RFK Jr. Is On The Ballot In California Thanks To A Right-Wing Political Party

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a former Democrat, is slated to appear on the presidential ballot in California with the help of the American Independent Party.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a former Democrat, is slated to appear on the presidential ballot in California with the help of the American Independent Party. Associated Press

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced this week that he’ll appear on the 2024 ballot in California thanks to an assist from the formerly segregationist-supporting American Independent Party.

The news means Kennedy’s name will be on the ballot in the state with the most Electoral College votes, even as the former Democrat struggles for ballot access in all 50 states.

The American Independent Party has long been associated with racists.

AIP was founded in California in 1968 and chose as its presidential nominee that year Alabama segregationist George Wallace — a political enemy of Kennedy’s father, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated while running for president against Wallace. In the years since, AIP’s ballot line has featured former President Donald Trump and archconservative Alan Keyes.

In a five-minute YouTube video, Kennedy said AIP approached him about helping him get ballot access in California. Kennedy claimed the party has changed in the years since it nominated Wallace for president. In the video, Kennedy calls Wallace “a bigoted segregation supporter who was antithetical to everything my father believed in.”

“Ironically,” Kennedy says, “the American Independence Party [sic] was George Wallace’s old party, but it’s had its own rebirth, even before I came along. It’s been reborn as a party that represents not bigotry and hatred, but rather compassion and unity and idealism and common sense.”

“When they learned about my candidacy, they had just drafted a new charter for their reborn party, where they could use their ballot line for good, for helping independent candidates to unite America, without being blocked by the two-party duopoly,” he goes on.

AIP now describes itself as a home for “refugees” from the Democratic and Republican parties. However, its modern platform is more aligned with the right in its support for gun rights, secure borders and limited government.

In 2016, an AIP leader acknowledged the party’s racist founding, but said the party is no longer segregationist, having evolved into a group that champions individual rights and states’ rights — and now, third-party candidates.

“The American Independent Party connects positive, visionary, and independent candidates with California voters,” said Victor Marani, AIP’s state chairman, after the party nominated Kennedy and his running mate, Silicon Valley attorney Nicole Shanahan, over the weekend.

Kennedy has mounted a multimillion-dollar battle for ballot access — the biggest hurdle for third-party campaigns — but so far has only succeeded in California, Michigan and Utah. AIP is the largest third party in California, with 825,000 registered voters out of some 22 million statewide.

Kennedy’s alliance with AIP likely won’t do much to quell fresh concerns on the right that the infamous anti-vaxxer’s candidacy might be a spoiler for Trump, who ran on both the AIP and Republican Party lines in California in 2016.