Behind Third Way’s All Out War to Sink Kennedy

Originally published by The Kennedy Beacon

The Democratic National Committee is engaged in an all-out war against third-party and independent presidential candidates in an attempt to secure Joe Biden’s reelection. At the heart of the campaign is Third Way, an organization with a decades-long legacy of opposing civil rights, promoting war, and appropriating liberal and conservative values alike for profit and power, giving a whole new meaning to “political compromise.”

As reported by The Kennedy Beacon, for the past several months, a team of party veterans has engaged in lawfare and propaganda, and colluded with a “constellation of outside groups” to “stockpile money and stymie third parties,” according to New York Magazine and NBC News. Now, Politico is reporting that this “coalition of Democratic groups,” which succeeded in sinking No Labels, is “turning its sights on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Third Way, a “centrist” think tank, serves as the groups’ coordinating hub. A photo of Biden features prominently on the organization’s “About Us” page, highlighting a previous collaboration with the then vice president in 2014. 

Image courtesy of the United States Department of Labor via Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times identified Third Way as “a clearinghouse for Democrats’ effort to block third-party and independent candidates” back in October 2023. The Times reported that “Mr. Biden’s top aides have blessed the multimillion-dollar offensive,” funded by “tapping the resources of the Democratic National Committee.” 

Since then, Third Way has pulled the strings of organizations like MoveOn, American Bridge 21st Century, Clear Choice PAC, and Future Forward.

On February 16, 2024, Third Way sent letters to the Secretaries of State of Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan, urging them to block American Values 2024’s ballot access efforts. Then, on March 26, 2024, Third Way described Kennedy’s campaign as “a disgrace to the Kennedy name and a disaster for the country,” citing its co-founder Matt Bennett.

What exactly is Third Way? And why was this organization chosen to lead the effort to predetermine who the American people can elect in 2024?

Third Way, the “Idea Broker”

Third Way was incorporated in October 2004 and formally launched in 2005 by Matt BennettJonathan CowanNancy Hale and Jim Kessler. The four had previously co-founded Americans for Gun Safety, and sought to apply their success in gun control activism to “help progressives retake the initiative and win the war of ideas,” as explained in Third Way’s prospectus. Senators Evan Bayh, Tom Carper and Blanche Lincoln are listed as honorary co-chairs.

Third Way’s mission: “restore the progressive ‘brand’” and call for “a return to the ‘progressive centrism’ that defined the Clinton presidency.”

The prospectus explains how “difficult or impossible [it is] to market a political ideology with a brand that has become devalued or mistrusted,” and as such, the progressive brand must appropriate the qualities which attract voters to either liberalism or conservatism, while rejecting the labels. In other words, Third Way didn’t simply aim to advance progressivism; it aimed to capture and redefine it. Third Way pitched itself as an “idea broker” leading an “ideas network” – a model it is currently executing in its role as the DNC’s ideological puppeteer.

Democratic Leadership Council: Third Way incubator

Third Way’s mission continues the work of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which served as its incubator. The DLC was founded in 1985 after the humiliating defeat of the “unabashedly liberal Democrat” Walter Mondale to Republican Ronald Reagan, according to Greenville News. Founding members included Bill Clinton and Al Gore, along with Virginia Governor Chuck Robb (son-in-law of President Lyndon Johnson) and Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, each hailing from the “Southern Democrat” pedigree of the Democratic Party. Joe Biden was also an early DLC “leader,” according to Jacobin Magazine.

According to The Hill, the DLC led the charge in attempting to regain support of voters the Democratic Party had lost to Reagan. “To the DLC of the 1980s,” writes Robert Dreyfuss in The American Prospect, “that meant a message that was less tilted toward minorities and welfare, less radical on social issues like abortion and gays, more pro-defense, and more conservative on economic issues – in other words, less liberal generally.” The DLC sought to “rescue the Democratic Party from the influence of 1960s-era activists and the AFL-CIO” labor union and “to ease its identification with hot-button social issues.”

Coalition for a Democratic Majority

This sentiment can be traced to the DLC’s own direct predecessor, the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM). Just like the DLC, CDM was founded following Democrat George McGovern’s failed attempt to unseat Richard Nixon, which some “neoconservative Democrats” blamed on “the left.”

“McGovern’s candidacy signaled the capture of the Democratic Party by the hard left, who had taken control of it through a lethal combination of radical opposition to the war in Vietnam, the radicalization of the civil rights movement, and women’s liberation,” recounted Midge Decter, a CDM co-founder, in her 2001 memoir. The JFK era had empowered dissident voices on each of these issues, a form of “new politics” threatening to dismantle the unaccountable “old politics” which institutional Democrats were used to.

Within the CDM we find numerous future members of the Democratic Leadership Council, including Sam Nunn and Chuck Robb. Also a member was James Woolsey, Clinton’s future CIA director. According to Joel Kotkin, the DLC intentionally modeled itself after the CDM, illustrating the direct continuity between the organizations. 

That continuity continues directly through to Third Way. The DLC’s think tank, the Progressive Policy Institutedescribes itself as “the intellectual birthplace of the New Democrat and ‘Third Way’ movements,” as well as Clinton’s “idea mill.” Per Newsweek, funding for this “intellectual birthing” was provided by the likes of DuPont, Merck, Microsoft, Philip Morris and Koch Industries – corporations not generally thought of as all that “progressive.”

When the DLC closed its doors, founder Al From announced that its historical records had “become part of” the Clinton Foundation, eliminating any lingering doubts about the group’s ultimate allegiance.

Third Way’s founders are primarily alumni from the DLC/Clinton machine; Bennett and Cowan worked in the Clinton-Gore White House, while Senators BayhCarper and Lincoln were DLC chair, vice chair, and member respectively. Third Way trustee Bill Budinger, another Clinton alum, is also a director of the Progressive Policy Institute. In its prospectus, Third Way adopted the DLC’s 1996 New Progressive Declaration, which “served as a restatement of President Clinton’s governing philosophy,” as its own.

Through this lens, Bennett’s visceral opposition to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. begins to make sense. Third Way’s leadership team is chock full of folks with ideological and financial interests threatened by Kennedy’s candidacy. Josh Freed, Third Way’s senior vice president for climate and energy, was a political consultant for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funds the Third Way Institute. As revealed by Alex Kotch at PR Watch, Third Way’s donors include DuPontFacebook and Google – each of whom have faced Kennedy in court either for pollution or censorship.

Just like the DLC and the CDM before it, Third Way is doing everything it can to oppose the election of a candidate who could rock (or sink) their Uniparty boat. This time around, that means preventing Kennedy from reaching the White House at any cost, will of the American people be damned.

Liam Sturgess is an investigative reporter for The Kennedy Beacon. He is also a writer for the Canadian Covid Care Alliance and founder of White Rose Intelligence. He was the founding co-host and producer of the Rounding the Earth podcast, and publishes a Substack series called Microjourneys.