by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Matt Welch writes for Reason about important pieces of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s history.
Ever since the 69-year-old conspiratorial activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination last week, a curious new category has appeared among the commentariat—libertarians and/or right-of-center journalists expressing strange new respect for a Hugo Chavez-admiring scion of the Establishment who has serially fantasized about throwing his political opponents in jail.
“I’m quite certain that I’ve never heard a more erudite speech in any political context,” enthused Brownstone Institute President Jeffrey Tucker after attending Kennedy’s announcement rally. “As [a] Democrat he must be bad on all sorts of things,” tweeted Antiwar.com’s Scott Horton, “But not the ones that matter the most.” The Libertarian Party of Colorado tweeted (and then deleted) “Bravo and godspeed hero.” Tablet, a publication not usually known for boosting overheated analogies to murderous 20th-century totalitarians, gave RFK Jr. an 18,000-word valentine with such soft-toss “questions” about his previous controversial statements (like terming the impact from childhood vaccines “a holocaust”) as: “You activated an automated outrage machine that was looking for a gotcha.”
The newly Kennedy-curious are intrigued by the rabble-rouser’s potential to disrupt an otherwise rubber-stamped Democratic primary, sure, but also by him having the right enemies—the media, the military-industrial complex, and, most of all, a political class that backed COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates.
“Just as Donald Trump…retrieved political themes from the deep past of the Republican Party,” National Review‘s Michael Brendan Dougherty mused, “so it must be that a Democrat should come along and try to revive left-leaning skepticism of government and corporate power, to denounce crony capitalism, censorship, and the CIA to boot.”
Recasting RFK Jr. as a foe of censorship and potential tamer of government requires ignoring what he has been and imagining things he’ll never be. Among a lifetime of eyebrow-raising public activities, Bobby Kennedy’s son has repeatedly egged on government to punish those who disagree with his idiosyncratic understandings of science.