In a move that could shake up the 2024 election, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. declared on Monday that he would continue his presidential bid as an independent candidate after ending his Democratic primary campaign against the incumbent president.
A Populist Movement That Defies Partisan Lines
Addressing supporters outside the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Mr. Kennedy, a prominent vaccine sceptic and spreader of conspiracy theories, said he represents “a populist movement that transcends left-right division.”
Since launching his candidacy in April, Mr. Kennedy, 69, has sharply criticized Democratic leadership, accusing them of “hijacking the party system” to block his challenge to Mr. Biden. He has also said in interviews and public events that the party has abandoned its values and become corrupt.
The Costly, Arduous Path of an Independent Candidate
Running as an independent will require an expensive, difficult struggle to get on the ballot in all 50 states. Last week, liberal academic Cornel West, another presidential contender, said he would also run as an independent after failing to win the Green Party’s nomination.
Kennedy Decries the “Dispossessed” and “Surveillance State”
In a 45-minute address on Monday, Mr. Kennedy described encounters across the country with people he called the “armies of the dispossessed,” mixed with angry jabs about the “surveillance state” and the “tyranny of corruption.” He quoted the Bible, Martin Luther King Jr., his father, Tennyson, and John Adams.
Alienating Democrats While Embracing Conspiracies
However, Mr. Kennedy, born into a famous liberal political family, has alienated his relatives and many Democrats by promoting conspiracy theories, rejecting scientific consensus, and aligning with far-right figures.
Mr. Kennedy, an environmental lawyer, has been celebrated by a movement that has expanded from anti-vaccine views to broadly resisting public health measures.
In recent years, his open suspicion of the government’s COVID-19 response and his criticism of lockdowns and vaccine policies earned him popularity among Americans tired of the pandemic.