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The RFK Jr. political roadshow hits a new low, and it’s spelled T-R-U-M-P 

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is finally getting his moment in the sun — and boy, are his blemishes coming into sharp focus.  

America’s most recent round of Kennedy punditry comes after a new Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll showed the former Democrat scooping up a respectable 18 percent of the electorate against Donald Trump’s 41 percent and Joe Biden’s 33 percent. Those numbers sent teeth chattering across the Democratic consultant sphere, where Kennedy is widely viewed as a potential spoiler for Biden’s re-election hopes.  

That nervousness says more about Beltway Democrats’ fixation on polling than it does about any real strength on Kennedy’s part. As voters are beginning to learn from his recent media tour, Kennedy is willing to make deals with anyone in order to obtain power, even if that means tossing his long legacy of progressive activism aside in order to serve as vice president of a Republican presidency.  

For a man whose father attained legendary status in the American pantheon  precisely because of his unwavering commitment to his ideals — his willingness to speak truth to power even in the most challenging circumstances — RFK Jr.’s recent moral compromises should leave voters aghast. That’s certainly the case within Kennedy’s own family

It’s difficult to believe from the vantage point of January 2024, but Kennedy was once a respected environmental activist whose name was occasionally floated for national elected office. It’s difficult to detect any trace of that work in the campaign Kennedy is now running. 

Back in October, the San Francisco Chronicle took Kennedy to task for scrubbing nearly all mentions of climate change from his campaign website. In interviews, Kennedy has pushed conspiracy theories about the Environmental Protection Agency while crowing about the importance of giving airtime to climate skeptics peddling the same junk science Kennedy once so expertly refuted. Anyone looking for Kennedy the Environmentalist had best look elsewhere. 

A bigger mystery is whether Kennedy actually believes much of anything anymore.  

He began his quixotic campaign by attempting to primary Biden within the Democratic Party. That effort flopped in historic fashion, so Kennedy bolted frmo the party to run as an independent candidate. The last few months have seen him courting an increasingly bizarre list of party organizations, seemingly unconcerned that many of them represent views sharply at odds with both his own progressive ideals and of most mainstream Democrats and Independents.  

The RFK Jr. political roadshow reached the peak of its political absurdity last week, when Kennedy first denied and later admitted that Trump — a man Kennedy once accused of “discrediting democracy” — was considering him as a vice presidential running mate.  

In a sign of just how frayed Kennedy’s ideological fabric has become, the Trump news actually broke at the same time Kennedy was busy wooing another right wing group: the Libertarian Party.  

Kennedy told CNN’s Michael Smerconish on Saturday that he would gladly run for president under the Libertarian banner if that won him much-needed ballot access in a few more states. It didn’t appear to concern Kennedy at all that the Libertarian Party has in recent years become a virulent megaphone of Trump’s MAGA ideology, including advocating extreme anti-abortion and anti-gay positions. Voters wouldn’t be wrong to wonder whether Kennedy has also dumped those issues by the wayside in the same way he unceremoniously abandoned decades of climate leadership. 

Kennedy’s year of transformation has led to some unexpected outcomes. For one, his campaign is far more popular with Republicans than with Democrats, both among rank-and-file voters and big-money donors. That shouldn’t be surprising; Kennedy hasn’t just jettisoned his old progressive values, he’s spent much of his time since the COVID-19 pandemic building alliances with some of the most conspiracy-minded voices on the right. Republicans now justifiably fear that Kennedy’s candidacy could eat into Trump’s vote share in November. That problem will only multiply if Kennedy peels away the GOP’s waning Libertarian fringe. 

With polling ranging from 10 percent at the end of last year to 18 percent today, it’s clear that Americans are frustrated with both Trump and Biden. But in a campaign where “a candidate who shares my values” often ranks near the top of voter priorities, Kennedy has proven that his values are not only negotiable, they are for sale to whoever will help him get on the ballot — even Trump.  

What a shameful end for such a storied name.  

Max Burns is a veteran Democratic strategist and founder of Third Degree Strategies.        

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