The Courage of RFK Jr.
Camelot’s most prominent descendant is a vital force in America’s political realignment.
Orchestrated fear, systematic censorship, and fierce tribalism have pushed our country into a political polarization more perilous than at any time since the American Civil War. If we are to find a better future – if we are to imprint this rising dissident movement with liberalism’s traditional idealism and avoid its capture by corporate tyrants – liberals need to start talking to people with whom they otherwise disagree.Robert F. Kennedy Jr., A Letter to Liberals – Censorship and COVID: An Attack on American Ideals
As RFK Jr. pleads with liberals to safeguard the First Amendment, defend civil liberties, reject cancel culture, and defeat “lockdown liberalism,” it hardly matters what he calls himself, conservative or liberal. The urgency of his message obliges all Americans of conscience—left or right—to listen.
Championing freedom from “crony capitalism” and businesses that “capture and manipulate government agencies” to “escape the discipline of the free market and force the public to pay their production costs” is not the lingo of left-wing demagoguery. Neither is condemning “corporate kleptocracy,” or “socialism for the rich and a very savage and brutal and merciless brand of capitalism for the poor.”
In fact, Kennedy’s pledge “to end the corrupt merger between state and corporate power that has ruined our economy, shattered the middle class, polluted our landscapes and waters, poisoned our children, and robbed us of our values and freedoms” is a powerful entreaty to morality and faith.
Legacy media predictably greeted Kennedy’s decision to run for president with a barrage of “anti-vaxxer” smears, despite opposition to mandates already being non-controversial. Public criticism of the Covid-19 vaccines and their “warp speed” roll-out is still a red line for mainstream media and Big Tech (Twitter being an anomaly after Elon Musk took over and abolished those wretched auto-triggered prompts referring users to the CDC for “reliable” data, which YouTube still has). Media censorship of skeptics, even highly credentialed ones, has amplified a chilling establishment signal across media and cyberspace: On public health, Big Pharma controls the editorial line. Cross that line, and you will pay—one way or another.
Kennedy hasn’t just crossed that line; he has relentlessly and courageously attacked it. Warning that the current “jabs” are the fruit of public health-sector corruption, he has spotlighted what many suspected but couldn’t readily prove—that a legal and moral “firewall” between government and corporations in an area of vital public interest has dissolved. He has helped Americans to seriously ponder the consequences.
In 1962, RFK Jr.’s uncle, President John F. Kennedy, awarded the federal government’s highest civilian medal to Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, an FDA official who practically single-handedly kept thalidomide out of the U.S. market. Produced by German pharma company Chemie Grünenthal, this highly profitable anti-anxiety drug for pregnant women caused unspeakable side effects—deformed newborns, miscarriages, and other misfortune. Due to Kelsey’s efforts, the United States recorded only seventeen cases of thalidomide deformity. In Germany alone, the number exceeded five thousand.
RFK Jr.’s nostalgia for an era when the FDA had real regulatory teeth, when its bureaucrats indulged a wholesome stubbornness as watchdogs for the public interest, evokes a conservative republican impulse. Indeed, undeniable is the sense that traditional conflict-of-interest rules really did once prevent sleazy cross-pollination between government and industry. Two FDA approval prerequisites—safety (blocking physical harm to consumers) and efficacy (blocking consumers from getting ripped off)—were once sacrosanct. Both now feel dead, so Kennedy’s Substack is appropriately called American Resurrection.
Children’s Health Defense (CHD), Kennedy’s public health advocacy group, condemns the three-letter federal agencies’ incestuous relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, citing dysfunctions at CDC, FDA, and NIH. As WHO endorsements of lockdowns and mandates began to resemble global “cover” for national governments eager to indulge greedy health-sector multinationals, CHD’s message gained traction in the minds of ordinary Americans increasingly resentful of a globalist agenda.
Like many ordinary Americans, Kennedy rejects the government-approved versions of the murders of both his uncle and his father. Far from idle conspiracy theory, his views are informed and honest. It is thus quirky justice that one of his key policy planks finds inadvertent support in an unexpected corner. Investigative journalist and attorney Gerald Posner is best known for Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, often cited as the definitive defense of the Warren Report. But more recently, Posner authored Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.
Despite mystifyingly including mention of Oswald, Pharma is overall a compelling chronicle of corruption and American communities devastated by opioids. Ten years ago, prescription drugs accounted for twenty percent of American health care spending, “more than double the average of nineteen advanced industrialized nations,” Posner explains, while “U.S. pharmacies dispensed the equivalent of seventy tons of pure oxycodone.” Americans used 83 percent of the world’s supply, yet pharma companies charged much more in America than overseas.
“A thirty-day supply of OxyContin cost $265 on average in the U.S,” he says. “The same prescription averaged $72 in Europe and even less in South America and Asia.”
Unlike Case Closed, Pharma has proven prescient. When the paperback came out in early 2021, pandemic rules had already locked down societies worldwide, but the vaccine rollout was just starting. As the book notes, “pharmaceutical companies view COVID-19 as a once in a lifetime business opportunity.” No contracts for vaccine production between these corporations and the U.S. government were “priced at or near cost despite all but one (Pfizer) having been funded by American taxpayers.” The need for periodic booster shots gave the drug industry “a new and lucrative multi-billion dollar annual revenue stream.”
On an issue of vital public interest, the only Kennedy calling audibly for justice and transparency in the bloody demise of “Camelot” finds accord with the most infamous living antagonist of Warren Report critics. The intersect between iconoclast RFK Jr. and establishmentarian Posner (described in one book as a “Warren pitbull”) is only one among many symptoms of America’s political realignment.
RFK, Jr. sounds conservative on foreign policy too: “From the beginning of our existence as a nation, our greatest political leaders were cautioning us that America could not be an empire abroad and continue to be a democracy at home.”
Kennedy correctly identifies the merger of state and corporate power—“corporatism”—as a prerequisite of fascism, a form of imperialism. Our imperialist foreign policy is, however, in contrast to fascism, outwardly “woke,” in large part thanks to the hypocritical ethos of the corporations controlling our government. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has lectured every government on earth on political correctness even as we have launched invasions and intervened in elections to back candidates gratifying the D.C. establishment and advancing the corrupt goal of the moment, popular will be damned. We are now feeling the blowback.
The demise of U.S. democracy ushered in by our increasingly ugly corporatism will decisively erode trust in public institutions, catalyzing social meltdown and chaos at home. In the long term, the corrupt “merger” portends wider war and tyranny. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell’s dark satire of a totalitarian state constantly at war, Inner Party member O’Brien explains the failure of the previous totalitarian regimes to reify their vision by a lack of will to impose it. Having overcome that lack of willpower, the otherwise broken-down superstate of Oceania—plagued by squalor and scarcity for ordinary citizens—sustains its totalitarianism through spies and informants, but also through technology, as exemplified by ubiquitous telescreens that both project and monitor.
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As Kennedy cautions, our current powers already possess the technology that previous totalitarian states lacked, and they are putting in place all the mechanisms to make total control possible. Programmable central bank digital currencies, vaccine passports, low-orbiting satellites and other tools make the Orwellian dystopia fathomable. The core of Kennedy’s warnings is something on which left and right should agree: The high-tech surveillance state threatens fundamental freedoms.
“Nobody in the history of the planet has ever complied their way out of totalitarian control,” he has declared. “The hill that you’re going to die on is the hill that you’re on right now.” The virtue of RFK Jr.’s message echoes the old maxim about eternal vigilance and the price of liberty. In the face of national complacency about the Bill of Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the candidate calling most loudly for its defense. If he is over the top in his forecast of “turnkey totalitarianism,” he has erred on the side of caution, a fundamentally conservative standard.
As John Q. Citizen has turned out to be less wooden-headed than our corporate-government grandees presumed, RFK Jr.’s popularity is now palpable. Establishment efforts to banish him to a political leper colony have already backfired against public anger. He now faces the Democratic Party’s (reformed) “superdelegate” system, the time-honored graveyard of populism and grassroots insurgency. But as an articulate, high-profile tribune, he can steer the nation’s discourse toward recognizing the threats to our basic freedoms. And in that courage, there is much for conservatives to celebrate.