April 9, 2024 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Not just a spoiler. A conspirator

"The Kennedy voter and the Trump voter – our mutual enemy is Biden,” said Rita Palma, Robert F Kennedy Jr’s New York campaign director.

Rita Palma, via screenshot.
Rita Palma, via screenshot.

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On Wednesday, I said Robert F Kennedy Jr’s third-party bid for president was a scam. On Thursday, I widened that argument, calling the independent candidate himself a demagogue. Now I can add “spoiler.”

Admitted spoiler, to be precise. That’s what the director of his campaign in New York did. At a gathering of Republicans in that state, Rita Palmer admitted the point of Kennedy’s efforts isn’t victory. It’s taking enough votes away from Joe Biden for Donald Trump to win. 

“The Kennedy voter and the Trump voter – our mutual enemy is Biden,” she told the Empire State Republicans. Her “No. 1 priority” is to “get rid of Biden,” she said, adding that, “we’re all on the same team right now, and we’ll be on the same team later, as long as Trump or Kennedy wins.”

With Kennedy on the ballot, Palma said, voters in blue states might choose him, thus potentially preventing the president from reaching the 270 Electoral College votes required to win the election. In such a case, the Constitution calls on the US House of Representatives to decide. If it’s controlled by the Republicans, Palma said, Trump wins.

Not only does the Kennedy campaign refuse to deny spoiler allegations. It’s actively conspiring with Republican operatives in New York (with the tacit approval of the Trump campaign) and doing so while mimicking virtually word-for-word the Kremlin’s preferred view.

Whether that would work is beside the point. (Among other dubious things about Palma’s scheme is presuming the Republicans will control the House. They have a razor-thin majority right now. The Democrats believe they need only flip four seats to retake the chamber. Members run for reelection every two years. A new House is always seated before Electoral College votes are certified after presidential elections.) 

The point isn’t whether it will work. 

The point is intentions. 

While Biden focuses on swing states, Palma said, “Bobby’s moving the blues on his own.” If GOP voters accepted “that New York, Maryland, Illinois, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, most of the northeast is going to go blue, why wouldn’t we put our vote to Bobby and at least get rid of Biden and get those 28 electoral votes in New York? … Give those 28 electoral votes to Bobby rather than to Biden, thereby reducing Biden’s 270. Who are they going to pick? If it’s a Republican Congress, they’ll pick Trump. So we’re rid of Biden either way.” 

Anyway, we been knew, as they say on the internet. Third-party candidates can’t win presidential elections. The winner-take-all system established by the founders at the very beginning of the republic does not allow for more than two major party candidates to compete in any real way. Kennedy, being the scion of a great political dynasty, knows that better than most do. Yet he’s been telling supporters that, with their help, he can smash the status quo in the name of the people.

As I said, it’s a scam.

That’s fine and dandy. Seriously. It won’t work! For one thing, the president’s campaign is ramping up criticism of the admitted spoiler. Expect those attacks to grow in volume and frequency, such that most Democrats in blue states will understand Kennedy’s true intentions. By the time Biden is done, only GOP voters will be supporting his bid.

For another, who’s to say Democratic voters in blue states would choose Kennedy over Biden, even in the absence of Biden’s attacks on him? Palma implies they would on account of his family name. But the Kennedy clan disowns his campaign. (The Kennedys have gone out of their way to demonstrate fealty to Biden.) More importantly, RFK Jr is a well-known conspiracist, anti-vaxxer and “America First” advocate in all but name. He just doesn’t sound like Biden. He sounds like Trump. 

Before this latest news about his intention to spoil, the last Kennedy news was about the J6 insurrection. In a statement Friday, he said: “I have not examined the evidence in detail, but reasonable people, including Trump opponents, tell me there is little evidence of a true insurrection.” Reasonable people “observe that the protestors carried no weapons, had no plans or ability to seize the reins of government, and that Trump himself had urged them to protest ‘peacefully.’” 

In an immediate response to Kennedy’s statement, the US Attorney’s Office said about “493 defendants have been charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding officers or employees, including approximately 129 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.”

That same day, during a podcast interview, Kennedy repeated virtually word-for-word Russian propaganda about the justification for Vladimir Putin’s unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine. “Putin said, ‘Look, I don’t want to go into Crimea. Let’s negotiate a peace,’” he said. “All right, and the three things he wanted — he wanted to keep NATO out of Ukraine. That was number one. He wanted to de-Nazify the Ukrainian government.” 

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That isn’t the first time. In a speech last June, according to ABC News, Kennedy called the “war in Ukraine a ‘creation of a relentless mentality of foreign domination’ on the part of the United States” and accused “the West — without evidence — of intentionally sabotaging peace talks in the spring of 2022 and, more specifically, claiming the US wants to remove Russia’s authoritarian president, Vladimir Putin.”

So he doesn’t think a violent and deadly insurrection was a violent and deadly insurrection. And he accepts Putin’s word over that of his own government. Sure, name-recognition is going to matter to some Democratic voters. What’s going to matter more, however, is that he sounds like a Baby Trump. If he’s going to peel off support for one of the candidates, it’s not going to be Biden. It’s going to be Big Daddy.

Still, spoiler – even admitted spoiler – might not be a strong enough epithet. Ross Perot was a spoiler. Ralph Nader was a spoiler. But Perot’s campaign never said it explicitly intended to harm George HW Bush in 1992. Nader’s campaign never said it explicitly intended to harm Al Gore in 2000. Kennedy’s campaign is being as explicit as it can be about its intentions. Not only does it refuse to deny spoiler allegations. It’s actively conspiring with Republican operatives in New York state (with the tacit approval of Donald Trump’s campaign) and doing so while mimicking virtually word-for-word the Kremlin’s preferred view.

That’s not just a spoiler. 

That’s a conspirator.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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