Assassinated President John F. Kennedy famously said life is unfair in remarks on the inequities of who goes to war and who doesn’t during a 1962 reference to the emerging Vietnam conflict.
Six decades later, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., 69, is on a mission to belie his uncle’s dictum by defying odds of presidential politics as a Democrat outlier, even if President Biden seeks reelection.
Kennedy’s chances of success are marginal. Not because he’s a sometimes unpopular offshoot of the Democrats royal family.
Far from it. His name recognition is undisputed, not only as a Kennedy but also as an environmental attorney who has fought for clean water and air and against corporate greed.
His roadblock is strictly self-made by his fierce opposition to vaccinations, including COVID-19 shots. In his 2021 book “The Real Anthony Fauci,” Kennedy argues natural immunity is superior to vaccine immunity, and that school closures and lockdowns were counterproductive.
On that issue, he’s aligned with many Republicans.
Nonetheless, Kennedy considers himself a true liberal Democrat. A contrarian for sure, much like his dad Robert F. Kennedy, former U.S. Attorney General, U.S. Senator for New York and an assassinated 1968 Democratic presidential candidate.
Bobby Kennedy challenged Democrat Hubert Humphrey, then vice president and leading presidential candidate, that year on America’s involvement in the Vietnam War and social justice issues. Had a bullet to the head the night of his victory in the California primary not ended his campaign, RFK could have likely been the Democratic presidential nominee.
Now RFK Jr. is actively testing his popularity in New Hampshire, the state dethroned by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and President Biden as the party’s first presidential primary. They gave South Carolina the honor.
But not without backlash for casting aside decades of tradition that put New Hampshire’s down-to-earth, retail style politics in the leadoff spot.
There remains a stumbling block. New Hampshire state law mandates holding the first presidential primary for both parties a week before any other state, frustrating the DNC’s plan for South Carolina to kick off the 2024 primary season on Feb. 3rd.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vows New Hampshire will go with the law no matter what the DNC and Biden decide. The Republican National Committee is onboard. The GOP and Democrat primaries could move up to late January.
“We’re going first whether they (Democrats) like it or not,” asserts Sununu.
That means an unsanctioned Democrat primary unless Biden and the DNC change their mind. Under party rules, the winner of an unsanctioned election cannot claim the state’s delegates to the national convention.
It could also force Democrats to arrange a New Hampshire primary without state approval or funding. As it stands now, the DNC has listed the Granite State primary as second in line on Feb. 7.
Kennedy has established an exploratory committee in New Hampshire to attract volunteers and donations. He also appeared recently as a featured speaker at the New Hampshire Institute or Politics at Saint Anselm College, the usual site for hosting scores of national journalists covering the nation’s first primary election.
“If it looks like I can raise the money and mobilize enough people to win, I’ll jump in the race,” Kennedy said in a statement. “If I run, my top priority will be to end the corrupt merger between state and corporate power that has ruined our economy, shattered the middle class, polluted our landscapes and waters, poisoned our children, and robbed us of our values and freedom.”
With 4 in 10 Democrats in a Monmouth University poll released this week saying they prefer Biden step aside for another candidate, Kennedy’s political ambition just might have legs.
Or it could play out as a star-crossed scene from Camelot.
Bill Ketter is CNHI’s senior vice president of news. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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