Speaking Of Lunatics…

Third-party candidates in two-party America share several characteristics, one of which might be called a martyr complex. After all, application of elementary logic leads to the inevitable conclusion that–while such a candidate might manage to be a spoiler depriving one of the major party nominees of success–he or she has zero chance of actually winning.

That logic explains why so many of these “spoiler” candidates are–to put it mildly–less than rational. While some social activists probably run simply to make a point or to bring attention to a pet issue–Ralph Nader comes to mind–  others come to us straight from their private fantasy-lands.

This year, for example, Robert F. Kennedy’s quixotic candidacy comes directly from an alternate universe. If this sad, deluded man was not a member of a storied political family, he’d have been escorted off the public stage a long time ago. As an article in Mother Jones recently pointed out, his distance from reality isn’t limited to his anti-vaccine beliefs, and far too much of the media coverage of his campaign has served to normalize this very abnormal man.

He’s a conspiracy theorist who has made a lot of money pushing baseless or disproven notions about vaccines, Covid, and other hot-button subjects. At the start of his 2024 presidential bid, the media reported his history as a disinformationalist on multiple fronts. Yet now he’s largely covered as another character in the ongoing presidential horse race.

Most of the recent stories about him focus on his standing in the polls, what voters he’s attracting, and speculation regarding his potential impact on the outcome. In such pieces, his extreme conspiracism is often not conveyed fully and sometimes not even mentioned. A recent Washington Post story on Kennedy family members endorsing President Joe Biden noted in mild fashion that  RFK Jr. “has embraced controversial, unfounded claims on issues including vaccines and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.” A Wall Street Journal article on chaos within his campaign merely said Kennedy “has promoted conspiracy theories—in particular on vaccines—and espouses political views from across the spectrum.” A New York Times piece referred to him as a “vaccine skeptic” who has promoted “vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories about the government.”

The article proceeded to focus on one of Kennedy’s many conspiracy theories–one that has received minimal coverage– noting that “He is much further around the bend than [the media] indicates. With his advancement of unhinged and outlandish conspiracy theories, RFK Jr. is in the league of Alex Jones.”

The author noted RFK, Jr.’s evidently fervent belief that a “global elite led by the CIA had been planning for years to use a pandemic to end democracy and impose totalitarian control on the entire world,”  a claim he has repeated at public events and on podcasts, and for which he has claimed to have proof. That “proof” revolves around something called “Event 201.” During one interview, Kennedy told listeners who might be skeptical of his description of that event to “do the research. The meeting is still on YouTube.”

As the Mother Jones article notes, the video of Event 201 does indeed remain on YouTube—”as does an entire website devoted to the exercise—and it in no way matches Kennedy’s description. Not even close.”

The remainder of the lengthy article takes each description of that event offered by JFK, Jr. and patiently and thoroughly debunks it.

Other claims made by Kennedy have been shown to be equally unfounded/unscientific/looney. He has asserted that chemicals present in water sources cause transgender identity, has repeatedly endorsed the idea that the increase in mass shootings is due to heightened use of antidepressants, and has accused the CIA of assassinating his uncle. Just last June, in an interview with the Washington Post, he reaffirmed his belief that Republicans had stolen the 2004 election, and that John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, had really won.

In his defense, it is likely that Kennedy (unlike con artists like Alex Jones) actually believes these things. That is sad. It is sadder still that many Americans tell pollsters they plan to vote for him, in most cases not because they agree with any of his bizarre assertions, but because they are unaware of how demented he really is. The only thing they know about him is his name, and that he is the nephew of the former President.

If MAGA’s devotion to Trump hadn’t already proved the extent of American political ignorance and hostility to reality, the fact that a meaningful percentage of voters claim to be supporting this very troubled man should conclusively prove the point.


  1. Please, never omit the “Jr.” title from this particular Kennedy; it besmirches the legacy of his father Robert F. Kennedy. Sr. and his uncle, President John F. Kennedy. Where are the Kennedys, once considered America’s royal family, who should be speaking out loud, clear and frequently to offset the Trump advantage throughout the media which they are inadvertently supporting.

    I remember when John Kennedy was campaigning for president, many in this nation were appalled and feared having a Catholic in the White House. Look where we are today with escalating numbers of primarily Catholic based laws in effect and on the agenda to be passed with a pseudo-Christian criminal allowed to run for the presidency, aided by the Catholic majority in the Supreme Court. We have a Catholic president who leaves his religion in his church and at home as he struggles with an administration who are going for the shiny object with the most public face. Proving the old adage, “Even bad publicity is good publicity.”

    Look back at 2020 when over SEVEN MILLION Americans cast votes for Stein and Johnson to vote against either Trump or Clinton; this action put the votes into the hands of the states; resulting in Republican Electoral Colleges appointing the pseudo-Christian to the presidency. This overturned the public majority vote for Hillary Clinton by voting for 3rd and 4th party nominees who had no chance of winning. I pointed this out to my Bernie Sanders supporting neighbors who, after Bernie was denied needed information from the then RNC Chairwoman who supported Hillary, whose mouth dropped open. Stating they had never looked at the election from that point of view; they used what they believed to be voting against Hillary Clinton. I still have my “Bernie for President” yard sign but voted for Hillary. Trump keeps stating openly he will leave decisions “up to the states” when he is back in the White House. That is for good reason; states are much easier to buy than a nation; it worked in 2016 and he is counting on it working again in 2024.

    “If MAGA’s devotion to Trump hadn’t already proved the extent of American political ignorance and hostility to reality, the fact that a meaningful percentage of voters claim to be supporting this very troubled man should conclusively prove the point.”

  2. BIG OOPS; that of course should say DNC CHAIRWOMAN!!! I do apologize.

    Or, maybe my slip points out the strength of the Republican control over the media that is being embedded into our thinking.

  3. It’s amazing how much a name can mean. It’s too bad that we the people refuse to read up on all of the candidates, to make any real effort to know who’s running and what they stand for. One of my favorite sources is the League of Women Voters. They do candidate surveys. Their results are online and they cover every office.

    BTW Ken Burns is just what the doctor ordered. I’m guessing everyone has seen the speech at Brandeis, since I’ve been inundated with links.

  4. If RFK, Jr. is allowed to debate with Biden and Trump, I might watch the debates. It would be better to enable West and Stein to join them. Still, our oligarch-captured media wouldn’t allow alternative visions – especially those who are holding the demonic Zionists accountable.

    The only anti-genocide candidate is Stein, whom I am aware of, so she is the moral choice in the 2024 US presidential campaign. Stein protested against genocide with college students in St. Louis and got to experience the fascist police shoving a bicycle into her face before arresting her. She’ll most likely get my vote for POTUS. Kennedy lost a large percentage of voters because of his inability to hold Israel accountable for genocide. He sold out!

    Also, MoJo is a pseudo-left-of-center organization. I am sure the real Mother Jones is rolling in her grave over what her magazine has become.

    Instead of pointing out the problems of our two-party US political system, let me quote Albert Einstein from his famous 1949 dictum. It’s all we need to know about US media:

    “Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.”


  5. My gut tells me that polling is being corrupted by bad actors. I’m fully aware of the limitations of gut feelings and if that feeling is right, I have no idea how they are doing it. However, I remember reading somewhere, probably in regard to Trump’s current trial, that someone was advising him about how to control the polls. That could have meant controlling polling places, but that was not my impression. I wish I had paid more attention to it at the time.
    What does that have to do with today’s topic? If polling shows RFK Jr. getting strong support, it can become a self a fulfilling prophecy as some people will take it as a sign that he is worth supporting. Likewise, the emphasis across media of support for Trump.
    I think there are some reasons my gut is telling me this.

    1. There have been multiple news stories about former Republicans organizing against Trump.
    2. It defies logic that the more extreme Trump becomes, the more support he gathers.
    3. In primary voting he performed significantly lower than his polling numbers as Nikki Haley siphoned off support from him.
    4. I can’t figure out what significant demographic that didn’t vote for him in 2020 would now swing to his side.

    Any ideas, other than crazy stuff like space lasers, about how bad actors could be deliberately skewing the polls?

  6. Self-fulfilling. Really, sometimes auto correct doesn’t even make sense!

  7. Perhaps many in the US have always been quixotic tilters with windmills in the hopes that irrational will explain their perpetual confusion over modernity. Kennedy supporters are modified-MAGA’s attacking largely the same windmills.

    Are they really in the same Putin pack with some steering the chase with others nipping at Biden’s heels?

  8. testing waters of, as mentioned,republicans setting a line for a return,or, see where the voter takes notice, good timing before the election,and media can still be manipulated. the polls, continually update tactics,and demographics. calls polsters,social media talk, ever wonder why you were never was asked?
    like think tanks, look overall at the diffrent professions they hire to,study and submit a reason/answer/more questions. do we depend on far too many algarythems over just plain knowlege. when the country is divided as today, do we merely depend on whos saying what. any new movement today as far as whos saying/doing what, is met with criticism like the members of congress making free time in front of a camera in NYC while DiNero shows up and the media scorns him for pulling a punch on trump. no diffrent as we see the divided media take center stage and without shame cast your vote for facsim

  9. A personal favorite Kennedy Jr-ism is that Wi-Fi causes a breakdown in the blood brain barrier. It’s just…*Chef’s kiss* crazy.

    He’s a “good” choice for some of the never Trump Republicans, I suppose. They won’t jump ship to Biden. No matter how much ol’ Uncle Joe thinks he’s going to sway them to his side. Boy, have I got a bridge to sell him on that front. That handful of conservatives can’t even take the libertarian this year – he’s come out against the war on Palestine, I believe.

  10. While you so accurately write this morning about how “too much of the media coverage of his campaign has served to normalize this very abnormal man” I note that too much of the media normalizes on a daily basis the decline of society and its social norms to the detriment of all.
    Take the New York Times…please.
    On a regular basis their editor runs a top of the page story about the “big problems” the rich are having finding just the right house to buy. This morning it is a retired pastor with $220,000 looking to buy a house in Peoria, Il. Oh my! What a challenge! Yesterday it was all about a couple who already owned two other houses and now were buying a 1.9 million dollar apartment in New York City. These stories would be fine if they were balanced with daily stories about the thousands of refugees dumped on the Big Apple and now homeless. Or stories about the homeless period. How about a focus on one of those people and what they are finding for shelter these days?
    Sorry, dear friends. I digress from the RFK story, but I want to make a point about the media “normalizing” so much of what is happening in our world that is not normal. And it makes us all so uninformed and crazy.

  11. Fears + Alienation + Seeking seemingly Simple (i.e. being basically lazy) Answers- lead to a lot of this- fears include the rising Diversity for whites- particularly men, Covid fueled health concerns expanding into other areas and more impacts many of us.

  12. Third party presidential candidate, and Hoosier from Terre Haute, Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) fits none of the characteristics of third party candidates noted above. Debs began as a winning member of the Indiana Democratic Party. Debs subsequently founded a number of socialist political parties – all of which were minority parties, and all of which publicized views that majority parties would not address.

    Debs’ contemporary detractors probably would have called him a “conspiracy theorist,” but in 1900 the term hadn’t been invented yet until later in the 1960s, specifically coined to suppress voices of respected investigative journalists like Dorothy Kilgallen who had the courage to speak truth to the Presidential power of the Johnson administration, and publicize nationally her criticism of the Warren Report. Yet the term “conspiracy theorist” survives 60 years later, and is liberally used and perpetuated by journalists from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal whenever it is needed as a cudgel to suppress minority voices when no counter-facts are available for rational debate.

    In his day, minority party candidate Debs was likely also called a lunatic, a martyr, and less-than rational when he joined other labor leaders in the 1894 Pullman Strike which idled 250,000 railway workers in 27 states, and led to Debs being jailed for six months in prison. Debs’ conviction was appealed to, and affirmed by, the U.S. Supreme court, but Debs’ minority opinions were being heard nationwide.

    Debs’ main protagonist late in his career was President Woodrow Wilson, who had the support of a major U.S. party, as well as the consultation of Edward Bernays, who gave him the campaign phrase he needed to support WWI, “make the world safe for democracy,” while Debs was employing our democracy’s Free Speech in arguing the third-party minority opinion that WWI was actually being fought for the benefit of the rich and powerful.

    Majority candidate Wilson also had on his side U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, who dealt with the third-party Presidential candidate Debs by charging him with violating 10 counts of the 1917 Espionage Act, leading to his being sent to federal prison for a ten-year sentence (does any of this sound familiar in 2024?), during the time Debs was concurrently a candidate for President. (U.S. Supreme Court in 1919 upheld Debs’ conviction in Debs v. United States) In spite of having to continue his Presidential bid from prison, in 1920 Debs captured 3.4 percent of the Presidential election vote. (Debs was also a third-party Presidential candidate in 1900, 1904, 1908, and 1912).

    Warren G. Harding, President, and former Ohio newspaper owner, opposed long sentences after WWI’s end, and had a journalist’s curiosity to hear directly from Debs, the third-party candidate, when he called Debs from federal prison for a personal audience with the President. Harding reportedly found Debs to be “sincere, truthful and honest.” Harding ordered clemency for Debs — the losing third-party candidate who’d had such an impact on the American labor movement — and had him released on December 24, 1920.

    Considering another Presidential third-party candidate, Ralph Nader’s post-election label as a “spoiler” is inaccurate, according to Nader’s advocate and former speech writer, journalist Chris Hedges. But it’s a label that has perhaps been widely and deliberately disseminated by those who oppose Nader’s progressive ideas that in the 1970s had a powerful impact on majority political parties which had been the majority winners in Presidential races.

    Third party candidates are one of the voters’ few hopes against what has been derisively called the “Uniparty,” which can count on steady corporate financial contributions to both its two factions, election cycle after election cycle. Without third party candidates, how else will we hear at candidate debates the points of view that exist outside the Overton Window?

  13. Though Pete and Dirk touch on the idea, I think those who endorse Kennedy Jr.’s candidacy are almost indistinguishable from the Maga nuthatches. The two are alike in their responses to several of the manufactured “issues” Trump has brought into the public sphere, i.e., Covid, persecution complex etc. Thus with Trump’s capture of the now defunct Republican Party of old, we have Kennedy Jr. fruitcake reasoning (reasoning?) brought into a political party’s reason for being in lieu of a platform.
    Dirk: You may be right with your observation that perhaps some of the never Trump Republicans will vote for Kennedy, Jr. rather than Biden, and if so such a vote would help offset the Democratic vote for him because his name is Kennedy and perhaps leave Trump and Biden with roughly equivalent losses. We’ll know more come November.

  14. “..far too much of the media coverage of his campaign has served to normalize this very abnormal man.“ Yes, indeed, right as usual, Sheila, and scary. Our attraction for “known names,” and, on occasion, for celebrities (e.g. Oprah) as potential leaders makes me think we miss having a royal family. Jeez…. The stakes are so high, how can “we” think to place any responsibility in the hands of those who could jeopardize the nation, and, indeed, the world? Oh, we already did that, once. Let’s not do it again.

  15. I am guessing, with some hope that I am right, that anyone who would even contemplate voting for Jr., would not be apt to vote for Biden in a 1,000 years, so
    he might not be that much of a threat to the Dems as seems feared, by many.
    What can I say, it’s a hope.
    All too much of our population, and others, have believed in one, or another, bizarre story, such as alien bodies being hidden by the gov’t in Wyoming; what is that “Area 51?” Sasquatch? The Loch Ness Monster? On and on.

  16. James Carville (who’s opinion I respect in regard to elections) recently said in televised interview that not to worry about Kennedy. Mainly the votes Kennedy will get would have gone to Trump and will help Biden. We’ll see this fall.

  17. Props to Gordon Evans for the enlightening post. A teachable moment from the commentariat is rare among this cast of characters.

  18. Ross Perot? He helped Bill Clinton win destroying Bush Sr. A Tea Party type of candidate.
    But the economy is slowing brought on by the fed as Bidens administration continued printing money. The back door tax of inflation is Joes biggest enemy. High 10yr yields melt away the bull market.
    I would have retired easily if Biden had not been elected, now many blue collar workers who havent saved anything at all must continue on for another5-10 years.
    First Obama cost me $20k in extra insurance costs. These costs were easily covered my cadillac plan we had fought for and he destroyed with Obamacare. He like a dictator never crossed over to get ideas from conservatives.
    We cant afford this kind of continued rule under Biden who destroyed the booming economy handed to him.
    RFK is a medical environmentalist, listening to him speak shows a nongovernmental prochoice approach to health and the US government actually fired employees for not getting an mRNA shot. No choice, no freedom. Wow I cant believe he is made out to be a tyrant when he speaks of freedom. Big pharma wins again? We are supporting the facism we speak against?

  19. President RFK, Jr. would allow us to compare a megalomaniac President with one who is just deranged. Fortunately, we won’t have that opportunity.

    The comment about the media is correct, but weak. The news media have become absolutely derelict in their duty to inform, preferring to not cause controversy (Fox and news can’t be used together). To borrow a term from Tom Wolfe, the news media have been “Mau-maued” into mealy-mouthed reporting.

  20. I doubt RFK Jr. believes all he stuff he’s spouting. He’s trying so hard to make a name for himself while living in the shadows of his father and uncle. Perhaps he’s making money in the process. I am constantly amazed that someone who was so committed to environmental justice for 30 years has now abandoned that and thinks the private sector rather than government is the better champion of a clean environment. What a laugh. If RFK Jr. is willing to sell his soul on that issue, then he’ll flip on any issue, person, group, or commitment.
    It appears he is selling his soul to gain large campaign donations from corporate chieftains and to get on state ballots around the country. He’s humiliating himself and his father’s name in the process. It’s so very sad. I’m embarrassed for him.

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