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VICTOR JOECKS: What’s fueling the rise of RFK Jr.

The popularity of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign is a rebuke to the country’s political, cultural, medical and business elites.

On Tuesday, Kennedy announced that Nicole Shanahan, a lawyer from Oakland, California, will be his running mate. She has an interesting personal narrative, going from food stamps to the ex-wife of a Google co-founder. She’s extremely wealthy and helped pay for a nostalgia-invoking Super Bowl ad promoting Kennedy. She could fund the state-by-state effort it would take to get Kennedy on the ballot around the country.

If he’s on the ballot, polling shows he will be a factor. The Real Clear Politics polling average has him just under 10 percent. In a Harvard-Harris poll released Monday, he garnered 15 percent. Conventional wisdom says that Kennedy’s support will wane. As the election draws near, most voters tend to settle on one of the two candidates with a realistic chance of winning.

But there are plenty of reasons to think Kennedy will have staying power. For one, even some Democrats acknowledge President Joe Biden’s age is a problem. In that Harvard poll, 37 percent of Democrats said he’s “showing he is too old to be president.” Many of those voters wouldn’t dream of voting for Donald Trump, but they may find Kennedy a palatable alternative.

Another is that Kennedy is positioning himself outside the traditional left-right divide. He often sounds as if he’s running to be America’s doctor-in-chief.

“We’ve become a nation of chronic illness, of violence, of loneliness, depression and division and poverty,” he said in a captivating nine-minute video titled “How I see the state of our union.”

“If I have not significantly dropped the level of chronic disease in our children by the end of my first term, I do not want you to re-elect me,” he said in another video.

For daring to raise questions about vaccines and the government’s response to the pandemic, the national mainstream media labels him a conspiracy theorist. The Biden administration even pressured social media companies to silence him for supposed coronavirus misinformation. These are powerful attack weapons.

But they depend on two things. First, these slings and arrows assume people trust the system’s elite institutions, such as Big Pharma. Calling someone a conspiracy theorist is an attempt to destroy his or her credibility without engaging in a debate about his or her ideas. If you don’t trust the country’s elites, that won’t change your mind. It may further convince you Kennedy is on to something. Second, they needed to permanently silence Kennedy. That didn’t happen. As an independent presidential candidate, his platform is bigger than ever.

Helping Kennedy further is that many coronavirus “conspiracy theories” turned out to be true. COVID-19 almost certainly escaped from a Chinese lab. “Fifteen days to slow the spread” opened the door to a huge government power grab. Masks didn’t work. Reopening schools wasn’t dangerous. Coronavirus vaccines did have health side effects and didn’t prevent people from catching COVID, as initially claimed.

The country’s elites failed. Rather than humbly acknowledge their mistakes and beg forgiveness, they’ve grown intoxicated on power.

Kennedy is explicitly running against that corruption. Little wonder he has attracted a loyal following.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on X.

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