of martyred President John F. Kennedy, undisputed Democratic Party royalty.

In one sense, this is surprising. Why wouldn’t a Kennedy (and not just a minor Kennedy, either) be taken seriously as a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination? RFK, Jr., at 69, seems youthful compared to Joe Biden. Although, to be fair, who doesn’t? In addition, he’s an accomplished author, an environmental lawyer, and a longtime activist for causes that most progressives adore, such as alternative energy, indigenous peoples’ rights, and children’s health. Plus, he’s handsome, and he’s one of the few Kennedys who’s never been accused of killing anyone! Sounds like a dreamboat of a candidate to me.

And here is where we get into RFK, Jr.’s “dark side”, at least from the Democratic insiders’ perspective. Most media analyses of Kennedy’s entry into the presidential race said virtually nothing about him, except perfunctorily acknowledging his pedigree and labeling him an “anti-vaxxer” and a conspiracy theorist. Oh, boy! 

From the leftist point of view, one doesn’t really have to know anything about a person except that they oppose COVID vaccines to know for sure that they’re a walking abomination and unworthy of drawing breath. And, unfortunately for Kennedy, he wasn’t just coincidentally or subtly against COVID vaccination. On the contrary, he’s been a vaccine skeptic for years, and he was vehement throughout the recent pandemic that the vaccines were dangerous and that public health experts like—gasp!—Saint Anthony Fauci (may his name be praised!) were misleading and manipulating the American people. In fact, he wrote a couple of books about it. 

That all sounds like the sort of “speaking truth to power” and critical thinking that your typical progressive finds unforgivable.

Kennedy’s departures from Democratic Party orthodoxy don’t end there. He once questioned election integrity—a big no-no—although, in his defense, he did it back in 2004, when many other Democrats were doing the same thing in hopes of overturning George W. Bush’s reelection by wish fulfillment. Other suspect positions taken by Kennedy include criticism of Bill Gates, opposition to an interventionist foreign policy (which used to be cool, but now, in an age when liberals wave the Ukrainian flag with more alacrity than the stars and stripes, isn’t), and an openness to alternative theories about who killed his uncle and his father.

So, in short, there’s plenty on the negative side of the political ledger that might make progressives and Democratic establishment types think twice about backing Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as the Democratic presidential nominee. To top it all off, he’s also a falconer. Is that good or bad, you ask? Probably bad. You don’t find many working class Joes who enjoy falconry, do you? And we all know how the Democratic Party stands for the little guy, right?

While things aren’t looking promising for RFK’s son at this early stage, there is one thing he has going for him: right now, the field of Democrats who are willing to challenge Joe Biden for the nomination is exceptionally thin. It’s pretty much Marianne Williamson and Kennedy. Say what you want about RFK, Jr., but he’s no Marianne Williamson! He’s got to be more viable than her.

What this means is that, unless the Democrats really do intend to renominate a man in his 80s, and who looks, sounds, and acts like he’s in his 90s, there’s a chance that, despite themselves, they might have to take a second look at the few alternative candidates that have presented themselves. After all, there’s a good chance that Biden will be cruising to the nomination in the spring of 2024, and then, all of a sudden, he’ll soil himself on the U.N. dais, and then Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. won’t look so bad anymore, or so unrealistic.

Here’s hoping! For all Kennedy’s flaws, he’d bring some romance, idealism, and dignity back to a party that used to have plenty of all three, but somehow lost its way and hitched its wagon to the Biden family’s dark star. 

Perhaps Kennedy could dust off one of his uncle’s slogans from 1960: “We Can Do Better.” He’d get no argument from me.

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About Nicholas L. Waddy

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com. He appears on the Newsmaker Show on WLEA 1480/106.9.

Photo: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic