By Blake Fleetwood / Original to ScheerPost
Last week Robert F. Kennedy Jr. launched his campaign for President 2024. His main campaign theme is to end the corrupt alliance of big business and government. He blames this alliance for the rigging of the system that has destroyed the middle class over the last 40 years. He points to the nefarious collusion between big government and big corporations and the transfer of enormous wealth and power over the last 40 years to an American oligarchy, an elite that does not take the needs of the majority into account.
Kennedy has been marginalized by the mainstream media for 18 years due to his skepticism of vaccines and for questioning the collusion between pharmaceutical companies and the CDC and FDA. His views on the Ukraine war — “we are driving Russia and China into an alliance” and sucking money from urgent domestic needs — have also served to ostracize him.
He’s an environmental activist, author, law school professor, and Time Magazine Hero For the Planet for his environmental advocacy.
I first met Bobby some years ago and have followed his career closely. I have not always agreed with him, especially about the dangers of the mRNA vaccines, but I know him to be deeply honest, totally dedicated to his beliefs and willing to back them up with personal courage and scientific evidence. Kennedy is a powerful speaker (see video), with a message for change that may be eagerly received by the majority of voters who believe everything is rigged against them. Kennedy says their government has been lying to Americans, and that this is inexcusable. He promises to never lie, a nearly Sisyphean task.
No doubt the Kennedy campaign is a long shot. It may all depend on the primary vote in New Hampshire. Granite state voters are quirky. The huge vote for Gene McCarthy in 1968 drove President Lyndon Johnson to withdraw from running again. Today, NH voters are furious at President Biden for moving the first primary date to South Carolina. New Hampshire is a state filled with disgruntled white voters who are looking for a change.
When John F. Kennedy narrowly won the presidency in 1960, he won white voters without a college degree by 60%, but lost college graduates by a two-to-one margin. In 2020 the numbers were almost exactly reversed for President Biden, who lost white voters without a degree by a two-to-one margin while winning white college graduates by a similar margin.
Robert Kennedy Jr. aims to reverse this drift away from the Democrats since the 1970s by appealing to angry middle and working class white Independents, Republicans and Democrats. These are the voters to whom his father Robert F. Kennedy appealed in 1968 and later voted for staunch segregationist George Wallace.
Robert Kennedy Jr. hopes to take on his father’s cloak as the activist champion of the country’s disinherited middle class. He is outraged that “America has systematically wiped out the middle class.”
A key component will be the Independent vote, maybe as high as 40%.
New Hampshire’s election laws allow Independents to vote in either party’s primary. Past voting in the Granite State suggests a strong relationship between the Independent voter and non establishment candidates. Examples are strong showings by Trump and Sanders in past primaries
Dennis Kucinich, a populist former mayor of Cleveland, and an eight-term congressman from Ohio, introduced Kennedy at his announcement last Wednesday. He is expected to play a large role in the campaign.
“We have a rendezvous with history and destiny, “ Kucinich said. “Under the leadership of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., we will restore the Democratic Party.”
I like what President Biden has done. He has outperformed expectations, maybe more than Barack Obama. But he is deeply distrusted by Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. Perhaps the underlying issue is age. Biden, who announced this week, is running on the ominous sounding slogan of “finish the job,” The reality is that Democrats, and many Republicans, don’t like the job that he is doing. Biden is saddled with a 54% disapproval rating, while 62% of Democrats don’t want him to run again. Many feel that the system is rigged against them and that now they are stuck with an 80-year-old president who is not going to change much. Polls show that most Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction by 62.5%. Many Americans, 38%, feel “exhaustion”about a potential rematch between President Biden and former President Trump. According to a recent poll, 40.2% say the United States is currently in a recession, 17% in a general state of stagnation, and 10.4% think the country is in a depression. Things might get worse quickly. In the first quarter of 2023 the U.S. economy growth slowed dramatically to 1.1%, much less than in the last two quarters.
In the end, Biden’s age and his shakiness will definitely be an issue.
Biden’s age is probably the reason why his advisers had him announcing his re-election in a Rose Garden video, where he didn’t have to face questions. President Biden has granted the fewest interviews since Ronald Reagan was president. His aides want to protect him from unscripted exchanges during which he has been prone to gaffes throughout most of his political life.
Most recent polls show Trump beating Biden in 2024. Kennedy Jr. says he has a better chance of beating Trump than Biden. In 2020, Biden came in fifth in the NH primary. Tellingly, Kennedy did not mention the word “vaccine” in the long speech.
Below is a conversation I had last week with Robert Kennedy Jr.:
Question: I will start off with a softball question but it’s not so simple. A rambling answer derailed your uncle Ted Kennedy’s aborted campaign for the presidency in 1979. What inspires you to run for president now?
RFK Jr.: 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, robbed us of our values and freedoms and destroyed the American dream that we all grew up with. I believe that this country is desperate for change, for a new kind of leadership, one that is not beholden to special interests or corporate donors, but that truly represents the people of this country. I want to run as an FDR president. It is a crime that 62% of American workers (those without a college degree) are making less money than they made 40 years ago.The fact that most Americans can’t afford to buy a house or pay for a college education is an outrage, as is the reality that people can’t afford their healthcare anymore. Why, you ask? For one simple reason: because of the tremendous influence of money; the people’s voice is no longer reflected in politics. Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower nailed it more than 60 years ago when he warned that the military-industrial complex will devastate our Democracy, impoverish our middle class, spread chaos across the globe and obliterate our moral authority. Today, both political parties are the war party.
Question: Despite your well-known work on environmental issues, particularly your advocacy for clean energy and water and opposition to fossil fuels–and your success creating over 350 River Keepers all over the globe, we cannot ignore the elephant in the room: most of the mainstream media considers you Anti-Vax and dangerous.
RFK Jr.: I am anti a lot of things…I am anti-Monsanto for putting cancer causing chemicals in pesticides that ordinary gardeners use. I won a $290 million judgment against them. I am anti-outsourcing our good jobs overseas, anti-government censorship in the media, anti-government mandates, anti-crony capitalism, anti-the war against the middle and working class, anti-the CIA hiding files about JFK and RFK assassinations 50 years later, anti-hiding information about drug testing, anti-government censorship of Covid origins in Wuhan.
And yes, I am skeptical of new drugs. And shouldn’t we all be skeptical when the pharmaceutical industry colludes with its captive regulators at the FDA to promote unproven drugs so they can make money? We don’t know what the long term effects of many of these MRNA vaccines will be. Unlike all other medicines, vaccines do not have to be safety tested with placebos. If something goes wrong, the pharmaceutical companies, by law, will not have any liability. If you end up with a stroke or heart attack or other long-Covid complications because of a vaccine, you have no recourse. I am appalled by the notion that drug companies, by federal statute, are not liable for injuries they may cause down the line. However, I’m not anti-vaccine, I just want to assure that vaccines are adequately tested for safety and efficacy. I want safe vaccines. All of my seven children have been vaccinated. I support safe vaccines. When we were growing up, there were only three vaccines, now kids have to get 72 shots–not all of them are necessary. 16 of these vaccines are for many diseases that are not even casually contagious. This pandemic is ending, our priority now should be to prepare for the next pandemic and start testing drugs and treatments now. I believe in science.
Question: I know that with other scientists, you have called for double blind, placebo vaccine testing by the FDA, as is done with all other drugs, and you are alarmed by the close financial ties and kickbacks that powerful pharmaceutical companies have with the FDA and the CDC, as documented by Science Magazine. The revolving door is pervasive. Out of 107 FDA researchers, 40 received from $10,000 to $1 million in post hoc earnings, according to Science magazine. AstraZeneca paid the government $520 million to settle lawsuits involving alleged improprieties. For example Scott Gottlieb went from being a drug company lobbyist to commissioner of the FDA and now is a board member of Pfizer to the FDA. Is this what you are talking about when you say that the FDA and CDC have been taken over by the pharmaceutical industry?
RFK Jr.: Such cozy relationships are not tolerated in Europe and other developed nations which have strict limits on the participation of drug panel advisors. In the U.S, doctors and scientists ricochet back and forth between government regulation gigs and the industries they are supposed to be monitoring. Why is it that children in the U.S. get more vaccines than in other developed nations and yet, our children’s health ranks 34th in the world, despite the fact that the U.S. spends twice as much as any other nation? American drugs cost more in this country than they do in Canada. There is something profoundly wrong here, and nobody wants to fix it.
Question: I know that you have been especially concerned with the erosion of free speech and censorship. The recent revelations that Twitter and Facebook had been taking orders from the White House over what speech is permitted and what speech should be censored has been especially disturbing to many people. Another example of free speech suppression is when your book, “The Real Anthony Fauci,” was the best selling book in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other literary sources. The New York Times didn’t even list it among their top 20 bestsellers. Moreover, your book did not get any reviews in the mainstream media.
RFK Jr.: I was very surprised that no one reviewed it. I had hoped that reviewers would try and tear it apart, so I could answer them with scientific facts. But it didn’t happen. The First Amendment, freedom of speech, is the capstone of all other rights and freedoms. It is the most important amendment because without freedom of speech you cannot have a democracy. The first act of any tyrant is to clamp down on dissent and the easiest way to do that is to censor the opposition. The government tried to silence Daniel Ellsberg and the New York Times about the Vietnam War. More recently, when Edward Snowden revealed that the CIA was listening to our phone calls, they caused him to flee to Moscow under threat of a lifetime jail sentence. And Julian Assange is still in jail facing a life sentence for telling the truth about the Iraq War. It’s crazy. It’s as if the government doesn’t trust Americans to know about these things. It’s a sign of my campaign’s strength that all week the elite of DC’s establishment media simultaneously and shamelessly published misrepresentations of my positions even before I announced my presidential campaign. Steve Bannon has nothing to do with my presidential campaign. Zero. I have never discussed a presidential run with Mr. Bannon. The national press are beholden to a deep corporate power structure that doesn’t want change. I’m not surprised.
Question: You bring to the campaign some considerable liabilities. Voters will be concerned about your lack of political experience. How do you respond to these concerns, and why do you believe that you are qualified to be president of the United States?
RFK Jr.: The current political system is broken. The American Dream has turned into a Nightmare for many, and to free us from this nightmare, we need a new kind of leadership that is not at the mercy of special interests and corporate donors. I have spent my life fighting for justice and equality. I believe that my experience as an attorney and environmental activist has prepared me to tackle the challenges we face. My family’s legacy of public service has instilled in me a passion for justice. Both my father, Robert F Kennedy, and my uncles, President John Kennedy, and Senator Edward Kennedy, were champions of the underdog, fighters for what’s right, and tireless advocates for the voiceless. Their legacy inspires me every day, and it’s a great honor to carry on their work. We need to come together as a nation to tackle these challenges and to build a future that is fair and just for all. No democracy can survive without a thriving middle class.
Question: One of your issues is environmental justice. How will you deal with the disproportionate impact of pollution on low-income communities and communities of color, and what specific policies would you implement to address this issue?
RFK Jr.: As president, I would work to address the root causes of environmental injustice, including systemic racism and economic inequality. I would prioritize investments in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure in low-income communities and work to eliminate toxic pollutants in these communities. I would also ensure environmental regulations are enforced fairly and that polluters are held accountable for the harm they cause. COVID-19 pandemic was mishandled in many ways, from failing to provide adequate testing and protective gear for front-line workers, to not prioritizing treatments instead of vaccines. As President, I would look to the future and take a science-based approach to the next pandemic, that will ensure that all Americans have access to medical care regardless of their socioeconomic status. I will also work to rebuild trust in public health institutions.
Question: Income inequality has been a disgrace and many economists think it’s going to get worse soon with crippling inflation, high interest rates, economic turmoil and a looming recession. 15 million people are slated to lose their pandemic medicaid healthcare eligibility in the coming year. A “hunger cliff” is looming for 30 million Americans, set to lose their food-stamp benefits beginning this Wednesday. How can this be dealt with in our deeply divided partisan politics?
RFK Jr.: As president, I would work to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, invest in affordable housing, and ensure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare and education. I would also work to reform our tax system to ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share, and to close corporate tax loopholes that allow corporations to evade taxes. America’s public spending on health care, housing, and education, has been woefully inadequate. To reach the level of Canadian or European basic living standards, America needs to more than double its level of spending. As a result, Americans are much sicker, less educated, poorer and more unhappy than citizens of most other industrialized countries. There has been enormous new wealth created, but these new riches from the “Third Industrial Revolution” have produced a dystopian nightmare for the majority. The money has not “trickled down.” Inequality has broken the Golden Age promise of universal progress and dreams of middle class upward mobility. This latest re-engineering of America is not working for the majority.
RFK Jr.: Inequality has gotten exponentially worse over the last 40 years. Powerful elites have rigged the system. The top one percent has ripped off a staggering $50 trillion from the bottom 90% during the last four decades, according to a study by the highly respected, non-partisan Rand Corp. The Rand Corp found that, if the income distribution in the three decades from 1945 to 1974–a glorious period of prosperity–had remained constant over the next four decades, the annual income of the bottom 90% would have been $2.5 trillion higher in just the year 2018, according to a paper by Carter C. Price and Katheryn Edwards.
Question: Do you have other liabilities in your past?
RFK Jr.: When I was young I did foolish and stupid things that I apologize for. There are skeletons in my closet. I am not the perfect Presidential candidate. But our politics needs to change and I can bring that about. My past has made me more compassionate and empathetic toward so many who are suffering. These struggles inform who I am today and how I move about in the world. I’m proud of where I’ve landed.