The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


Pigs into farmers: the case of Sen. Bernie Sanders and the foregone traffic ticket


Senator Sanders, as is well-known, is a self-described Socialist with a penchant for hard-hitting populist speech attacking the American oligarchy, by which he seems to mean rich Republicans. We libertarian types tend to think that Socialism creates its own, much more dangerous oligarchy, of the well-connected and politically powerful, who use their influence to benefit themselves and their friends and allies. While the market at least rewards those who satisfy others' needs, statist economic and political systems reward those with "pull."

Of course, Sen. Sanders isn't like that.

Oh, wait. The New York Times reports that he pulled ranked to get his aide out of a traffic ticket:

Senator Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont who calls himself a socialist, was riding in the back seat of a rented blue minivan this week when his aide abruptly announced they were being pulled over by the Iowa State Police for speeding.

"Hi ya, I'm Senator Bernie Sanders, how ya doing?" Mr. Sanders piped up, in his unmistakable Brooklyn accent, after the aide explained to the police officer that they were late for the senator's appearance here. The officer issued no ticket, just a warning to slow down: "No need making a headline for something silly."

Somehow, being late for a campaign appearance hardly seems like a good reason to get out of a speeding ticket. But surely if you're the officer, you know better than to ticket a driver whose passenger just introduced himself as a Senator-who knows what consequences may follow. There was no reason for Sanders and his aide to announce he's a Senator unless they were either suggesting that he's too important to be expected to follow the traffic laws, or, worse, were not-so-subtly intimidating the officer.

What's especially interesting about this anecdote is that Sanders and his aide did this while a reporter witnessed the whole thing. You'd think our lone Socialist Senator would at least not try to pull rank knowing that it would be in the New York Times. But our political elite, including Sanders, is so used to getting deference and special treatment that it apparently it didn't even occur to him that readers might find it improper that he used his status to get out of a ticket that would have been issued to a regular Joe.

And that, my friends, is an example of how the Pigs become the Farmers. After all, while all animals are equal, some are more equal than others.

[Post edited slightly to reflect the fact that it was Sanders' aide who initially brought up the Senator's status.]

UPDATE: See my related post about the late Frank Lautenberg, who pulled rank even as a former Senator.

FURTHER UPDATE: See this post from January 2009 for contrasting classy behavior by Joe Biden and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.