No debate: RFK Jr. is a threat to democracy

MoveOn and Third Way represent different views but agree about Robert Kennedy Jr.

Published June 23, 2024 6:08AM (EDT)

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at the Libertarian National Convention on May 24, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at the Libertarian National Convention on May 24, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

More than a year ago, as leading voices on opposite ends of the Democratic spectrum, we sounded the alarm that third-party candidates could once again hand the White House to Republicans. The candidacies of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Jill Stein have made that threat more real now than ever before.

Trump has attempted to muddy the waters by characterizing RFK Jr. as a “Democrat plant” and “a radical left liberal.” No one should be fooled by this desperate attempt to define RFK Jr. as a liberal, or even a Democrat. His policy stances read more like a resume to be Trump’s running mate. He and third-party candidate, Jill Stein, are parroting views right out of the MAGA/Vladimir Putin playbook and yet, perhaps counterintuitively, they risk dividing the anti-Trump coalition and putting a convicted felon back in power.

Neither third-party candidate has any chance of winning the presidency. But, for a moment, let’s put aside their lack of a path to 270 electoral votes and talk about their agendas. 

RFK Jr. came to national prominence as a conspiracy monger and anti-vaxxer. Since then, he sounded even more like a MAGA radical: he has argued for a 15-week national abortion ban, declared that the government can do nothing to restrict gun violence, said climate change is a “pretext for clamping down totalitarian controls,” and proclaimed that Biden is a greater threat to U.S. democracy than Trump. He also released a YouTube video on the Ukraine war riddled with so much Russian propaganda and misinformation it took one journalist almost 3,000 words of analysis to correct the record.

Stein has echoed similar MAGA sentiments, also arguing that the U.S. is at fault for Putin’s war. She has a long history of touting Russian propaganda, and after dining in Moscow with Putin and Trump aide Michael Flynn, she received help from Russian election-meddlers during her 2016 run. 

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It’s no coincidence that this time, Stein has directed her attacks exclusively at Democrats and Biden –– not Trump. She has lied about Biden’s climate laws, lied about his expansion of the Affordable Care Act, lied about his immigration policy, and accused Democrats of being fascists posing a threat to democracy

These are not the views of “radical left liberals.” Indeed, they are antithetical to Democratic values –– and the MAGA elite know it. Beyond a long list of MAGA endorsements, there are some eye-popping donations from Trump allies to these supposedly independent candidates. RFK Jr.’s super PAC, “American Values” 2024, got $25 million from Timothy Mellon, a MAGA financier who has also donated tens of millions to Trump. 

There is a reason MAGA donors see bankrolling third-party candidates as money well spent: they know a strong third-party showing –– even from those spouting MAGA rhetoric –– is going to help Trump and hurt Biden.

Biden won previous third-party voters by 30 points in 2020. Young voters, moderates, and independents –– all top targets for the Stein and RFK Jr. campaigns –– backed Biden by double digits last cycle. Recent polling shows that a multi-candidate race this cycle could siphon off those exact voters. The national polls tracking Stein and RFK Jr.’s on their impact on the race remain fluid, but simple math shows that if a tiny percentage of these voters in the swing states back RFK Jr. and Stein this November, they could tip several battlegrounds from Biden back to Trump.

Simply put: There will be no President Kennedy or President Stein. But third-party candidates could determine who holds the White House. That happened in 2000 and in 2016, and the data and evidence suggest it could happen again in 2024. 

MoveOn and Third Way represent different views about the future of the Democratic Party, but we share a common goal: protecting our democracy and fundamental freedoms by ensuring Donald Trump is defeated.

Democrats failed to take the third party threat seriously in 2000 and 2016, and they cannot make the same mistake again in 2024. RFK Jr. and Stein are on the Red Team, and a vote for either could help Trump retake power and destroy our most sacred institutions. We have to sound the alarm now.

By Matt Bennett

Matt Bennett is Executive Vice President for Public Affairs at Third Way

MORE FROM Matt Bennett

By Rahna Epting

Rahna Epting is the Executive Director of Move On Political Action

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Cnn Commentary Debates Elections 2024 Rfk Jr. Jill Stein