In the Democratic Party, nothing is better than having the Kennedy name and brand, and in the 2024 race, we’re going to see how far this will take Robert F. Kennedy Jr. For the second time in four decades, a Kennedy is challenging a sitting president for his party’s nomination. However, RFK Jr.’s run for the presidency is going to be more difficult than his uncle Ted’s against President Carter in 1980, thanks to the creation of superdelegates after the 1980 Democratic Presidential Primary.
Superdelegates, according to a report published by the Congressional Research Service, differ from regular party delegates because they “are designated automatically and are not required to make known their presidential candidate or uncommitted preference, in contrast to all the other elected delegates.” They are comprised of the party establishment, namely “all Democratic Party Members of Congress and governors; members of the Democratic National Committee; distinguished party members, who include former Presidents and Vice Presidents, former Democratic leaders of the Senate, Speakers of the House, and minority leaders; and former chairs of the Democratic National Committee.”
Superdelegates also comprise a substantial number of delegates to the Convention. The 2024 Democratic National Convention (DNC), held in Chicago from August 19-22, 2024, will host approximately 4,518 delegates with approximately 744 superdelegates. Therefore, superdelegates comprise roughly 16.5% of the total voting delegates. However, the 2018 reform to the DNC rules regarding superdelegates makes it only possible for superdelegates to vote if there is no declared winner on the first ballot. That requires RFK Jr. to win a majority of pledged delegates before the Convention that he wins on the first ballot. RFK Jr.’s bid will be even harder regardless of the electoral mathematics, because the DNC declared in March that they will not host any primary debates, thereby making him rely on ads, airtime on cable news networks, and a solid ground game in almost every state. In short, RFK Jr. has about every institutional roadblock in his way to win his party’s nomination.
Thus far, RFK Jr. has hovered in the aggregate polls around 13% as polled by FiveThirtyEight and 270 to Win. While there is still time before the first presidential state primary and caucus, RFK Jr. also lacks a Senate seat, which his uncle had during the 1980 campaign. Notably, RFK Jr.’s congressional hearing back in July highlighted the disdain that his party has for his campaign for president, as former DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz attacked Kennedy’s past comments as being allegedly tainted with antisemitism. While RFK Jr. did rebut the ad hominem attacks against him, it is important not to understate the fact that RFK Jr., much like President Donald Trump back in 2016, has the establishment of his party against him.
In the party claiming to champion democratic values and transparency it is nothing short of hypocritical for them to defend their party’s de facto nominee at almost any cost. The Republican Party, by contrast, allows debates to be carried out on live national TV, hosting the viable primary opponents of President Trump. While Democrat apologists might retort that the difference between President Trump and President Biden is that President Biden is a sitting president, both Presidents hold similar authority within their own parties. Undoubtedly, President Biden’s primary race will be far easier than his predecessor Jimmy Carter’s in 1980. Yet wasn’t the Democratic Party supposed to be the party that champions “inclusivity” above all else? I thought that “diversity was our strength”… just not in elections.
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