In our latest Liberty Update, we highlight how Americans have soured on "Bidenomics" despite Biden supporters…
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Image of the Day: Minorities Prospered Far More Under Trump

In our latest Liberty Update, we highlight how Americans have soured on "Bidenomics" despite Biden supporters' ongoing insistence that voters trust them rather than over three years of actual, real-life experience and hardship.  Well, our friends at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity have highlighted another point that merits emphasis as minorities turn against Biden in his reelection effort.  Namely, they prospered far more under President Trump than President Biden:

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="691"] Minorities Prospered Far More Under Trump Than Biden[/caption]


June 09, 2024 • 10:40 PM

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The RFK Jr. Wild Card Print
By Byron York
Wednesday, October 11 2023
As he runs, Kennedy will find himself targeted by both the Democratic and Republican parties.

For all the talk that has sometimes surrounded his presidential candidacy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was never able to break through in the Democratic primary race against President Joe Biden. Reports would say his support was "growing," or that he was "surging," but he was never able to surpass the 20% support in national polls he enjoyed when he announced his candidacy as a Democrat in late April. In the months since, his support among Democratic voters has slowly slipped. It now stands just below 15% in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls  47 points behind Biden.

Biden organized a strong effort among Democrats to strangle the Kennedy challenge in the crib. It worked. Kennedy faced relentless criticism from well-connected Democrats and hit-job articles in the Democratic-adjacent media. The motivating force was a fear that Kennedy would take support away from Biden and allow former President Donald Trump to reclaim the presidency.

All that meant RFK Jr.'s candidacy as a Democrat wasn't going anywhere. No matter how much he campaigned, his situation was not going to improve in the face of broad opposition among Democratic officialdom.

This week, Kennedy changed course. In a speech Monday in Philadelphia, he announced that he was leaving the Democratic race and is now running for president as an independent. Instead of struggling under the hostile domination of the Democratic Party, he will now run freely, although he will likely end up struggling to get on some state ballots as an independent.

As he runs, Kennedy will find himself targeted by both the Democratic and Republican parties. He has already faced new attacks from the Democratic side, and on Monday, to go along with Kennedy's announcement, the Republican National Committee released what it called "23 Reasons to Oppose RFK Jr." Reason Number 3 was, "He has admitted his candidacy will 'take more votes' from the Republican candidate than Biden."

But will Kennedy really take more votes from the Republican candidate, specifically Trump, than from Biden? Or will he take more votes away from Biden than the Republican candidate? Each party will answer in its own interest.

A recent Ipsos survey found Biden and Trump tied in a two-way race at 35% each. But in a three-way race with Kennedy, Trump had a slight lead over Biden, 33% to 31%, with Kennedy at 14%. In that scenario, Kennedy took a little more from Biden than from Trump, but that little bit might be enough to determine the election.

There is another way to gauge what effect Kennedy might have on the general election, and that is to listen to what he says. Kennedy's 48-minute speech Monday was a brilliant effort to cut a path between the two parties, but there is no doubt it leaned more toward the Democratic side of the political argument.

Kennedy analyzed what he called the urge to take sides in politics. When there are just two equally matched sides, he said, disastrous results can follow. "In a two-sided conflict, both parties have a kind of mutual dependency," he said. "Each side depends on the other to define themselves as good guys, in contrast to the other side who, of course, are the bad guys. Well, if you're Team Good, you will do anything, no matter how unscrupulous, to defeat Team Evil. And that's why we've seen both parties sacrificing their core values and the foundational canons of democracy in an all-out struggle for power."

Now, Kennedy said, the battle of Team Good and Team Evil has led to a terrible choice. "Three-quarters of Americans believe that President Biden is too old to govern effectively. President Trump faces multiple civil and criminal trials. Both of them have favorability ratings that are deep in negative territory. That's what two-party politics has given us."

That will probably appeal to the independent streak in millions of American voters. Kennedy encouraged that when he said, "The Democrats are frightened that I'm going to spoil the election for President Biden, and the Republicans are frightened that I'm going to spoil the election for President Trump." He then added: "The truth is, they're both right." A certain type of voter will like that.

Kennedy said a few things to appeal to Republicans, most notably when he said he had been wrong about people who wanted to control the flow of illegal crossers at the U.S.-Mexico border. "Six months ago, I thought that an open border was a humanitarian policy," he said. "If you were for sealing the border, it meant that you were probably a xenophobe, and maybe a racist." But now, having visited the border and seen the problem for himself, he sees that those who seek greater controls on the border have a good point. "I was wrong," he confessed.

Yes, those statements will attract independents and some Republicans. But overall, the tone and content of Kennedy's pitch was unmistakably Democratic. He began with a meditation on the plight of Native Americans, recounting his father's visit to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1968. He spoke gratefully of the renaming of Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day. "It shows that our country is now ready to explore and to tell each other the untold histories of those dispossessed people who have previously languished on the margins," Kennedy said. Whatever you might think of such sentiments, it is not the stuff of Republican campaign rallies.

Kennedy went on, though, to link Indigenous Peoples' Day with the malaise affecting millions of Americans. "Today, as the corrupt powers have overtaken our government, the ranks of the dispossessed have swelled so that they not only include indigenous Americans and black Americans and Hispanic Americans, they include tens of millions of people who live paycheck to paycheck in financial desperation," Kennedy said. "The dispossessed also include the legions of the chronically ill, the addicted, the depressed, the 80% of our country that cannot afford a middle class lifestyle."

A lot has been made of Kennedy's attraction to conspiracy theories. It comes through all the time in his speaking. He talked about the deep divisions in today's politics not as an organic development but as the result of bad actors behind the scenes. "People suspect that the divisions are deliberately orchestrated, and that getting us to hate each other is all part of the scam," he said. At times it sounded quite Trumpian.

What to make of Kennedy's message? First, it is really striking. It is impressive. No candidate is speaking that way on the campaign trail today. The last one who even approximated Kennedy's message was Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020, but Kennedy's occasional breaks with orthodoxy, like the border, are more sweeping and interesting than Sanders' were. 

Kennedy's appeal will also touch some of the instincts that caused millions of Americans to vote for Trump in 2016. Indeed, he seems to have a highly developed sense of the feelings of alienation and disgust with the failures of both parties that motivated a significant part of Trump's support the first time around. Now, though, it seems highly unlikely that any voter who wants to support Trump again in 2024 would switch to Kennedy. 

On the other hand, a certain style of voter, leaning toward Democrats but dismayed by Biden's age and infirmity, and also inclined to look fondly on the old style of Democratic Party liberalism associated with memories of Bobby Kennedy, might give RFK Jr. a serious look. How many of them are there in the 2024 electorate? Maybe not many. But if the race is between Biden and Trump, an independent candidate could change the race by attracting even a relatively small number of voters. Kennedy has the ability to do just that.

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner


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