If you listen carefully, you can hear Donald Trump celebrating his reelection to the presidency. The reason for this giddy confidence in Mar-a-Lago this week is the recent news that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. plans to run for president as a third-party candidate in 2024. (A friend recently asked me how many Kennedys there are. I answered: “No one knows for sure. But there’s A LOT OF THEM.”) Doubtless the Donald laid on an extra quarter-pounder with cheese to celebrate.
If Trump is the Republican candidate next year, and just now this seems as inevitable as the sunrise, then Junior could likely drain enough votes from Mr. Magoo, currently residing at 1600, to throw the election to Trump. Of course, if Kennedy actually does jump in and the polls start reflecting a Democrat trainwreck, this might give Democrats enough backbone to nudge President Clouseau into an undeserved but necessary retirement in Delaware (or, perhaps, in Martha’s Vineyard, if the Obamas haven’t cornered the real estate market there).
So perhaps this dramatic development means that the 2024 presidential race won’t be Grumpy Old Men II, which about three-quarters of Americans say they don’t want. But whichever leftist hairball the Democrats cough up, a free-range Kennedy in the race will make it very hard for them.
Our Paul Kengor is so right to point out that while third-party candidates in America never get within hailing distance of the White House (unless they get in line with the rest of the tourists), they can sometimes be the deciders. He mentions the Yellow Nose of Texas, aka Ross Perot, who surely sent George H.W. back to Kennebunkport in 1992, to be replaced by Billy Bob and Bruno for eight years. And going back a bit, TR upset William Howard Taft’s applecart, saddling the country with one of the most authoritarian presidents we’ve ever had in Woodrow Wilson. (READ THE ARTICLE: Welcome to the Democrats’ Nightmare: RFK Jr. Goes Third Party?)
Other examples of third-party spoilers can be found. It might be argued that George Wallace and Gen. Curtis LeMay (Gabby and Trigger, some called them), the most successful third-party ticket in living memory, could have helped Tricky Dick defeat Hubert (“I’m just as proud to be here”) Humphrey in 1968.
Certainly, without Ralph Nader on the ballot in 2000, we would have been stuck with President Al Gore, a man whom some of his own supporters described as a man-like creature. Florida, which put W over the top in the Electoral College, went for him by 537 votes after endless recounts, which only came to an end when the U.S. Supreme Court invoked the three knock-down rule and brought the fight to a close. Nader received 97,488 votes in Florida.
After the court’s decision, Al Gore graciously said that he accepted the ruling, as though he had the option not to. Democrats, of course, howled, claiming W was “selected not elected.” In matters of election fraud, the ruling principle then as now was “innocent until proven Republican.”
More recently, it can be argued that third-party candidates, including Green Party candidate Jill Stein and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, took enough votes away from Ms. Hillary in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to throw the election to Trump.
Show of hands, please, for those who believe the second choice of any Green Party voters would have been Donald Trump.
That’s what I thought.
It’s also correct of Paul to point out that Joe Biden and the DNC have only themselves to blame for an eventuality that may cost them the White House. It was arrogant and downright shameful of Biden to deny Kennedy Secret Service protection. I never like it when a Kennedy wins office. But, my God, they deserve the same protection as any other serious candidate. And RFK Jr.’s 20 percent totals in some polls make him a serious candidate. Speaking of arrogance, the DNC’s insistence on nixing presidential primaries makes me even more certain that the Marquis of Queensberry was not a Democrat. Absent the Democrats’ obtuseness, by next summer to all but his immediate family, RFK Jr. would have been little more than the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question.
If the Democrats had played fair by affording Kennedy the protection he’s entitled to and allowing him to run against Biden in primaries, he doubtless would have been little more than a nuisance. He would never have won the presidency (thank goodness), but now he may keep Biden from winning the office again. So perhaps it’s not just the Republicans who can step in their own electoral mess kits. How refreshing.