Editor's note: The author of this piece was corrected to Arnie Arnesen.
CONCORD, N.H. — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claimed his presidential candidate status in New Hampshire by filing a declaration of candidacy and paying a $1,000 filing fee; that's all it takes in the Granite State — sign your name and put up some chump change.
Identifying as a Democrat and purchasing real estate on the presidential primary ballot gives insight into the RFK Jr. campaign strategy: run as a Democrat while serving as the MAGA Trojan Horse.
For those not paying attention in ancient history class:
The Greeks succeeded in conquering Troy through trickery. They built a huge wooden horse and left it at the gates of Troy. They then pretended to sail away.
The Trojans believed the huge wooden horse was a peace offering to their gods and thus a symbol of their victory after a long siege. They pulled the giant wooden horse into the middle of the city. That night, after the Trojans had gone to bed, the Greek soldiers inside the horse got out, opened the gates of the city, and let in the remainder of the Greek army, which had sailed back under the cover of night. Taking the Trojans by surprise in the middle of the night, the Greeks were able to conquer Troy.
The blueprint is ancient, but the strategy is timeless. For decades, the Kennedy name served, like the horse to the Trojans, as a symbol of Democratic Party power and victories. Who better than a child of beloved Bobby Kennedy to climb on board as the Camelot-bred primary challenger to 80-year-old incumbent President Joe Biden — someone admired, but not necessarily desired, for 2024?
This Trojan horse doesn't even need to do the heavy lifting; no need to open the gates and let the Republican army in, since there is no Joe Biden on the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot. That’s right: Thanks to an intramural Democratic Party dispute (more on that shortly), RFK Jr. may very well win New Hampshire early next year. No matter that New Hampshire’s Democratic voters overwhelming prefer the White House’s current occupant.
But RFK Jr is blessed twice. Not only is there no Joe in New Hampshire, but RFK Jr. is flush with cash that comes not from the Democratic faithful but a single GOP megadonor who has donated more than half the millions amassed by RFK Jr.'s super PAC.
A little research shows that there is so much more to RFK Jr. than his anti-vaxx rantings during the pandemic. But the attraction of his name, coupled with his crusade against all things pharma — even suggesting that ‘Vaccine Research’ was likely responsible for HIV and the Spanish Flu and pushing the false notion that antidepressants are linked to school shootings — plays the MAGA base like a fiddle, pipe and drum. Suggesting that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was bioengineered to spare the Jews and Chinese people, RFK Jr. proved that he does antisemitic/racist falsehoods nearly as well as the thrice-indicted Trump.
In true MAGA style, when questioned by Elizabeth Vargas at a town hall event whether he’d pledge to support whoever wins the Democratic nomination, Kennedy said, "of course I’m not gonna do that.”
Is Steve Bannon writing his script?A man receives a sign for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. before his official announcement that he is running for President on April 19, 2023 in Boston, Mass. Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Speaking of Bannon, just a week ago, Bannon once again let the tiger out of the bag by suggesting that a Trump-RFK Jr. ticket would win in a “massive landslide”. The GOP, Bannon continued, would welcome RFK Jr., this ersatz Dem, into their lair. Kennedy has a favorability rating among Republicans that exceeds a 2-to-1 margin, and unlike a Kristi Noem or a Kari Lake, he has instant connection, via his surname, to every voter in America.
Not to leave a stone unturned: Last Friday the RFK Jr. campaign filed a 27-page complaint in California alleging that YouTube and Google were acting as "state actors" by censoring his anti-vaxx interviews. RFK Jr.'s suit contends this is a way of serving the concerns of the federal government, and aiding and abetting his democratic primary rival Biden. The complaint gives him a free media strategy and serves as a convenient tool to gin up thousands of small-dollar donors who will revel in the free speech and anti-vaxx arguments being rolled out by RFK Jr.
But RFK Jr. has a surprising accomplice in his presidential primary strategy. The decision by the Democratic National Committee to change the primary calender — and awarding South Carolina the first presidential primary voting state — has turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving to the MAGA GOP. They have free "reign" to spin their partisan/fascist adjacent agenda in Iowa and New Hampshire, with RFK Jr. flipping the bird to the DNC. Who wouldn't be reveling in New Hampshire’s state law that requires New Hampshire to be the first-in-the-nation presidential primary?
So much to lose in 2024 and the Democratic Party appears to be unprepared to fight a war Trump has been promising since 2020. Ancient history wrote the script but well-paid democratic strategists preferred courses in economics and political science and not in the academic discipline known as classics — the study of ancient Greeks and Romans.
If he expects to win re-election next year, Biden needs to consult strategists who know Trojans are more than a condom.
Arnie Arnesen is the host of syndicated radio program "The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen". A former fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics, Arnesen was the 1992 Democratic nominee for governor of New Hampshire and served as a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 1984 to 1992.
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