edited by Diana Buehler

Who upholds our democracy? It is impossible to deny that we live in one of the freest countries in the world, yet this is something we often take for granted. We have become so accustomed to our peaceful election process that it is easy to forget that not only are we incredibly lucky to have our president elected via the will of the people, but also that this process is unique. We do not have to dig deep or look far to see an abundance of examples of people and countries for whom this is not the case. As American citizens we have become complacent in our acceptance that these processes which allow us our freedoms and independence will always exist with or without our participation. This however is untrue, as it is we who uphold our democracy. In order to have free and fair elections we must be allowed choices on the ballot – choices which include candidates for who we wish to cast our votes.

As part of the free and fair elections process, our candidates must feel safe in order to run their campaign. In order to feel safe, they require constant protection for themselves and their families at home, during travel, and at public appearances. If viable US presidential candidates are not given this protection, that could take away our choice of whether or not to vote for them.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is running as an Independent candidate and has been denied Secret Service protection 3 times. This should alarm every American due to the fact that the Secret Service began providing United States presidential candidates with protection in 1968 after his father Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. According to the Secret Service’s own website, “Protection of a candidate/nominee is designed to maintain the integrity of the democratic process and continuity of Government.”

So who is offered protection? There are multiple factors that go into deciding this, with the main one being that the candidate running for the Office of President or Vice President must be a “major candidate.” Per the website, who qualifies as a major candidate is determined by the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) Secretary using a guideline of multiple factors, which include, but are not limited to:

  •         Whether the candidate has publicly announced his or her candidacy and has filed the appropriate documentation with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and is in compliance with the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended, and related laws;
  •         Whether the candidate is actively campaigning on a national basis for the office for which his or her candidacy has been announced, as demonstrated by operating a national campaign apparatus, regularly appearing at public events in multiple states, producing and publishing campaign advertisements, and other similar indicia of a campaign;
  •         A threat assessment conducted by the Secret Service of general or specific threats directed towards the candidate (for these purposes, “threats” should be defined as explicit threats of bodily harm to the candidate or indications of inappropriate behavior towards the candidate suggesting potential bodily harm);
  •         Whether, during and within an active and competitive major party primary, the most recent average of established national polls, as reflected by the Real Clear Politics National Average or similar mechanism, the candidate is polling at 15% or more for 30 consecutive days;
  •         Whether the candidate is the formal or de facto nominee of a major party for President or Vice President;
  •         Whether the candidate is an independent or third-party candidate for President polling at 20% or more of the Real Clear Politics National Average for 30 consecutive days;
  •         Whether the candidate is the Vice Presidential running mate of the above independent or third-party candidate (1).

All of the aforementioned is laid out on the Secret Service website: https://www.secretservice.gov/protection/leaders/campaign-2024.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. qualifies under several of these factors, most pressingly that he has received multiple threats upon his life as well as attempted break-ins at his home. Unfortunately for our democracy, it is not clear who actually qualifies for this protection and appears to be quite arbitrary.

We are currently 290 days out from the election on November 5th (as of 1/20/24). Former President Barack Obama received Secret Service protection in May of 2007, 551 days before the election; with the significance of his run it is understandable why he was granted protection so many days ahead of the election. However, he is not the only candidate to receive protection early on in his campaign. Ted Kennedy received Secret Service protection 400 days before the election; President Carter had ordered his protection due to his family history and the great concern for his safety. Third party candidate Ross Perot was offered protection and declined. And former President Donald Trump received protection for the 2016 election starting in November of 2015. The independent journalist Jeremy Hammond goes into great detail in his August 2023 article cited below.

As Americans it is our duty to uphold the democratic process, and this means providing Secret Service protection to legitimate candidates during their run for the Presidency. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. may not be your choice for president, however in order to maintain the integrity of our elections, he must be protected. We cannot let arbitrary guidelines determine which candidates’ lives are worth protecting. We must hold our government accountable and demand they do what is right, thereby allowing us to have truly free and fair elections.






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