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Why the U.S. Needs Politicians like RFK Jr.

Polarization of U.S. politics is at an all-time high. An Independent candidate shaking up the 2024 presidential election might be just what we need. If you have been engaged in the politics of the United States at any time during the past few years, you will understand that polarization has gotten out of control. Opposite parties are seemingly incapable of cooperating with one another, prioritizing the increasingly extreme views of their own party above compromise. 

This phenomenon gridlocks our democracy, and there seems to be no way of holding politicians accountable — apart from voting, that is. With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. might show partisan politicians how dangerous it can be to stick uncompromisingly to one side.

It is a fact that when democracies become too polarized, their effectiveness erodes. The chasm dividing the Democratic and Republican parties has grown too deep in the recent past, carved by the increasing ideological cohesion of each party. When a party is ideologically cohesive, its members do not hold a diverse set of opinions on what they believe to be fundamental truths. As Republicans have become increasingly conservative and Democrats increasingly progressive, there is little to no room for common ground on what the parties believe to be fundamental truths. 

Voters usually feel stuck between choosing two opposite extremes. There is a larger population of politically moderate individuals than one might expect — about one-third of the United States. Many will have difficulty choosing a candidate who does not support their diverse set of ideas. I know I will be going through this exact dilemma.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently announced he would be running as an Independent in the 2024 election. His name alone probably drew your attention. Kennedy, also known as RFK Jr., holds a diverse set of opinions that is likely to draw votes from individuals on both sides of the political spectrum. He originally ran as a Democrat and has a background as an environmental lawyer, appealing to many on the liberal (Democrat) side of the ideological spectrum. Additionally, he holds many controversial anti-vaccine opinions, which appeal to those on the conservative (Republican) side of the ideological spectrum. 

It's been said time and again, but an independent candidate doesn't have a great chance of winning an election. But maybe that's not the point. Maybe politicians like RFK Jr. can inject greater moderation into elections, even if they don't have much of a shot at winning. 

If you could not tell already, RFK Jr. will be a problem for Donald Trump and Joe Biden: the expected frontrunners of the Republican and Democratic parties for this next election. Kennedy’s independent, centrist stance has the ability to draw votes away from both Trump and Biden. Polling information even shows that he has a higher favorability rating than his counterparts, “with 51% of respondents having a favorable view of him,” Kennedy, “compared to 45% for Biden and 40% for Trump.” 

Essentially, RFK Jr. has the potential to spoil the election for either Biden or Trump, but this danger may help hold these candidates accountable for their polarized views. It is expected to be another close race in 2024, and because Kennedy appeals to both sides of the political spectrum, the likelihood of either candidate dominating in important swing states has been jeopardized. It is my opinion that the threat of RFK Jr. looming over both Trump and Biden’s campaigns will induce them to adopt a certain degree of moderation in order to win back the favor they have lost from independent voters. Kennedy’s presence in the election might finally create accountability for these candidates presenting such divided issue positions to Americans. 

Even if he does not have a good chance of winning the election, RFK Jr. will give the people of the United States a taste of what it could be like to have a less partisan president. Once Americans can picture less partisanship within the presidential office, they might wonder: why has this not been the norm all along?

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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