I have to say, this year had real potential to be different. The ridiculous genesis of meaningless, self-important parties with shelf lives of about three minutes spit out, entirely by accident it seems, two interesting options. On the one hand, eMerge, a model of representation sporting a list of diverse candidates, each of whom has a proven track record in student government. On the other, Movement takes a different approach based on accessibility, unity and participation, exemplified in part by candidates at the top of the ticket who would be new to Central Student Government.

Such stark contrast between the two would pose, I thought, some important questions to the student body. What kind of representation are we looking for? Is student government experience a necessary prerequisite to the position of CSG president, or can the bureaucratic bubble of student government be a hindrance? Or both? In the wake of an objectively productive and successful Schafer-Griggs term, what went right? What could be done better? Perhaps most importantly, what do we, as Wolverines, expect from CSG? We could have asked these questions. But we decided to take the easier route. We got distracted by a video.

The first word that I used to describe Movement’s “official anthem” was brilliant. Rather than running a campaign that we’ve seen before, with slightly different font and a new slogan, a new breed of dog paraded around the Diag or an exciting new strategy to cover the tables of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library in quarter-sheets, they were having fun with it. I saw, quite simply, two guys dancing (somewhat goofily, I might add) around campus with their friends and trying to bring attention to their campaign. They dropped some lyrics about giving the campus back to the students, and how you don’t have to have CSG experience to have an idea about improving campus. Was it the highest form of political commentary I’ve seen in my life? Absolutely not. The most memorable line was about putting Chick-fil-A in the Michigan Union. It was a stunt, and one that was generating more attention for a CSG race than I’d ever seen before in my time at the University of Michigan.

But then, quickly and effortlessly, it consumed the campaign. In a column for The Michigan Daily, Evan Rosen was compared to Donald Trump, while another op-ed labeled Movement “not serious.” The party was branded with cultural appropriation and Facebook comment sections ran wild.

Let’s take this point by point. First of all, anyone who compares Rosen to Trump is being lazy, purposefully inflammatory and downright rude. In my personal experience, he is down-to-earth, friendly and has perfectly normal-sized hands. Sure, he may not be the most experienced candidate, but the CSG president doesn’t walk around campus with the nuclear football, so let’s all calm down a bit. Being an outsider can be a phenomenal asset.

Secondly, Movement is serious. If you looked beyond the video, or even read the comments posted by Movement’s Facebook page in response, you’d see an innovative platform, including proposals for improved lighting on Central Campus, an expansion of SafeRide hours, a campaign focusing on mental health and the “4 Years” initiative for success. Even without all this, let me be the first to say that seriousness is not the first quality I look for in my student representatives; this is partially because I’m voting for student representatives, not U.S. senators.

Cultural appropriation is obviously a serious issue, on our campus and many others. Personally, I don’t think the video was a culprit of it, and I reject the idea that there’s anything inherently offensive about a white guy rapping. Nor is there anything inherently wrong with comparing yourself to a famous inventor like George Washington Carver to prove that you’re innovative (in fact, it’s pretty obviously a compliment to George Washington Carver). But if that’s a conversation to have, let’s have it, rather than foaming at the mouth and jumping at the first opportunity for outrage. Let’s figure out why we disagree, and how we can come to a campus-wide consensus, rather than shouting down the opposition for something we see as clear-cut and “beyond debate.”

Let me be clear. I am not here to endorse the Movement party. I see the argument that Rosen and Dan Sweeney don’t represent the most diverse perspectives on campus. I just also acknowledge that Anushka Sarkar and Nadine Jawad have blind spots of their own. I see the argument that there was a clear objectification of women in the video, but I also recognize that it was a video and not their slate of candidates, which includes strong, intelligent women. I agree with some of the comments that were posted under the video, but I also have great respect for the poise and professionalism with which Movement responded (and eventually apologized). But no one seems to be able to get past the video and everyone seems interested in telling you exactly how heinous they think it is.

Personally, I voted for candidates from all four major parties. I simply want to make the point that the video and its narrative did not have to take over the campaign. It could have been about issues — diversity, inclusion, campus safety, campus culture and activism. Instead, Rosen had to leave in the middle of a debate hosted by The Michigan Daily to attend a hearing addressing two formal complaints about the video filed by his opponents. Because debating is much easier when not everyone gets the chance to make their case.

There are hundreds of reasons to vote for eMerge, and hundreds to vote for Movement. There was a discussion to be had. As we learned from the 2016 presidential race, however, polarization and outrage can be a lot more exciting. So we did that instead.

Maybe next year, we as a student body will look back and realize that putting the issues facing our campus aside and centering in on a purposefully ridiculous video was just that — ridiculous. Or, maybe, student government at the University will continue to be an exercise of self-importance, long-winded Facebook posts and stories rather than substance. Unfortunately, one seems more likely to me than the other.

Brett Graham is an LSA junior and a former Michigan Daily columnist and Editorial Board member.

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