RFK Jr. reminds me of Ralph Nader. And yes, this Kennedy would help Donald Trump | Opinion

On “Let’s Make a Deal,” either a dream vacation or a worthless “zonk” — a goat on a rope, say, or a trip to nowhere — might be behind Door No. 3.

But in November, we already know what’s behind Door No. 3: It’s the same as what’s behind Door No. 2, and that’s four (or more) years of the man who has called for the “termination” of our Constitution, Donald Trump.

The independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. sometimes echoes Trump’s talking points — about Jan. 6, the border, Tony Fauci and Joe Biden. Kennedy has repeatedly called Biden a bigger threat to democracy than Trump.

Only, Trump supporters have shown that they cannot be swayed no matter what their man says or does, whereas Biden voters clearly can.

Kennedy has said many outrageous things over the years. After 9/11, he told us that pig farmers were a bigger threat to the U.S. than Osama bin Laden. Last summer, he said COVID-19 was engineered “to attack Caucasians and Black people” and spare “Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.” In December, he called Palestinians the “arguably most pampered people by international aid organizations in the history of the world.

There is a reason Kennedy’s own siblings have called his presidential bid “dangerous to our country,” and it’s that they know him.

Kennedy is polling at about 8%, and could easily swing the tight race that this will be one way or the other. Which way has been hard to call, since his position on issues is all over the place — and I don’t mean squarely in the center, either. Polling shows that what most unites Kennedy supporters is disdain for both Trump and Biden.

But the younger voters Biden needs to win are not supporting him, while older, whiter and wealthier voters are both more likely to turn out and more likely to support Trump.

Some Democrats are reassured by the wishful notion that Kennedy would surely pull more votes from Trump since his anti-vaccine and other conspiratorial views are considered more MAGA. But anti-vaccine views have long found a home on the he left, too, and some conspiracy theories do appeal to progressives.

A 2022 study from scholars at the University of Louisville, Carleton College, the University of Delaware, the University of Miami, Colorado State and the University of Nottingham in the U.K. points to evidence that alternative theories about the moon landing, fluoridated water, Freemasons and lizard people — alas, even lizard people — are equally popular on the right and left.

Nader: GOP threat to Roe v. Wade a ‘scare tactic’

Though far less tethered to reality than 2000 Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, Kennedy says some things that do remind me of Nader, another environmentalist who insisted that there were “few major differences” between the two major parties.

Nader argued that we’d barely be able to tell the difference if we elected Democrat Al Gore or Republican George W. Bush that year. And the millions who died in our “forever” wars in the 20 years after 9/11 aren’t here to argue otherwise, are they?

On the eve of that 2000 election, Nader told me in an interview that he did not think there would be any discernible difference between the justices Gore and Bush would appoint, either. He called the possibility that a court packed with Republican appointees could overturn Roe v. Wade a ‘‘scare tactic” and mused that a Bush victory might even be better for the planet: ‘‘A bumbling Texas governor would galvanize the environmental community as never before.”

So I can’t say I’m too surprised that Timothy Mellon, one of the biggest donors to Kennedy’s super PAC, is also a major Trump donor. Nor am I astonished that a New York campaign consultant for Kennedy, Rita Palma, said getting rid of Biden was her “No. 1 priority” in 2024. (She was fired after a video of those remarks made news.)

It only makes sense, as The New York Times recently reported, that Trump allies are boosting Kennedy’s effort; why wouldn’t they?

“They plan to promote the independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as a ‘champion for choice’ to give voters for whom abortion is a top issue — and who also don’t like Mr. Biden — another option on the ballot,” the Times story said.

They also intend to “amplify” the environmentalism of Kennedy and expected Green Party candidate Jill Stein in areas where that could hurt Biden, and are “discussing running ads in Dearborn, Mich., and other parts of the state with large Muslim populations that would thank Mr. Biden for standing with Israel,” heh-heh-heh.

Kennedy promotes pro-Putin, anti-Ukraine rhetoric

There’s nothing so unusual about a politician promoting a rival who can help him win. It’s what Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, then an incumbent U.S. senator, did in boosting Republican Todd Akin’s primary bid in 2012.

McCaskill later bragged in a memoir that she had “successfully manipulated the Republican primary so that in the general election I would face the candidate I was most likely to beat.” After Akin’s doofus comments about how rape victims can’t get pregnant — “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” — she won easily.

After hearing RFK Jr. speak in Kansas City back in December, I came away particularly appalled by his Trumpish pro-Putin and anti-Ukraine rhetoric.

He also said COVID-19 vaccines had killed more people than they saved, which is rubbish, and suggested that the pandemic was a corporate conspiracy designed to put mom-and-pop stores out of business. Wait, so it wasn’t a racist plot after all?

maganYet I also came away convinced that at least in that moment and in this place, he would be taking more votes away from Biden than Trump.

A handful of people is not a poll, but of the 10 people who told me that evening that they were definitely supporting Kennedy, nine voted for Biden last time, and the other one voted for neither of the major party nominees.

One woman told me that she does believe that if Trump is reelected, our democracy will die. Yet as a lifelong Democrat, she likes that her choice is a Kennedy, and won’t in any case vote for Biden again because “you’ve got to know when to quit.”

Others cited Kennedy’s refreshing honesty, though much of what he said was counterfactual, and his inspiring promise to “end the chronic disease epidemic in this country,” which he blames on Big Pharma.

Trump has reportedly fantasized about putting Kennedy on his ticket, mostly because of how cool he thinks “Trump-Kennedy” would look on a bumper sticker. That’s “not a course I would consider,” Kennedy said, though “I’m flattered by the thought.”

Too flattered, and like Nader before him, too willing to let his ego undermine everything he ever worked for.

Nader’s monumental previous accomplishments still stand: He made cars far safer, and deserves considerable credit for pushing for legislation including the Clean Water Act, Consumer Product Safety Act, Freedom of Information Act and Whistleblower Protection Act.

Every time I file a FOIA request, though, I think of him both to say thanks and thanks for nothing.

Kennedy has done some great things, too, like negotiating the 1997 New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement, which protects upstate New York’s reservoirs and as a result, the city’s drinking water.

But if he ends up ushering in the era of retribution and authoritarian loyalty tests that Trump has promised, few will remember that the third of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy’s 11 children helped clean up the Hudson River.