Three Cheers for RFK Jr.’s Candidacy
By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Special to The Kennedy Beacon
RFK Jr.’s announcement today of a third-party candidacy is a gift for the nation. We now have the chance for a real debate about the nation’s future at a time when Gallup reports that 67 percent of Americans are dissatisfied and only 33 percent satisfied with “our system of government and how well it works.” In 2001, the numbers were reversed, with 68 percent satisfied and only 30 percent dissatisfied.
As of today, I’d vote for RFK Jr. over either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Yet the beauty of RFK Jr.’s independent run is that voters will have more than a year to decide, after listening carefully to the candidates. My bet is that the national debate will break strongly in RFK Jr.’s favor.
Sixty years ago, our nation and the world lost John F. Kennedy, the only great president of my lifetime. Fifty-five years ago, we lost Senator Robert F. Kennedy and his unique moral vision and capacity to touch Americans. Knowing RFK Jr. for more than 40 years, I believe that he would govern in the Kennedy way, for all Americans, for the tired and downtrodden as well as the young dynamic entrepreneur out to start her own business. It is governing for the common good, rather than for the corporate lobbies, that our country most needs.
No doubt the mainstream media pundits will immediately castigate RFK Jr., and for that matter my enormously talented friend and former colleague Cornel West, as spoilers, cranks, and in RFK Jr.’s case, as a conspiracy theorist, who will only muddy the waters. Democratic Party insiders will bemoan RFK’s run as a gift to Trump. Yet by election time, the Democrats are more likely to be urging Biden to withdraw from the race, on grounds of age and incompetence, in order to help RFK Jr. to beat Trump decisively at the polls.
RFK is no spoiler. He is a bona fide lifelong, brave, and highly intelligent opponent of the corrupted politics that has brought America to its current impasse. To understand RFK Jr.’s candidacy, and its enormous merits, we have to understand the reasons for the pervasive dissatisfaction with our political life.
The Gallup Survey makes clear that Americans bemoan the corruption of our political system, and notably that it has fallen into the hands of power brokers, against the promise of a system “for the people.” According to Gallup, 80 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation’s “moral and ethical climate.” 71 percent are dissatisfied with “the size and influence of major corporations.” A whopping 75 percent are dissatisfied with “the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S.”
Americans understand the core of the problem. Just 14 percent of Americans are satisfied with “the nation’s campaign laws,” against 62 percent who are dissatisfied (the rest express no opinion). Our national politics have become a cesspool in which policies are almost literally sold to the highest bidder in return for campaign contributions.
War versus peace? That’s sold to the military-industrial complex (just as JFK’s predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, famously warned us), resulting in perpetual war. Overpriced health care? That’s sold to Big Pharma and Big Health Insurers. Our unhealthy food system? That’s sold to Big Ag. Our polluting energy industry? That one is sold to Big Coal and Big Oil.
RFK Jr. understands all of this deeply. As an environmental lawyer and lover of the outdoors, he has successfully battled the corporate polluters in court for decades because he knew full well that the politicians wouldn’t stand up to the corporate interests. To call him a conspiracy theorist is only to restate the obvious. The corporate lobbies are, and have long been, in a conspiracy against the public interest. Adam Smith, the genius who first described the modern market economy in 1776, said just that: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
And if anyone has the right to bemoan conspiracies, it is RFK Jr., whose personal losses came on top of our national calamities in losing his uncle and father to assassinations. After decades of study, I personally believe that JFK fell to a conspiracy of rogue elements of the military-industrial-intelligence complex. The disclosure last month by Paul Landis, the Secret Service agent on JFK’s detail, is further proof of the massive misinformation perpetrated on the public by the Warren Commission, the official account of the JFK assassination. To add insult to injury, Biden continues to keep secret several thousand documents related to the assassination.
Of all the aims of RFK Jr.’s candidacy, none is more important than retaking American foreign policy from the warmongers and war profiteers. On a sheer dollars-and-sense basis, America’s disastrous wars of choice during the past twenty years have cost the nation an estimated $8 trillion, including military and security outlays plus the horrendous healthcare costs for America’s brave veterans whose bodies and lives were shattered by wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and more that never should have occurred. These reckless wars have done much to push federal debt to 120 percent of GDP from less than half that ratio back in 2000.
RFK Jr. knows well that the war in Ukraine could have been avoided with wiser and more skillful US diplomacy, as so many of America’s top diplomats insisted before being end-run by the arms merchants. It should be ended now by negotiations, rather than Biden's plan to shovel tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars more to a disastrous war that is devastating, not saving, Ukraine.
In his Inaugural Address in 1961, President Kennedy made vivid the great choice of our age: “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.” I believe that RFK Jr. is the candidate who will choose to end human poverty while saving human life.
Let the national debate begin!