Tag: democratic party

Abortion Doubts May Drive Wavering Democrats Away From RFK Jr.

The extended family of third-party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made an explicit effort Thursday to blunt his appeal among Democratic voters by endorsing President Joe Biden en masse.

Robert's sister Kerry Kennedy, daughter of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and niece of former President John F. Kennedy, called Biden “my hero” at an endorsement event in Philadelphia featuring at least 15 members of the Kennedy clan.

“We want to make crystal clear our feelings that the best way forward for America is to reelect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for four more years,” she said, a clear sign of the threat third-party candidates pose to Biden's 2024 reelection bid.

Almost simultaneously, news broke that RFK Jr. and his tech entrepreneur running mate Nicole Shanahan qualified for the ballot in the swing state of Michigan after being nominated by the Natural Law Party.

The ultimate effect of third-party candidates this cycle and exactly where they will make the ballot remains unclear. But we do know that Donald Trump, who has never won more than 47 percent of the vote, will need a spoiler or two siphoning away votes from Biden in order to prevail in November.

The supposed bipartisan group No Labels recently complicated Trump's calculus by ending its bid to find a candidate to run. That leaves anti-vaccine activist RFK Jr., Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Harvard professor Cornel West as potential spoilers to Biden's reelection, either individually or as a group. Kennedy, who polls highest and has the resources to potentially get on the ballot in all 50 states, poses the biggest threat.

It remains to be seen whether Kennedy's candidacy—which draws interest from conspiracy theorists and Kennedy-nostalgic Democrats alike—will hurt Biden or Trump more in November. But some polling suggests that Kennedy is currently skimming more voters away from Biden.

What is clear is that Trump benefits disproportionately from every third-party candidate in the race since he fell several points shy of reaching 50% in both 2016 and 2020. By contrast, Biden won in 2020 with 51% of vote—just barely enough to tilt the Electoral College in his favor. It’s telling that Kennedy's presidential bid has been bankrolled by one of Trump's biggest donors, Mellon banking heir Timothy Mellon, and championed by one of Trump's biggest allies, Steve Bannon. Not so coincidentally, a key Kennedy campaign official, Rita Palma, also said her No. 1 goal was blocking Biden's reelection bid. Palma has since been axed by the Kennedy campaign.

All that said, it is incumbent upon the Biden campaign to blunt Kennedy's allure among Democrats to make him a bigger drag on Trump in November.

“If Kennedy makes it on the ballot in these states—and that’s a big if—we’re going to make sure voters know how extreme his policies are and that MAGA megadonors are bankrolling his spoiler campaign to be a stalking horse for Donald Trump,” said Democratic strategist Lis Smith, who is advising the Democratic National Committee on the matter.

The Kennedy family itself, with its enduring star power among Democrats, has been searching for ways to kneecap RFK Jr., who's leveraging the family name while damaging the Kennedy legacy with his antithetical stances.

But at some point soon, the Biden campaign will have to deploy a strategy to neutralize Kennedy's Democratic appeal, and a recent Engagious focus group in Pennsylvania of 11 Trump-to-Biden swing voters may offer a window into one potential avenue.

According to Axios, roughly half of the swing voters who participated in the focus group said the candidates' stances on abortion would play a role in how they voted in the fall.

Six of those swing voters also said they would vote for Kennedy over Biden and Trump, but questions about Kennedy's abortion stance became an immediate hang-up for them.

"If he doesn't agree with what I agree with abortion, then I'm going to switch," said participant Michael W.

Rich Thau, the focus group moderator and president of Engagious, said that pro-choice swing voters who expressed support for Kennedy "seemed to second-guess their support when confronted with the argument that a vote for Kennedy is effectively a vote for Trump and his abortion policies."

After some initial jostling last year, Kennedy told NBC News’ Ali Vitali that he supported abortion during the first three months of pregnancy but would sign a federal abortion ban if elected.

“I believe a decision to abort a child should be up to the women during the first three months of life," Kennedy said. "Once a child is viable, outside the womb, I think then the state has an interest in protecting the child." The exchange between Kennedy and Vitali was captured on video, making it fodder for attack ads.

Kennedy’s campaign has since backtracked on those remarks, issuing a statement saying he does not support a federal ban on abortion.

“Mr. Kennedy supports a woman's right to choose,” says the statement, adding that it’s “not up to the government to intervene in these difficult medical and moral choices.”

A national abortion ban is a nonstarter with Democratic voters, and perhaps most importantly, many Democrats who aren't thrilled about voting for Biden but would never consider voting for Trump.

In a follow-up exchange with Daily Kos, Thau said, "For pro-choice Trump and Biden voters, the risk posed by voting for RFK Jr. could be too much if abortion is a top-tier concern."

He added that he hasn't yet come across another issue that "would have the same effect on RFK-curious swing voters as abortion does. It’s not to say there aren’t such issues … but I haven’t pushed or probed on those yet."

Whatever the range of issues that could dissuade Democrats from voting for Kennedy, abortion appears to offer the Biden campaign a starting point.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.


'Bannon's Meat Puppet': RFK Jr. Torched For Blaming Ukrainian Deaths On US

Widely known for his anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, 2024 Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., recently suggested Russia is not responsible for the deaths of Ukrainian youth, despite the country's invasion on Ukraine last year.

Son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy — the presidential hopeful tweeted Friday, "Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian youth have already died because America's foreign policy establishment manipulated their country into war to fulfill vain + futile geopolitical fantasy. Now, rather than acknowledge failure, Biden admin prepares to sacrifice American lives too."

Kennedy continued, "Meanwhile, our cities decay, our infrastructure falls apart, our middle class hollows out, crime soars, chronic disease and addiction run rampant. We can heal all of this if we try. But not if we pour our resources into foreign adventures. Biden has lost his way. He is out of touch with the real needs and priorities of the American people. Do you care more about global military dominance, or would you like to rebuild our prosperity from the inside out? #Kennedy24"

The conspiracy theorist was met with staunch criticism from several journalists, political strategists and experts Saturday morning.

Mehdi Hasan commented: "Even if you believe America or NATO 'provoked’ the Russian invasion, to blame the deaths of innocent Ukrainians on anyone else but the Russians who are actually *killing them* is beyond dishonest. Notice that RFK Jr. can't even bring himself to mention Russia here. Not one word."

Political strategist and New York Times bestselling author Rick Wilson said: "You're Steve Bannon's meat puppet."

National Security Foreign Policy reporter Mark Toth replied: "What an utter dunce @RobertKennedyJr has become. Gone are any remnants of his uncle's statesmanship. ^ #Putin's puppeteering on full display. If JFK were alive, he'd be saying something like, 'Ask not what liberty can do for you, but what you can do for liberty in #Ukraine.'"

Eugene Freedman, counsel to the president of National Air Traffic Controllers Association, added: "This guy is a dangerous threat to the free world. If he thinks Ukraine did anything to deserve being invaded by Russia he's actually insane. If he's doing this as an act, he's even more dangerous."

Former congressman Joe Walsh said: "Shame on you. I'm so f***ing sick & tired of u blaming America bcuz RUSSIA invaded a sovereign nation. Ukrainians have died defending their country. Ukrainians have died bcuz RUSSIA killed them. Not us. RUSSIA. RUSSIA has targeted civilians & committed war crimes. Shame on u."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Chamath Palihapitiya

The Tech Billionaires Who Are Backing Kennedy's Anti-Science Crusade

Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the latest scion of the Kennedy clan to seek the presidency, has a set of unusual fans: some of the most influential tech executives and investors in America. Kennedy’s strong anti-vaccine views are, for this group, a sideshow.

“Tearing down all these institutions of power. It gives me glee,” said one of his boosters in tech, Chamath Palihapitiya, a garrulous former Facebook executive, nearly two hours into a May episode of the popular “All-In” podcast he co-hosts with other tech luminaries. The person who might help with the demolition was the show’s guest, Kennedy himself.

“Me too,” responded David Sacks, Palihapitiya’s co-host on the podcast, an early investor in Facebook and Uber. Sacks and Palihapitiya said they would host a fundraiser for Kennedy, which, according to the Puck news outlet, was set for June 15.

Kennedy’s newfound friends in Silicon Valley were mostly loud supporters of vaccines early in the pandemic, but they have proven more than willing to let him expound on his anti-vaccine views and conspiracy theories as he promotes his presidential bid. During a two-hour forum on Twitter, hosted by company owner Elon Musk and Sacks, Kennedy raised a range of themes, but returned to the subject he’s become famous for in recent years: his skepticism about vaccines and the pharmaceutical companies that sell them.

Indeed, on the June 5 appearance, he praised Musk for ending “censorship” on his corner of social media. A promoter of conspiracy theories, Kennedy said various forces are keeping him from discussing his safety concerns over vaccines, like Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (as part of the intelligence apparatus), Big Pharma, and Roger Ailes (who has been dead for six years).

Kennedy argued an influx of direct-to-consumer advertising from pharmaceutical concerns keep media outlets, like Fox News, from featuring his theories about vaccine safety. Fox didn’t respond to a request for comment.

He then said he supported reversing policies that allow direct-to-consumer ads in media. (Kennedy earlier dubbed himself a “free-speech absolutist” and, later, in a discussion about nuclear power, a “free-market absolutist” and even later a “constitutional absolutist.” Legal scholars doubt the courts, on First Amendment grounds, would be receptive to a ban of direct-to-consumer ads.)

Support for Kennedy in the venture capital and tech communities, which have a big financial stake in the advancement of science and generally reject irrational conspiracy theories, is likely limited. Multiple venture capitalists and technologists contacted by KFF Health News expressed puzzlement over what’s driving the embrace from Musk and others.

“I think he is a lower-intellect, Democratic version of Donald Trump, so he attracts libertarian-leaning, anti-‘woke,’ socially liberal folks as a protest vote,” said Robert Nelsen, a biotech investor with Arch Venture Partners. “I think he is a dangerous conspiracy theorist, who has contributed to many deaths with his anti-vaccine lies.”

But the ones with the megaphones are letting Kennedy talk. Jason Calacanis, another co-host of “All-In” and a pal of Musk’s, said late in the podcast he was pleased the conversation didn’t lead with “sensational” topics — like vaccines. Still, during the podcast, Kennedy was given nearly five uninterrupted minutes to describe his views on shots — a long list of alleged safety problems, ranging from allergies, autism, to autoimmune problems, many of which have been discredited by reputable scientists.

David Friedberg, another Silicon Valley executive and guest on the show, suggested there wasn’t “direct evidence” for those problems. “I don’t think it’s solely the vaccines,” Kennedy conceded. After an interlude touching on the role of chemicals, he was back to injuries caused by diphtheria shots.

While Friedberg, a former Google executive and founder of an agriculture startup sold to Monsanto for a reported $1.1 billion, pushed back against Kennedy, he did so deep into the podcast, after the candidate had left. Kennedy’s views — on nuclear power and vaccines — manifest “as conspiracy theories,” he said. “It doesn’t resonate with me,” he continued, as he “likes to have empirical truth be demonstrated.”

The muted pushback is a bit of a reversal. Early in the rollout of covid-19 vaccines, many tech luminaries had been among the most loudly pro-shot individuals. The “All-In” crew was no exception. Sacks once tweeted, “We’ve got to raise the bar for what we expect from government”; Palihapitiya begged administrators to “stop virtue signaling” with vaccination criteria and simply mass-vaccinate instead.

That was then. Sacks recently retweeted a video of Bill Gates questioning the effectiveness of current covid vaccines and defended Kennedy from charges of being anti-vaccination.

Musk himself has sometimes suggested he has qualms with vaccines, tweeting in January, without evidence, that “I’m pro vaccines in general, but there’s a point where the cure/vaccine is potentially worse, if administered to the whole population, than the disease.”

Musk isn’t the only top tech executive to signal interest in Kennedy’s candidacy. Block CEO and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has tweeted Kennedy “can and will” win the presidency.

In some ways, the Valley’s interest in Kennedy — vaccine skepticism and all — has deep roots. Tech culture grew out of Bay Area counterculture. It has historically embraced individualistic theories of health and wellness. While most have conventional views on health, techies have dabbled in “nootropics,” supplements that purportedly boost mental performance, plus fad diets, microdosing psychedelics, and even quests for immortality.

There’s a “deeply held anti-establishment ethos” among many tech leaders, said University of Washington historian Margaret O’Mara. There’s a “suspicion of authority, disdain for gatekeepers and traditionalists, dislike of bureaucracies of all kinds. This too has its roots in the counterculture era, and the 1960s antiwar movement, in particular.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Horrific Pelosi Tape Shows Right-Wing Conspiracy Machine Is Out Of Control

Horrific Pelosi Tape Shows Right-Wing Conspiracy Machine Is Out Of Control

Video released Friday of the harrowing home invasion and assault that nearly killed then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in October brought little in the way of self-reflection or regret from far-right Internet trolls and Fox News stars who spent months baselessly insisting that the attack had actually resulted from a gay tryst gone wrong. Instead, the denizens of the right-wing conspiracy theory ecosystem either claimed that the new evidence proved that they were right all along, or used it to float additional conspiracy theories about why it hadn’t been released earlier.

The key facts were available within hours of the October 28, 2022, attack. Law enforcement swiftly alleged that David DePape broke into the Democratic leader’s home in the middle of the night seeking to harm her and pummeled her 82-year-old husband Paul, sending him to the hospital for emergency surgery. Journalists who reviewed DePape’s Internet history subsequently revealed that he had been radicalized online and espoused a wide array of right-wing conspiracy theories, including QAnon.

This narrative of a right-wing extremist who believed the conspiracy theories one sees on Fox beating up an old man while looking for his wife was very unflattering to Republicans. So the right’s extensive, well-funded media apparatus seized on the sorts of minor inconsistencies and trivialities that often characterize breaking news stories, and developed their alternative narrative: DePape was Paul Pelosi’s leftist gay lover and the assault was a tryst gone bad that Democrats, journalists, and law enforcement were now covering up to protect Nancy Pelosi and help the Democrats in the midterm elections.

Within days, this homophobic absurdity spread through right-wing fever swamps, was amplified by Twitter owner Elon Musk, and went up the food chain to outlets like OAN and Fox. Nothing seemed to give pause to the conspiracy theorists over the following weeks, including the federal complaint which stated that police witnessed DePape “striking Pelosi in the head” with a hammer and that he subsequently told an investigator that he had broken into the home as part of a plan “to hold Nancy hostage,” and reports from within the courtroom that police body camera footage showed the attack.

Friday’s court-ordered release of new evidence — security footage of DePape breaking into the Pelosi home, Paul Pelosi’s 911 call, and police bodycam footage that showed DePape and Pelosi struggling over the hammer and then DePape repeatedly using it to strike him — was perhaps the final potential avenue for the right-wing commentators who had promoted the lie to take the offramp back to sanity. With few exceptions, they did not do so.

Instead, many of the Internet trolls who examined the footage claimed vindication. Several noticed that Paul Pelosi wasn’t wearing pants and was carrying a glass when police arrived. This seems to obviously point to Pelosi being woken by a midnight intruder and subsequently trying to deescalate the situation. But for far-right extremist Laura Loomer, it means the attack was “a Grindr booty call gone wrong,” while John Cardillo, a Trumpist pundit who has reportedly been courted by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political operation, commented, “This was no home invasion. This looks more like a domestic quarrel.”

Fox’s coverage of the releases, while occasionally punctuated by anchors debunking their guests’ absurd claims, also featured the new conspiracy theories promoted from the fringes.

Fox star host Tucker Carlson, one of the network’s most prolific proponents of Paul Pelosi conspiracy theories, suggested Friday night that the disclosures were part of “a much larger propaganda campaign.” He acknowledged that the video of the attack was “absolutely awful” before suggesting that it raised new questions.

“It's also weird [he was] standing there with a drink,” Carlson said. “What was that? We can't even speculate as to what that was.”

Carlson went on to say that the new evidence backed up his own narrative about the attack. “That bodycam footage, whatever else it proves — and once again, we're not exactly sure what it proves — it definitely puts a crimp in their preferred story, which was that the Pelosi household was invaded by QAnon activists or something or this was some right-wing militia attack on the speaker of the House's husband,” he said. “That’s not what it shows.”

Carlson and his guest, right-wing journalist Christopher Bedford, went on to allege that there was something nefarious about the government not releasing the videos more quickly. The delay, Bedford said, shows “how much contempt they have for us that they're saying we don't deserve that information, or well, we'll just be misled by it.”

The host wrapped up by asking his guest, “Do you think there are still good government liberals out there who are bothered by the obvious corruption on display around us every single day? Do they even care?”

Others at Fox similarly suggested that the right had been correct to believe conspiracy theories about the case, or that the government was at fault for not moving more quickly to rebut them — an implicit acknowledgement of how paranoid thinking has consumed that political movement.

Fox host Todd Piro said of the bodycam footage on Friday afternoon, “It's going to dispel a lot of those conspiracies that many of us have because California is a Democratic state and we've seen the pattern play out in the past where, I hate to make this political, but Democrats have a tendency to hide and not be transparent when something could potentially make them look in a bad light.”

That night, network contributor Joe Concha complained to host Sean Hannity, “It took nearly three months for that footage to be seen by the public, and by slow-walking this, just as police did following Paul Pelosi's DUI arrest earlier that year — remember he crashed his Porsche into another car in wine country — the questions around this attack only grew louder and the conspiracy theories profoundly stupider.”

And Fox host Pete Hegseth, who initially responded to the attack by saying that something “doesn’t add up,” argued on Sunday night that “the worst thing about this is withholding this information so long. That’s what leads to speculation.”

“Just release the tape,” host Dan Bongino agreed, adding, “It just invites cloak and dagger stuff when you don’t do it.”

This is ridiculous. The problem isn’t the authorities’ response to the massive, well-funded right-wing media machine that makes up garbage for political gain. It’s that that machine is flourishing. If it can turn a story about the brutal assault of the Democratic leader’s spouse by a right-wing conspiracy theorist into a new right-wing conspiracy theory, that apparatus can do it to anyone and with anything.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.