RFK Jr. Believes His ‘Path to Hope’ Explains Popularity With Young Voters


When Robert F. Kennedy Jr. decided to run for president, he was unsure about the demographic he’d attract. But seven months later, he’s unsurprised by a poll saying there’s a lot of young people on board. Except, he tells Newsweek, he doesn’t suppose that there’s much support for him among “super-woke” college students.

That’s because he’s a “First Amendment absolutist,” thus those who are on board with so-called cancel culture and students who want to police what is, and what is not, appropriate speech reject his candidacy.

A New York Times/Siena poll published Sunday indicated that among voters age 18 to 29 in six key battleground states, Kennedy leads with 34 percent while President Joe Biden and Donald Trump are at 30 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Before Kennedy threw his hat in the ring in April, he said he had made speeches on college campuses roughly 500 times over 25 years, sometime gratis, sometimes at his normal speaking fee of $25,000-$50,000 a pop, usually talking about environmentalism, and young people gravitated to his message.

“I’ve always had a big following among young people; environmentalists skew young,” he said.

He also said that since his candidacy, some have approached him to tell him they appreciated his stand against mandatory COVID vaccines for college students. “I tell them, ‘thanks.’ What else can I say?” he quips.

Kennedy said he also wants to restore “moral authority” to the U.S., a notion to which young people are gravitating as their opinion of America has soured.

He points to a Gallup poll in June that indicated just 18 percent of voters age 18 to 34 are “extremely proud” to be American, significantly lower than a decade earlier.

“In the terms of the last two presidents, an entire generation of American kids have become disillusioned about our country and their own futures,” he said. “I’ve been trying to show that generation a path to hope.”

He said he’s been reaching young people by taking his message to podcasters like Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Lex Fridman and Aubrey Marcus, whose shows are less about party politics and more about allowing their guests to speak their minds.

“I’m not trying to spin this. I see them everywhere,” he said. “A month ago, a kid in New Hampshire told me that every Tuesday he has to make a choice about having a meal or filling his car with gas, and he said that I’m the only one talking about about how he can someday own his own house.”

Kennedy said his plan for housing includes a guaranteed 3 percent mortgage rate for first-time buyers that he’ll finance with tax-free Treasury bills.

“If you have a rich uncle who will co-sign your mortgage, you’ll get a better rate. I’m going to give a whole generation a rich uncle, and his name is Uncle Sam,” he told Newsweek. “Everywhere I go, I talk about my housing plan, and that appeals to the younger generation.”

John Pitney, political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, said that Kennedy’s appeal among young voters is tied in part to his declaration that he’s an independent, and the perception that, at 69, he’s younger than Trump and Biden.

His popularity “represents dissatisfaction about a choice between two old men,” Pitney said. “Many younger voters like the vague idea of ‘independence.’ His support will melt when voters learn about his positions, his record and his age.”

But Kennedy says such analysis is wrong, and, sounding a little bit like he’s taking a page out of former President Barack Obama‘s handbook, he spoke about “hope” several times during a 20-minute phone interview with Newsweek on Wednesday.

Democrats are saying to vote for Biden because Donald Trump is scary. Nobody is saying to vote for Biden because he’s inspiring or vigorous, or equipped for a challenging world,” he said. “And the Republicans are saying the same thing—vote for Trump or Biden’s gonna get another term. They’re trying to scare people, and I’m offering hope.”

“I don’t think I have strong support among super-woke college campuses,” he adds. “If you’re into cancel culture, you’ll support President Biden, because I don’t believe in censorship. Colleges ought to be censorship-free zones; issues should be debated. That’s what democracy is about.”

Thus far, Kennedy said that since his run for president began, he’s only spoken at seven colleges, but more are coming. And he said that he has a robust outreach program headed by Jackson Hines, the nephew of his wife, actress Cheryl Hines.

Noting that anti-Israel protests are occurring at some colleges, he adds: “People who are pro-Hamas aren’t going to vote for me. I’m supportive of the plight of Palestinians, but I don’t equate that with support of Hamas.”

He said that the more than 30 groups who signed a letter at Harvard University saying they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” between Israel and Hamas suffer from “extreme factual confusion and moral bankruptcy.”

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

The post RFK Jr. Believes His ‘Path to Hope’ Explains Popularity With Young Voters appeared first on Newsweek.

Leave A Reply