In a twist of political intrigue that could well reshape the terrain of American politics, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the storied Democratic heir known for his anti-vaccine convictions, announced an independent campaign for presidency. Last week, a similar echo had reverberated from Cornel West, renowned philosopher and African-American social leader, and from No Labels, a burgeoning political faction seeking to enlarge its pool of contenders.
This surge of unconventional candidates has the potential to disrupt the seemingly impregnable fortitude of the two main parties, precisely as sitting U.S. President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump strive to wrest control over their respective factions.
While forecasts of these independent or third-party contenders actually clinching the presidency remain insubstantial, their presence may dilute the voter pool that would have otherwise rallied behind the quintessential Democratic and Republican nominees. This phenomenon is sent ripple of concern through Democratic corridors, perceived as an ominous echo to the 2016 elections where the Green Party nominee Jill Stein, despite only capturing a handful of votes, allegedly tipped the scales in favor of Trump.
“Strap in,” stated an unapologetic Stein. “The American people have been waiting for options. What we’re witnessing is nothing short of a voter mutiny.”
Unlike previous elections, the 2024 landscape is cloaked in volatility and unpredictability. The two most likely contenders – Biden and Trump – are each marred by severe unpopularity. Amidst rising political tensions, economic insecurity and a growing clamor for new blood in the national leadership, this field is ripe for outsider candidates.
In the coming months, there will be movements in the chessboard. The Green Party, Stein declared, will officially articulate its presidential ambitions, while No Labels will unveil its own crowned candidate come springtime.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr piled formality upon his intentions by publicly charting his White House journey from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. “I’m here to democratize our nation by invoking a new Declaration of Independence,” he told supportive crowds. His spear of defiance was aimed at the “pessimistic elites” and the two major political parties.
Just as significant as the upcoming decisions are the challenges that these aspirants face. To even breach the minimum requirement of appearing on the ballot in each state is a Herculean feat for any newcomer. The lack of established political machinery compounds the issue.
Nonetheless, Biden confidant Jim Messina, the campaigner who masterminded President Obama’s re-election in 2012, is not one to dismiss the unpredictability of an outsider candidate.
“No independent or third-party candidate has toppled the 270 electoral vote threshold in over fifty years,” he admitted, “but the threat of a third party is real and ought to be navigated very cautiously.”
A new Gallup poll adds unwelcome fuel to this flame, with a staggering 63% of American adults exclaiming that the two principal parties indeed need a substantial competitor.
However, would such dissatisfaction translate into actual votes for Kennedy, West, or a No Labels candidate? History suggests otherwise.
According to Trump’s senior adviser Chris LaCivita, Democrats stand to lose the most with these surprising turns. “A sitting president and his coalition seem to be spawning most of the elements instigating a third-party run, not ours,” LaCivita claimed.
Both Trump and Biden campaigns concur that outsider candidates – barring the well-funded and organized exception of No Labels – will find it a stiff challenge to secure ballot listing in a majority of states.
Yet Brendan McPhillips, state director for Biden’s Pennsylvania efforts in the previous election, warns that these outlier candidates can have massive political repercussions. Echoing the sentiments of many Democrats, he speculates that Stein’s nearly 50,000 Pennsylvania votes could have contributed to Trump’s slim victory in the crucial battleground state.
McPhillips contends, “The Biden campaign is going to be street-smart about it. They’ll underscore the consequences of squandering votes on somebody’s individual vanity project.”