Subscriber OnlyUSAmerica Letter

Kennedys endorse Biden despite Robert Kennedy jnr’s White House bid

Kerry Kennedy does her best to portray Joe Biden as someone in step with the values of her father and uncle

A ghost is beginning to hover over the 2024 presidential election. He is tousle-haired, tanned, a youthful fortysomething and wears a white shirt with sleeves rolled and a skinny tie loosened at the knot. And on a sunny Thursday afternoon in Philadelphia, he was in plain sight.

“My name is Kerry Kennedy and I am the seventh child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy,” his daughter told the crowd on Thursday as she introduced President Joe Biden to the crowd on a sunny afternoon. She spoke for 10 minutes and gave what might be the most loquacious and optimistic speech of the entire campaign. Spring is arriving on the east coast, the mercury rising and the feel of summer imminent. The awareness of an election looming is quickening. Biden has used the week when Donald Trump is reviewing prospective jurors for his criminal trial in a bleak Manhattan courtroom to embark on a conspicuous lightning tour of his boyhood state, Pennsylvania.

At the Philadelphia stop, Kerry Kennedy was flanked by her sisters, Kathleen and Rory, when she gave her address and within minutes she had transported the crowd down to the affluent suburbs outside Washington, in northern Virginia, on an evening some 56 years ago, when she was five years old. It was two nights after Martin Luther King had been assassinated on April 4th, 1968, and the Kennedys were at home watching images of downtown Washington aflame as protesters rioted.

“Daddy left the room and got in his car,” she told the gathering.


“Fifteen minutes later we were all still glued to the TV and suddenly Daddy was on the news, in the midst of the mayhem trying to put out the flames of fear and rage in the wake of Dr King’s death.”

Robert Kennedy had declared his candidacy in mid-March, a last-minute entrant to the Democratic race left wide open when Lyndon Johnson, who assumed the presidency after the assassination of JFK in Dallas in 1963, announced he would not seek re-election. Just eight weeks later, RFK was shot and killed to complete a trio of political assassinations that defined the 1960s in America. Running for that presidency cost him his life. The Kennedy children grew up in enormous privilege but without a father. And the what-if aspect of Robert Kennedy’s unlived political future has tantalised for decades since. He was just 42: how would history look now had he been in the White House?

In a passionate 11-minute address, Kerry Kennedy sought to portray Biden as someone walking in step with the values of her father and uncle, citing the 15 million new jobs that have been created since the great pause of Covid, arguing that wages are up and inflation is coming down, that he appointed more black women to circuit courts than every other president combined.

She didn’t mention her brother, Robert F Kennedy jnr, or explicitly reference his independent bid for the presidency, but her introduction clarified the ideological chasm between them.

“President Biden has been a champion for all the rights and freedoms that my father and uncle stood for. That’s why nearly every single grandchild of Joe and Rose Kennedy supports Joe Biden. That’s right. The Kennedy family endorses Joe Biden for president.”

It was an effort to reclaim the family mystique and aura that has helped RFK jnr to generate eye-catching numbers in the polls, voters who might be tempted to switch from Democrat to Kennedy this November. She referenced her father’s 1968 warning about the “perilous course” the United States would take under the wrong leadership, and never has that fear been so alive as it is for many Americans as summer approaches.

Little wonder that that night watching television at home has remained such a sharp memory for Kerry Kennedy. One moment her father was on the couch watching the turbulence and, in a flash, he was inside the television, a part of history.

It has almost been forgotten that when RFK announced his candidacy in 1968, CBS correspondent Roger Mudd noted that the former attorney general was doing so “in the face of almost solid opposition from the Democratic Party professionals” to his bid. But from Kennedy’s announcement in the Senate caucus room in the Capitol, the breadth of his promise was evident.

“These are not ordinary times,” he said during that address in a line that must seem particularly relevant to his children and wider family this summer.

“And this is not an ordinary election.”