Outgoing Michigan Student Assembly representative Melton Lee jokingly suggested at the MSA meeting last night that The Michigan Daily hates Students 4 Michigan, the party that currently controls the assembly. Hate is a strong word, and at any rate, it’s hard to hate an entity that seems to lack any beliefs or values. It would be far more accurate to suggest we’re disgusted with how the party ran this year’s campaign.
We understand the desire to win. We also understand the benefits of truly competitive elections; time and time again, this page has called for other parties to challenge S4M dominance. But we never predicted just how viciously S4M would protect its position of power.
Appallingly, S4M affiliates orchestrated a coordinated denial of service attack on the Michigan Progressive Party website. Both the MPP webmaster and the University’s Information Technology Central Services have logged the IP addresses of a few computers that together overloaded the MPP website by repeatedly downloading a single file more than 140,000 times.
It is entirely possible that the denial of service attack may constitute a felony, and a full investigation is warranted.
Of course, the individuals who attacked the MPP website may have done so without consulting other S4M members, so it’s unfair to blame the entire party.
But the party as a whole cannot escape blame for its divide-and-conquer campaign strategy. All the while stressing that S4M wished to represent all students, individual candidates sent spam e-mails seeking to exploit the emotional divisions between various campus groups.
Two e-mails in question, one sent to campus conservatives and the other to campus progressives, are uniquely troubling. Printed in Monday’s Daily, they are almost identical: Each warns that mid-election statistics indicate either SCP or MPP has picked up last-minute momentum and is in danger of winning. Maybe both e-mails are entirely nonsense, or one is a deceptive and the other is truthfully based. In either case, there’s reason for concern: S4M deliberately sought to scare those on either end of the political spectrum into voting for it based on information that was dubious at best – and wildly wrong in the case of SCP.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that S4M has turned races for representative seats into popularity contests instead of policy ones. Each representative candidate comes with a constituency defined not by ideas, but by communal identity. A few prominent conservatives were placed on the ticket to lock up the conservative vote, a few liberals to lock the liberal vote. S4M affiliates suggested that Jews should vote for S4M because there weren’t enough Jews on the MPP slate.
Even before the election, we criticized S4M for having no ideology. S4M candidates themselves happily explained that the party exists only for electoral purposes. Considering how deftly S4M defeated rival parties that brought coherent agendas to the table, we’re more than a little concerned that S4M’s electoral success will perpetuate a system that limits the role of ideas in MSA elections.
Sure, MPP and SCP committed their share of abuses and probably both broke MSA’s election code. But neither of those parties, to anyone’s knowledge, engaged in illegal activity. Neither party tokenized its candidates and brazenly exploited campus divisions to win a few more votes. And most importantly, neither of those parties was particularly successful. S4M won, and it did so in very questionable ways. That deserves condemnation.