The student government elections on Wednesday and Thursday promise to be the most uneventful in recent years. The Michigan Action Party, a descendent of the now-defunct Students 4 Michigan, should easily win the president and vice president positions in both the Michigan Student Assembly and LSA-Student Government, as well as the vast majority of representative seats in both bodies.
MAP candidates Zack Yost and Mohammad Dar face only a long-shot bid from the Defend Affirmative Action Party’s Maricruz Lopez and Sarah Barnard for the top positions in MSA. MAP’s Keith Reisinger and Hannah Madoff are completely unchallenged for the top positions in LSA-SG.
Perhaps after last year’s fiasco, a quiet year is to be expected. The all-out ruckus that pitted the dominant S4M against the Michigan Progressive Party, the Student Conservative Party and DAAP left voters – even candidates – dazed and featured at least a couple of violations of electoral rules – if not federal laws. MPP, SCP and, to a lesser extent S4M disbanded, leaving DAAP and a fresh slate for this year.
In preparation for this election, MAP was formed, mostly by former members of S4M along with some who formerly sided with MPP. Although its candidates highlight differences between MAP and S4M – insisting that MAP is more diverse, less about winning and more about getting the job done – it’s hard not to see the glaring similarities. MAP has no ideology and looks set to monopolize the two largest bodies of student government, the very two characteristics that defined its disparate predecessor.
MAP wants to be the party of everyone and as such seems to stand for nothing and everything at once. Its ambition is commendable, but never should such a porous platform go as lightly challenged as MAP has so far. Spirited debate and competition is always preferable to the foregone conclusion that is this year’s race. Even if it eventually spiraled into chaos, last year’s election offered distinct choices, an integral part of the democratic process that is largely missing this year, with DAAP as the only alternative.
Anchored by members of BAMN, the radical affirmative action group, DAAP is much more straightforward in its platform. It wants campus diversity defended at all costs in the wake of November’s affirmative action ban and to avoid, in its own words, resegregation and a return to the days of Jim Crow. In addition, the party claims a laundry list of liberal positions such as favoring empowerment of women and opposition to the war in Iraq.
We can’t disagree with the positions DAAP takes on those issues, but it’s hard to support a party whose candidates have no experience and seem to have completely missed the point of cooperative government. It’s one thing to stand strongly for an issue and quite another to be antagonistic and counterproductive. DAAP promises that it is ready to govern a wide range of issues, but its candidates’ comments suggest otherwise.
For example, Lopez relentlessly decries AirBus, a service initiated by MSA to provide students cheap rides to the airport. Her argument is that MSA should dispose of frivolities and focus on the issues that matter, like preserving a diverse campus. In implying that it is the job of candidates to tackle controversial issues, she’s absolutely right. But her na’ve criticism of a service that benefits students who cannot afford cars or taxi fares suggests that DAAP is not ready to accept the considerable responsibility of representing students.
Ensuring diversity at this campus is of utmost importance, but it cannot be student government’s only concern. Students are also worried about tuition hikes, textbook prices, neighborhood lighting, parking and a litany of other issues that DAAP either overlooks or minimizes. The MAP executive candidates for both MSA and LSA-SG on the other hand, have experience both in student government and in dealing with these issues.
LSA-SG candidates Reisinger and Madoff are especially impressive. Because LSA-SG is usually out of the limelight and doesn’t tackle the most controversial political issues continually impressed upon MSA, its candidates are forced to talk about their records of accomplishment. Reisinger and Madoff do so impressively and convincingly.
They point to the textbook forum held last semester and the “this sucks” e-mail group as examples of their responding to the needs of students. They are right to do so, but we remind you that nothing has come out of that forum as of yet and sending an e-mail to LSA-SG about what sucks on campus doesn’t automatically fix the problem. Much of that isn’t the fault of the candidates; slicing through University bureaucracy is no easy task. Nevertheless, Reisinger and Madoff are among the most competent, qualified and dare we say likable candidates we’ve seen in recent years.
MAP’s candidates for president and vice president of MSA, Yost and Dar are also experienced, qualified and likable – even if they do feel the need to repeatedly point out that one of them is Jewish and the other Muslim (which makes it possible to suspect something more than mere coincidence). Possible tokenization aside, we’re convinced they can govern effectively. The only problem is their standing alone and relatively unchallenged, which has left them on their heels.
While DAAP has its shortcomings, it does at least stand fiercely for issues and ideologies. What exactly do MAP MSA candidates stand for if everything is not an option? They’ll proudly say that it isn’t the place of MSA parties to have ideologies, and we will proudly disagree.
Having several ideologically driven parties, each representing different issues and interests would make paying attention to this election worthwhile and offer actual choices where votes make a difference. After all, the turnout spike that followed last year’s brutal campaign was no coincidence. Multiple parties and diverse platforms are not only desirable but necessary; it’s not democracy if all votes mean the same thing.
The Daily Editorial Board endorses ZACK YOST and MOHAMMAD DAR for MSA president and vice president. We also endorse KEITH REISINGER and HANNAH MADOFF for LSA-SG president and vice president.