Sanders-Trump- ... RFK Jr. Voters?

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Earlier in the primary season Trumpists encouraged or aided Green crusader/anti-vax conspiracy nut RFK, Jr. -- first as a primary challenger to Joe Biden and then as an independent candidate for the Presidency. They did the latter because they saw him as doing more damage to Biden's prospects than to Trump's.

I disputed that idea months ago, in part due to the kind of voter that finds appealing the likes of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump -- and historically, George Wallace and RFK, Sr.

This morning, I ran across a piece at UnHerd that comments on what it calls "the growing RFK Jr. coalition." It comes from a far-left perspective -- given away by its assertion that the Kennedy's relatively sane position on Israel is a liability.

Most interesting are its quotes from disenchanted Trump supporters:

Steve, a musician, tells me that over the past three elections, he has moved from Bernie Sanders (until the DNC "rigged" the selection) in 2016 to Trump in 2020 to RFK Jr in 2024. "Kennedy talks about issues that the other two candidates totally ignore," he says. "This is Kennedy against the uni-party -- something I thought Trump did until he became President."

As a conservative said of Steve Bannon's earlier promotion of RFK, Jr., "Blame Bannon. His monster got out of the cage."

Here's another one of those voters, as well as a Trump supporter who doesn't quite fit that mold:
Anti-vax nuts have been popping up in conservative circles longer than lots of us would care to think. This photo comes from a Tea Party protest. (Image by Fibonacci Blue, via Wikimedia Commons, license.)
Suzanne, another Bernie-Trump-RFK supporter, admires Kennedy for his commitment to prising the US out of "foreign misadventures". "He's not an America First-type like Trump," she says. "His positions are much more considered -- he doesn't want to withdraw us from the world, but merely thinks that we should not be funding all these wars abroad." Along with various other people I speak to there, Suzanne has particular ire for the man she voted for in 2016. "Trump talked a big game, but the debt blew up under him and he was the one that implemented all the Covid shutdowns ... I'll never forgive him for that."

While RFK's views on Covid are well-documented, ranging from the credible to the crankish, it would be misleading to characterise all his supporters as militant anti-vaxxers. Many would rather emphasise the importance of medical freedom in general. "I was vaccinated but I was against the shutdowns and mandates," John Myers tells me. "But this isn't just a Covid thing -- it's about the right to choose what's best for you and not have the government tell me what to do."
To borrow from the UnHerd piece, the reasons former Trump voters might defect to RFK, Jr. range from the credible to the crankish, but I think it is a real possibility that a second candidate positioning himself as outside the establishment is more dangerous to the other such candidate among voters most unhappy about that establishment.

-- CAV

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