Bernie Sanders’ Stubbornness Is Costing The American Taxpayer
Bernie Sanders' refusal to admit that his campaign is over is costing you up to $38,000 per day.
The primary races are over, the votes are counted, the delegates are allocated, and it is blindingly obvious that Bernie Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee for President. Despite all of that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is continuing to act as if he’s running for President, and it’s costing taxpayers up to $38,000 per day:
BURLINGTON, Vt. — When Sen. Bernie Sanders, the now-vanquished Democratic presidential candidate, returns to Capitol Hill to vote Monday, he is expected to be accompanied by his constant traveling companions from the campaign trail: the U.S. Secret Service.
Although Hillary Clinton has clinched the party’s nomination, Sanders retains one of the trappings of a top-notch candidate. A team of agents still guards him at his home, where they’ve constructed a small watch station on the property. They travel with him on commercial and charter flights and use a motorcade to whisk him through cities he visits. And they recently marched alongside him during a gay-pride event here in his home town after the Orlando shootings.
Such round-the-clock protection can cost taxpayers more than $38,000 a day. And with the potential for the Secret Service to be watching over Sanders through the Democratic convention in Philadelphia five weeks from now, the taxpayers may get stuck with a big security bill long after his campaign receded from the daily cable-news cycle.
The continued security presence also reflects a larger reality of Sanders’s muddled standing in the Democratic race. He has virtually no chance of becoming the party’s nominee, and he is no longer pressing his case to Democratic leaders that he should. Yet Sanders remains an active candidate because he has not “suspended” his campaign or taken any other steps that would alter his official status.
“He’s in a kind of political purgatory right now,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist who has worked for neither the Clinton nor Sanders campaign. “He has the perception of still running for president, but he’s not doing that in reality.”
Aides to Sanders say he is most focused now on trying to parlay his unexpectedly strong performance in the Democratic primaries into concrete changes to the party’s platform and upcoming legislative agenda. To advance those goals, Sanders met last week in Washington with Clinton. Staffers are continuing to talk about how she might adopt some of the ideas, such as tuition-free college, that he pressed during his campaign.
Depending on how that effort goes, it’s possible that Sanders could endorse Clinton before the July 25 start of the convention in Philadelphia, Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said.
Even if that happens, Sanders has no plans to suspend his campaign before the convention, when the party’s platform is finalized, Weaver said.
Asked to explain the distinction between endorsing another candidate and dropping out, Weaver shrugged his shoulders and demurred.
The senator from Vermont declined repeated requests over the past week for an interview about the status of his campaign.
Citing a policy not to talk about issues affecting his security, Sanders’s aides declined to publicly discuss the most visible sign of his ongoing candidacy: his Secret Service protection.
Sanders’s protective detail was on full display Tuesday in Washington — the day of the final Democratic primary, in the District — as his motorcade sped from Capitol Hill to the Capital Hilton, near the White House, for the much-anticipated meeting with Clinton, which started shortly after the polls closed.
Sirens from a D.C. police SUV blared as the cars sped to a stop in the driveway, and a half-dozen Secret Service agents in dark suits exited the vehicles. A handful of them glanced around, keeping a protective circle around the gold-colored SUV that Sanders sat in. Another whispered into a microphone on his sleeve. A moment later, the agent guardedly opened the door, and Sanders and his wife, Jane, emerged.
As Sanders and his entourage breezed through the lobby, they were greeted by a large crowd of onlookers who clapped and yelled, “Bernie!”
“There’s no denying that some of the accoutrements that come with campaigns can be intoxicating,” said Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic operative who is supporting Clinton.
But Manley said he thinks there’s a broader explanation for why Sanders remains a candidate at a time when, in his view, the party would be better served by Sanders rallying around Clinton.
“He is just so convinced of the righteousness of his cause that I think he is having trouble giving it all up,” Manley said.
I’m sure that it doesn’t hurt to advance the argument for “socialism” and “equality” while being whisked around in a motorcade that gets police and Secret Service protection, enjoying access to Broadway productions that ordinary people can’t get tickets to for at least a year, and generally being treated like a rock star. For a guy from Vermont, it must all be very intoxicating. At the same time, though, one has to wonder why it is continuing at this point or why it existed in the first place.
As the article linked above goes on to explain, Secret Service protection is generally not granted to Presidential candidates unless and until they become their party’s nominee, and it ends the moment the election is over. As the outcome of the 2012 election became apparent, for example, the Secret Service detail around Mitt Romney, which was ready to be supplemented with a larger force if he had won the election that night, immediately shut down operations. In the case of candidates like Sanders who are not a party nominee, the campaign can apply for protection if they deem it necessary and that application is reviewed by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and a group of Members of Congress. This year, candidates who received protection during the course of the primary race included Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Sanders, and, of course, Hillary Clinton, who already had a small detail due to the fact that she is the spouse of a former President. Presumably, there was good cause for granting protection to Sanders, Trump, and Carson to begin with, but it seems odd for it to continue now that it is apparent that Sanders is not going to be th nominee and he is not actively campaigning.
Trump’s protection has presumably been increased now that he is the presumptive nominee and will continue with him right up until Election Night in November at the very least. Clinton too has probably seen her detail increase back to the levels she was used to as First Lady. Ben Carson’s detail, of course, said goodbye after he dropped out of the race. Only Sanders’ protection remains, awaiting the acknowledgment of what everyone already knows, namely that his campaign is effectively over, and it’s costing the American taxpayer. There was apparently a need for protection for Sanders while he was a candidate, and I’m not going to second guess that decision. The same goes for Carson and and Trump, who apparently both received multiple credible threats during the course of the campaign. The only reason it’s continuing now, though, is because of Sanders’ stubborn refusal to admit to reality. Since he’s clearly no longer really running for office, Sanders ought to suspend his campaign so the Secret Service can go home.