From the look of the numbers, last week’s student government elections appear a success – voter turnout, usually dismally low, more than doubled. But the aftermath of these elections may have only further divided an already polarized campus. Faced with substantial competition, Students 4 Michigan triumphed, capping off an election that unfortunately may be remembered more for petty campaign tactics than for a productive debate of issues. Now is the time for all parties to come together and undo the damage while working to push for needed reforms.
The Michigan Progressive Party and the Student Conservative Party each maintained a unified platform and ideology to bring together their candidates, yet S4M was able to hold on to its leadership position in MSA. Despite its win, S4M must now work with a new set of representatives that includes members of both MPP and SCP to implement essential student policies.
The new opposition parties should not be discouraged and must remain as an influence on campus by working with S4M on the assembly. In particular, MPP should continue to promote its campaigns like Students Promoting Active Neighborhoods and participate in MSA committees and commissions. Through projects like these, MPP will be able to maintain a presence on campus and achieve many of its goals even without much elected representation.
MPP should consider the example of the University Democratic Party from the 2001 MSA elections. That party was also new and progressive – and it lost to the incumbent Blue Party, an umbrella group that, like S4M, was accused of recycling the same ideas year after year without making much progress. It is difficult to break the stronghold of the dominant party, even if that party has no ideological foundation.
In many ways, the last days of the race resembled a high school popularity contest, with the results based more on acquaintances and student organization membership than informed positions on issues. S4M’s success this year should not be seen as reason to abandon MPP. If the party remains active on campus and in MSA, it should have more success in the next MSA elections in November.