Harkening back to the societal damage of Jim Crow segregation, now-Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has come out for reparations, causing a backlash among conservatives who once praised his candidacy as a centrist alternative to leftist Democrats.
The following is the position statement by Kennedy on his campaign website on part of a page devoted to “Civil Rights” and “Racial Healing”:
The New York Post’s report Thursday on RFK’s reparations stance puts it in political perspective: “Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. supports issuing reparations to the black community, making him the most prominent 2024 candidate to favor the controversial policy meant to atone for slavery and legal segregation. … President Biden has largely been silent on the issue, leading to frustration among the far left.”
‘”Kennedy – who ditched his Democratic primary challenge to Biden earlier this month – has spoken out in favor of issuing federal dollars to ‘rebuild black infrastructure’ like banks and businesses, and as well as ‘direct redress payments or tax credits’ rather than no-strings cash giveaways,” the Post reported.
Response by conservatives on X to the Kennedy reparations story was immediate and a sign that it could be devastating to his attempt to cast himself as a moderate. The son of assassinated liberal Democratic presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was already reeling after a tough interview last week with Fox News host Sean Hannity, in which Hannity grilled him for his progressive past statements on the key issues like environmental (“green”) regulations. Said Hannity: “You’re pretty liberal. You know, you’ve called for curbing logging, oil drilling, fracking. You wanted to eliminate it. You called it had a victory for democracy. You wanna curb U.S. fossil fuel extraction. ‘Keep it in the ground,’ you once tweeted. You want a ban on fossil fuel extraction, a ban on fracking.”
“You called the NRA once, a ‘terror group.’ You supported, over the years, Democrats – Gore, Kerry, Obama, Hillary,” Hannity said. “You praised Bernie Sanders multiple times. You support affirmative action. So, why is this party of yours – why didn’t they want to allow you to compete? ‘Cause that’s as pretty liberal of a record as anybody I know.”
On X, “ProudArmyBrat” sent out this message Wednesday: “RFK Jr just announced he is totally in favor of “issuing reparations to the black community. … Biden hasn’t even come out in support of this. [smiley face emoji]…RFK Jr just cemented himself as a far-left radical, and the liberal democrats will eagerly follow him now. … Thanks! … Take those votes away from Biden! [smiley face emoji]”
RFK Jr just announced he is totally in favor of “issuing reparations to the black community.”
Biden hasn’t even come out in support of this. 😂
RFK Jr just cemented himself as a far-left radical, and the liberal democrats will eagerly follow him now.
Take those… pic.twitter.com/kKCmjVzxxs
— 🇺🇸ProudArmyBrat (@leslibless) October 18, 2023
Disavows ‘cash payments’
In an X post Wednesday responding to “anti-woke” MAGA Republican and D.C. attorney Rogan O’Handley (X handle @DC_Draino), Kennedy attempted to distance his “reparations” stance from race-based, cash-payment reparations given to descendants of slavery: “[M]y policy of Targeted Community Repair is not the same as race-based reparations. The program will make capital and resources available to the poorest and most desperate communities in America. These include inner cities, the rust belt, Appalachia, the devastated towns of the farm belt, etc. Yes, because Black people are disproportionately poor, this program will benefit them disproportionately. But the criteria will be indicators like poverty, addiction rates, violence, etc. Not skin color.”
But one conservative critic on X, “OkJulie” @Serenityin25, wasn’t buying Kennedy’s explanation and said his plan was part of a pattern of “socialist” policies embraced by Kennedy.
“The ultimate socialist candidate has emerged. Socialism is at the center of this man’s ambition,” she said in an X post responding to RFK Jr.’s attempt to distance himself from cash, race-based reparations. “Read his own words. Always, always cloaked in compassion. …
The ultimate socialist candidate has emerged. Socialism is at the center of this man’s ambition. Read his own words. Always, always cloaked in compassion. It’s what they do. If you think centralized government and the dangers of it are something you would like in your life, vote…
— OkJulie (@Serenityin24) October 19, 2023
Kennedy tries approach that won’t alienate ‘Trumpers’
In a July interview with YouTuber Math Hoffa, RFK Jr. explained his support for government aid to “rebuild black communities.”
In the interview, which can be viewed on the Fox News site, Kennedy noted the success of Indian tribes that received casino money through funding “institutions like clinics, scholarships, business loans, micro loans, factories – those tribes really flourished.”
In contrast, “[For] all the tribes that took cash payments, it was a catastrophe,” he said.
“If there was no other issue, I would be against cash payments. But the word reparation means ‘repair.’ And I grew up in the Jim Crow [era] and … the injury did not end with slavery. The injury and the deliberate … institutionalization of poverty in black neighborhoods is systematic, it’s systemic and it continues today, in million different ways. And we need to rebuild black communities,” he told Hoffa.
He suggested the approach of forming “Community Development Corporations,” which he said are “less likely to contribute to the polarization between blacks and whites.” He said, “Everybody, even people who are Trumpers … if you talk about business loans to black communities, everybody’s for it. Everybody wants business to flourish.”
“To me, reparations is about figuring out every way that we can to build black-owned businesses back up,” he said. “And if you talk about it in that way, it doesn’t inspire the polarization and the racism [compared to] if you talk about cash reparations.”
After hearing that explanation, Hoffa said, “With all due respect, we in the black community … are not really overly concerned about the feelings of other people who are polarized by the idea of us getting cash reparations back. If that hurts your feelings, that’s kinda’ on you.”
Elder sums up conservative opposition
Speaking perhaps for many millions of conservatives who oppose reparations, conservative talk show host and longshot GOP presidential candidate Larry Elder told Fox News in July that “Reparations are the extraction of money from people who were never slave owners, to be given to people who were never slaves.”
— Larry Elder (@larryelder) July 10, 2023
Cornell West is further left on reparations
Meanwhile, left-wing Democratic presidential candidate Cornell West has come out for direct cash reparations for blacks. Under “Racial Justice” on the platform section of his campaign website, West lists the following:
- Reparations to address the unpaid debt to Black U.S. residents
- Directive to complete the reparations process and findings within two years so checks can be cut and sent to eligible recipients
- Push Congress to pass filibuster-proof budget reconciliation for reparations and Land Back provisions, in line with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988
RFK Jr. is under a microscope
Now that RFK Jr.’s candidacy is seen by both the Right and Left as potentially taking votes from their prospective 2024 presidential candidate (at this point likely Trump vs. Biden), his past statements and positions on a host of issues are coming under renewed scrutiny. Below is the full Kennedy interview June 29 with Reason TV, the streaming platform for libertarian Reason magazine. In the YouTube description of the interview, Reason stated:
“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has attracted the interest of libertarians who celebrate his critiques of COVID policy and regulatory capture. … But RFK Jr. also has an authoritarian streak. He has said he wants to prosecute those who fund ‘climate deniers’ or run businesses that emit too much carbon for ‘reckless endangerment.’ He declared the NRA to be a ‘terror group,’ suggested to NBC News that, as president, he would ‘order his Justice Department to investigate the editors and publishers of medical journals for “lying to the public”‘; and reportedly vowed to direct health policy ‘from the Oval Office’ through executive orders.”
RFK Jr. put out this X post to shore up his support among those who cherish the Second Amendment:
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) October 19, 2023
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