R.F.K. Jr. Is a Spoiler. But for Which Side?

Chris Inclan, an alcohol and drug counselor from Sonoma, Calif., voted for the Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2016. In 2020, he backed Andrew Yang in the Democratic primary, and then cast a ballot for Donald Trump in the general election. Joe Biden, he said, was “so ingrained in the establishment and politics as usual,” while Trump “went against the grain on a lot of issues,” including wars and government regulation. But Inclan, a big bearded 39-year-old with tattoos on his hands, doesn’t want to have to make that choice again, which is why he’s now enthusiastically supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

I met Inclan at the Oakland rally where Kennedy introduced his new running mate, the 38-year-old political donor Nicole Shanahan. Held in the auditorium of the Henry J. Kaiser Center for the Arts, it was the first political rally Inclan had ever attended.

“The system is corrupt,” he said of what he called the two-party “duopoly.” “We keep playing the same game. But I think Americans are fed up.” He’d joined Kennedy’s We the People Party, formed to help Kennedy get on the ballot in several states, and has aspirations to run for office himself someday.

Setting up banners at Kennedy’s campaign event in Oakland, Calif., to announce his pick for a running mate.

Inclan’s politics are hard to understand in purely left or right terms. The more relevant dichotomy, for him as for many Kennedy voters, is insider versus outsider, which is why Kennedy’s following sometimes overlaps, in unexpected ways, with the MAGA movement.

Matt Castro, a San Francisco bus driver at the rally, described himself as “extremely left-leaning,” but didn’t vote in the last election and said that, if Kennedy isn’t on the ballot, he’d probably vote for Trump in the next one, because of his opposition to military support for Ukraine. Alex Klett, a 33-year-old Kennedy volunteer from Wisconsin who was handing out American flags, described himself as a right-leaning independent who voted for Trump in 2016 and then, in 2020, wrote in Kanye West.

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