RFK Jr. makes a climate speech in Vermont — and I was there
The 2023 summer solstice was marked in the Green Mountains of Vermont by a somewhat incongruous visit by Democrat presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Addressing an audience of some 200 enthusiastic supporters on June 21 in Burlington, Mr. Kennedy's subject for the evening centered on industrial pollution and his plans to improve energy efficiency through free markets.
But Vermont's hills did not reverberate with approving liberal cheers for these sensible policy proposals. Nary a Democrat was in attendance.
Bernie Sanders did not introduce the fast-rising Dem hopeful from Camelot; Peter Welch did not extend a red carpet. The event that platformed Kennedy was organized and hosted by the rather libertarian-leaning Ethan Allen Institute, an educational think-tank focusing on free markets, individual liberty, and constitutional integrity.
Kennedy's unconventional 2024 presidential campaign thus found a Vermont welcome in an unexpected forum.
The Ethan Allen Institute has maintained its non-partisan posture throughout three decades of policy analysis and research. A recent EAI event featured famed columnist George F. Will and was largely attended by conservatives. A different cross-section of Vermonters gathered for RFK's visit, hinting at the possibility of a growing alliance of populist support for an authentic maverick.
Speaking energetically in the low-ceilinged event room, Mr. Kennedy engaged the smilingly attentive crowd with a history of his legal battles against large industrial polluters, challenging PCBs that tainted the Hudson River and coal-burning plants that polluted the country with mercury. Mr. Kennedy's passion and confident optimism held the room even for those who might disagree: there was no doubting the intensity of his sincerity.
Tellingly, RFK Jr. did not pontificate about greenhouse gases or condemn Republicans for climate change. He instead focused on the nonpartisan consensus that toxic chemicals are destroying the ecosystem and the free market forces that must be harnessed to compel polluters to internalize the true environmental costs of their products. Kennedy made an accurate case that protecting environmental resources can be accomplished without sacrificing economic growth. The standing ovation that followed suggested that his closing argument had hit home.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. truly appeals to an American political middle. He calls out the woke totalitarianism that has infested culture and government, ensuring that he is anathema to the far left. Yet he adheres to traditional liberal positions such as renewable energy manufacturing, and appeals to conservatives disenchanted with Donald Trump (and his infamous tweets!). Juxtaposed with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Kennedy highlights the corrupt incompetence of the bumbling incumbents.
Kennedy is making the podcast rounds to outflank the efforts of MSM to deplatform and cancel him, and he is winning that battle. Demonstrating himself to be an artful, passionate, and eminently qualified candidate, his visit to Vermont portends a riveting 2024 election season for Americans. Traveling to deep-blue Green Mountain country, hosted by libertarians, discussing climate in ways that woo even conservatives — that's an odd duck in any pond.
Democrats are deer-in-Vermont-headlights dumbfounded about how to silence this guy from exposing their perfidy. Efforts to slander him over his vaccine record invite platforms to...discuss vaccines — not at all what Biden and Democrats wish to do, as recent exchanges between Joe Rogan and Dr. Peter Hotez demonstrate.
Fact is, Kennedy is a hard man for Dems to discredit. No Chappaquiddick; no crotch-grabbing videos; decades of virtuous environmental battles; he wears the Kennedy family martyr mantle — John F. Kennedy remains an American icon even among conservatives. Efforts by liberal pundits to discredit Kennedy are circus-like, even laughable. The corrupt left has no credibility trying to blemish a traditional Democrat. And their usual playbook is bereft of options — they can't simply call him a racist or homophobe, as they do with conservatives.
The eclectic Vermont crowd at Wednesday's Ethan Allen Institute dinner reflects a centrist mass of awakening voters, fed up with betrayals by the absentee Dem elites, eager for a moderate with brains and mettle, rebelling against extremist agitation on both the far left and right. RFK Jr. has a low bar to clear in competence and integrity, to rally Americans from all walks of life like a snowball gathering tonnage as it crashes down a Vermont mountainside in January.
That's some political climate change that everyone can believe in.
Attorney-farmer John Klar hosts the Small Farm Republic Substack and podcast from his Vermont farm. His new book is Small Farm Republic: Why Conservatives Must Embrace Local Agriculture, Reject Climate Alarmism, and Lead an Environmental Revival.
Images by John Klar, used with permission.