Adam Gerig can’t find a job.

That’s even though the 23-year-old graduated with a computer science degree from Georgia Tech and lives in the tech-heavy Atlanta market. Gerig recently moved back home with his parents and says he can’t envision a day when he’d ever own his own home in Atlanta.

“I think we've been sold an idea our entire lives, that the American dream–you'll own a home when you work hard and provide for a family for the future you want–feels more and more unobtainable,” said Gerig.

The dissonance between what President Joe Biden’s administration says about the state of the economy and what Gerig is experiencing is a major reason that he attended Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s rally at the Tabernacle in downtown Atlanta on Jan. 14. Kennedy is running for president as an independent in the upcoming election.

“We’re always presented with two buttons to push our entire life. Being here feels like maybe there's a third button. Maybe it does the same thing as those other two buttons, but let's see what it does,” said Gerig, who voted blue in the two previous presidential elections.

That feeling of pessimism about a perceived Democratic-Republican duopoly was shared by many young people attending Kennedy’s stump speech at the Tabernacle on Sunday. The rally was part of a petition drive to secure Kennedy a spot on Georgia's ballot in November.

“I think both options are pretty terrible on either side of the aisle,” said Shea, 22, of Midtown, who asked to be referred to by her first name. “So if I'm going to vote for a third party, this will probably be the year to try to just kind of break the system a little bit.”

Is 2024 the year of the third party? Perhaps. According to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll from the end of December, an unspecified third-party candidate garnered 17% in the White House race. Options could include notable figures like Cornel West, who is running as an independent, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein. 

Shea, 22, has voted Democrat in the past but attended the Kennedy rally Sunday and says “this is the year to try to break the system a little bit.”

Kennedy — an environmental lawyer and nephew of former Democratic President John F. Kennedy — has garnered some intrigue since entering the race in April as a Democrat. In October he announced that instead he’s running as an independent, which means he must get on the ballot in 50 states.

According to a New York Times and Quinnipiac University poll in November, Kennedy had the highest third-party support since Ross Perot in 1992, polling at 22% among registered voters in a match-up with Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Among younger voters, Kennedy is polling higher than either Biden or Trump. A Siena College survey conducted between Oct. 22 and Nov. 3 revealed that among voters under age 45, Kennedy secured support from 32%, outpacing Biden at 30% and Trump at 29%.

Kennedy himself touted the polling data in his speech on Sunday.

“I’m winning Americans under 45 years old,” he said during his 40-minute address. “The one place you’d think I do well is Baby Boomers, because they remember Camelot and the Kennedy administration. But I’m not.”

The reason? The two parties have a firm grip on legacy media. “Old people like myself are getting their news from watching TV. People who are supporting me are watching YouTube or listening to interviews on podcasts,” said Kennedy. He asked his supporters to convince their parents to watch his interview with Joe Rogan.

Midtown resident Everett Bolton, a 22-year-old progressive, expressed support for Cornel West as his preferred candidate, though he’s skeptical about West's chances of winning. He’s also considering Kennedy or—if necessary—Biden.

“I think probably my bigger hope would be that somebody like Kennedy would just kind of break the two-party system enough to where we structurally would get more options,” said Bolton at the Kennedy rally.

It’s not just disaffected liberals who are curious about Kennedy’s third-party campaign. Former Trump voters are also taking notice. That describes Jonathan Strader, a 31-year-old veteran who lives in Marietta. Strader, who describes himself as a libertarian, grew up attending Tea Party rallies in South Carolina with his stepfather.

On Sunday, he wore a Kennedy 2024 trucker hat, after spending the previous day knocking on doors in metro Atlanta to collect some of the 7,500 signatures required to secure a spot for Kennedy on the Georgia ballot.

Strader said his decade of service in the Air Force showed him how the military-industrial complex was negatively intertwined with party politics. “It’s a vicious cycle of money fueling wars, and I don’t think this two-party system is giving us appropriate options,” he said. “And honestly, I like [Kennedy’s] message of unity.”

Not everyone who attended Sunday’s rally is convinced that Kennedy can beat Biden or Trump. Just ask Robert Gatches, a young father who voted for former President Barack Obama and then Trump in previous presidential elections. Gatches stood in line to take a selfie with Kennedy after the event, but he said the candidate didn’t have enough “charisma” to win.

“I agree with a lot of what he says, but it's not going to change the landscape of this country,” said Gatches.

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