Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination and a lot of Democratic supporters of President Joe Biden are none too pleased by that primary challenge against the incumbent.
That displeasure nearly led to a physical altercation and police had to be called to break up a dispute Sunday between a group of Biden supporters and a lone Kennedy supporter at a farmers' market in Rhinebeck, New York, according to the Daily Beast.
Nobody was harmed and no arrests were made, but the incident was nonetheless revelatory of the increasingly fraught relationship between supporters of the two candidates seeking the Democratic Party's nomination in the next election cycle.
The Hudson Valley Pilot was the first to report on the "Dems vs. Dems" situation on Sunday at the weekly farmers' market event in Rhinebeck where an elderly Kennedy supporter has parked for the past several weeks and displayed signs in support of his preferred candidate while peacefully engaging others in political discussions.
This Sunday, however, a group of members from the Rhinebeck Democratic Committee who support President Biden reserved a spot right next to the Kennedy supporter, at which point "tensions flared," and the Biden supporters soon prominently displayed a sign that read "We do NOT support RFK Jr." right next to the Kennedy supporter's signs.
"Evidently harsh words were traded and the Village Police were summoned twice during the course of the day," the local media outlet reported. "This drew attention to a significant disagreement happening on the national level about the Kennedy candidacy and away from the start of summer tomato season at the Market. Mayor Bassett is said to be working on a solution that will hopefully appease all factions."
According to the Daily Beast, one of the Biden supporters, Larry Cox, said of the Kennedy supporter, Frank Stoppenbach, "When people came up, he talked to them about, you know, vaccines are bad, and masking is bad, and all the stuff that RFK says. The problem is that, being right next to us, people were thinking that he was part of us."
"We asked him to move some other place so that people wouldn't be confused, which he didn't want to do," Cox continued. That is when the anti-Kennedy sign was displayed, and Cox explained, "We don't want to be associated in any way with RFK, Jr., and especially with his views, which we all agree are abhorrent and crazy."
A similar take was shared by fellow Biden supporter Warren Smith, who suggested that while disagreement over a preferred candidate is normal, "this is kind of a different thing, because RFK Jr. has staked out a position that is on the fringes of the party," and added of Stoppenbach being parked next to the group's reserved spot, "Don’t try to claim the mantle of our support for your candidate."
Yet, according to Stoppenbach, 83, who is a politically active registered Democrat who has unsuccessfully run for office several times in the past, he was unclear why the Biden supporters were so hostile toward him and his support for Kennedy, and told the Daily Beast, "Why there should be any dispute about the nomination being contested, I can’t understand."
"I simply park where people come by," he said with regard to his being situated next to the pro-Biden group. "I guess there may have been some people not happy with having a Kennedy appearance at the market."
The Daily Beast eventually made note of what likely was the real reason for tensions to flare, as Cox admitted that his group's anti-Kennedy sign blocked some of Stoppenbach's pro-Kennedy signs, at which point the elderly man "got very agitated about that." However, Cox minimized the severity of the situation and stated, "It wasn't any sort of, as far as I know, any physical confrontation. Just an old guy with crazy ideas. Which, you know, there's no shortage of in the United States these days."
Interestingly enough, in terms of the broader developing rift between Biden and Kennedy supporters, the Daily Beast pointed to a recent analysis from FiveThirtyEight which found that Kennedy actually polls slightly better among Republican voters than Democratic voters with respect to his favorability -- and that odd partisan gap has been growing over the past couple of months.
That may help explain why, according to the RealClearPolitics average of Democratic primary polls, Kennedy started off his campaign in April with a consistent draw of around 20 percent support that has since steadily dwindled over time to currently hover around 13.6 percent support among Democratic voters.