Robert F. Kennedy Jr. declared his “independence from the Democratic Party” on Monday in Philadelphia, ending his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and launching an independent bid that he said aims to heal the political divide, which he described as a fiction of a corrupt establishment.
“I intend to take the reins of power from both parties and hand it over to the American people,” he said, comparing Republicans and Democrats to teenagers fighting over the steering wheel of a runaway car, but both following a programmed GPS. by lobbyists.
“This hatred we have for each other is orchestrated,” Kennedy continued, while drawing on a medieval metaphor. “My job… is to unify Americans. “Then let’s all cross the castle walls together.”
Kennedy has struggled to gain ground in the Democratic primary, even as voters expressed a desire for someone younger to take up the party banner from President Joe Biden. His views on issues like vaccines and abortion have left him outside the Democratic mainstream.
A crowd of about 1,000 turned out on a sunny fall day to hear Kennedy speak in front of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Some wore suits and ties, others Kennedy-made T-shirts, hats and buttons, and at least one custom-made cape. One sign read: “I want Camelot,” a reference to the mythologized Kennedy dynasty.
“There have been anti-establishment candidates before, but none of them really understand how to do the job,” he said. “This time the independent is going to win.”
Kennedy said the time has come, citing the growing share of Americans who tell pollsters they are fed up with both parties: A record 63% say Republicans and Democrats do “such a poor job” of representing America. that “a major third party is necessary,” according to a new Gallup poll.
Still, Kennedy faces many difficulties. The independent presidential candidate with the best results in the last century, Ross Perot, obtained only 19% of the popular vote in 1992, which translated into zero votes in the Electoral College, since the winner of each state gathers all the votes he They really determine who wins the election. White House.
Given that reality, Democrats worry that a third candidate on the ticket would be an obstacle for Biden, even though polls show Republicans like Kennedy more than Democrats.
“Three-quarters of Americans believe Biden is too informed to govern effectively,” Kennedy said, before noting that former President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, faces multiple criminal charges.
“My intention is to spoil the situation for both of you,” Kennedy said.
The scion of the first family of Democratic politics said it was “very painful” for him to leave the party of his uncles (one was president, another senator), his father (former attorney general and senator), his grandfather (ambassador) and his great-grandfather. grandfather (one was mayor and congressman, another was a councilman), and break with his “political dynasty.”
The rest of the Kennedy family, most of whom remain committed Democrats, have generally been critical of “Bobby’s” campaign, but took the time to mention the names of several Kennedys and Shrivers who attended.
in a statementFour of the most prominent and politically active members of the Kennedy family condemned his decision to run against Biden.
“Bobby may share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment. Today’s announcement is deeply saddening for us. We denounce his candidacy and believe it is dangerous for our country,” Rory said. Kerry and former Representative Joe Kennedy, along with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
But Kennedy said the break was necessary because Democrats have lost their way and being free of any party is the only way to overcome the totalizing tribalism of contemporary politics and the paralysis it has caused.
Kennedy launched his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in April in Boston, a place associated with his famous family, but chose different symbolism for Monday’s announcement, making it in front of a large banner that read: “KENNEDY 24 – DECLARE YOUR INDEPENDENCE.”
He said he and his “populist movement that challenges the left-right divide” were declaring independence from corporations, Wall Street, polluters and polarizing politics. At times he seemed to echo Trump, saying that he will break with “the mercenary media that is here to strengthen all the corporate orthodoxies of their advertisers.”
“It’s going to be very difficult for people to say whether my administration is right-wing or left-wing. Is it right or left to support small farms? Is it right or left to bring our country back from the brink of war with Russia? Is it right or left to have a totally secure electoral system in which we know that every vote will count? Kennedy said. “As long as we’re stuck in these regular debates, the two parties often don’t see common sense solutions.”
And Kennedy, who has battled the media and other fact-based institutions for decades over his conspiracy theories about vaccines and technology, took aim at the press for, he claimed, underestimating his perspectives and sowing political division.
Kennedy’s announcement that he would be independent of “any party” also ended speculation that he would join the Libertarian Party, whose president met this summer, or the Green Party, which Democrats blame in part for ruining the election. from 2000 and 2016.
That means next November’s vote may be crowded. In addition to the two candidates from the main parties, and two from the established third parties, two well-known independents are currently running (Kennedy and the philosopher Cornel West), in addition to the possible incorporation of a centrist candidate without labels.
Still, getting on the ballot in all 50 states is a difficult task without the help of a party. And with more than a year to go, several candidates could end their candidacies before Election Day.