Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running for president as an independent, he announced on Monday.
"I'm here to declare myself an independent candidate for president of the United States," Kennedy told supporters at a rally in Philadelphia. "I'm here to join you in making a new Declaration of Independence for our entire nation."
Kennedy had previously challenged President Joe Biden from within the Democratic Party; his exit means that Marianne Williamson is now Biden's sole primary Democratic contender.
RFK Jr.'s declaration is notable for another reason: It ends speculation that he might seek the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination. Kennedy is not a libertarian and historically has held positions on a variety of issues that are fairly anathema to libertarianism, including his views on environmental regulation, affirmative action, and until recently, gun control. But he is an outspoken opponent of COVID-19 mandates—as well as the COVID-19 vaccines—and a critic of American foreign policy with respect to the Ukraine-Russia war.
These last two stances have endeared him to some in the Libertarian Party (L.P.), who hoped that he was moving in a libertarian direction on a variety of issues. RFK Jr. attended both PorcFest and FreedomFest, two yearly libertarian festivals, and seemed to be sincerely courting independent voters of both populist and libertarian bents. He also fielded questions from Reason and others about his evolving views.
Back in June, I asked L.P. Chair Angela McArdle about RFK Jr.'s candidacy. She told me that it was exciting to see him reconsidering some of his previous views.
"The lockdowns and mandates seem to have stirred an awakening within him, causing him to reconsider many of his other political stances," she said at the time.
Kennedy's announcement of an independent run was received cordially by the L.P.; his declaration of support for unlimited aid to Israel, not so much. Following the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians over the weekend, RFK Jr. said the U.S. should provide Israel with"whatever it needs to defend itself."
This ignominious, unprovoked, and barbaric attack on Israel must be met with world condemnation and unequivocal support for the Jewish state's right to self-defense. We must provide Israel with whatever it needs to defend itself — now. As President, I'll make sure that our policy…
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) October 7, 2023
This political position was rightly criticized by McArdle and the L.P. as profoundly un-libertarian: U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to pay for the defenses of other countries.
We are the only ones who are actually anti-war in every context.
Not just when it's convenient.
— Libertarian Party (@LPNational) October 7, 2023
Unfortunately, RFK Jr. is hardly the only political figure to make such a declaration; both Democratic and Republican leaders have committed to providing military aid to Israel, and the Pentagon is already deploying warships to the area.
Many Americans are understandably moved by images and videos of appalling violence being committed against Israeli civilians. But there is little reason to think that providing even more money and weapons to the government of Israel will help create peaceful living conditions for either the Israelis or the Palestinians. We can have compassion for people who are suffering around the world, but we must also have humility about U.S. foreign policy and the likely results of interventionism.
If RFK Jr. hasn't quite learned that yet—despite some encouraging signs—the Libertarian Party probably isn't the right home for him at present.
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