Talk about a whirlwind campaign this year; posters started going up about two weeks ago, and according to the MSU website, we finish voting today. (It’s a little surprising that none of the candidates’ posters had the voting date on them, but I digress.) Matching the speed of these campaigns are the flight of certain words.
Environmental sustainability, better public transit, better club engagement, better food choices; these are just some of the topics that are frequently discussed, using the usual corporate buzzwords and attention-getting sales points. Some candidates are riding old ideas, made popular by recent events; it’s as though they wanted to bring down the bureaucracy that runs the school. Overall though, what we have is a group of students who are honest, well intentioned and serious about bringing change.
That’s great, in theory; the problem has been and probably always will be actually accomplishing the platform goals. It’s not that the candidates are making grandiose promises that cannot be kept, as many cynics might claim, nor is it that the candidates are liars, but it’s the system that the candidates must work within that prevents an expedient change. I consider myself an indifferent voter. Not because I am genuinely apathetic towards politics, but because I’ve spent the past four years watching students get elected, and, if they’re lucky, make one big thing happen for which some people might remember them for. Two recent examples would be the Mac Farmstand and the incoming email switch from the old MUSS server to Gmail (which doesn’t actually save anyone any amount of typing, as the “cis.mcmaster” part of the URL is superfluous). Any other major changes must have been done without public spectacle, as I can’t recollect any publication of any sort.
The elects do have their ways of reaching out to students though. In addition to the websites, there are the traditional classroom rambles, where one person comes around and gives an incredibly condensed spiel about “why it would be best to vote for them”. Last year in particular I found them useless because they provided no substantial evidence that they could provide the results for the changes they promised. Sure enough, most changes didn’t come around. Something new this year are the revamped improvised headquarters in the student centre. I don’t eat there a lot but do they ever look annoying. They take entire sections of tables up with flashy banners and free handouts which will be, even if read, promptly discarded, hopefully in the recycling. I can appreciate reaching out to students in a public place where many will see you, but the student centre is hardly an ideal place for a political discussion due to noise and body levels during peaks. Of course, all that yelling one has to do might fit in well with politics.
But, that probably won’t stop me from voting for the most realistic candidate. Or perhaps just abstain if the ballot allows it. Kin Hubbard once pointed out that we would all like to vote for the best man, but he is never a candidate. Outdated language aside, his point holds. My major issue with any politician is that the promises or goals they make to their target audience are often far too optimistic for their own success.
A problem, especially at this level of politics, is that the elections are always cast, rather accurately, as popularity contests. Sometimes, so much so that some of the platform points sound like they are catering to certain groups in which they hold a strong affinity towards. Social media makes this so much easier, as I’ve gotten added to groups for candidates I don’t even know personally, and it’s not a good way to convince me, as someone who wants to be an informed voter.
A final thought, if I may venture once more into the past, is taken from previous candidates who were never taken seriously. They were talking communism, dictatorial takeovers, and reforming the school’s bureaucracy by basically eliminating it. It sounds outlandish and echoes an old war, but maybe they have the right idea, that the popularity contest, as it were, should be an actual vie for a seat of power to ensure, under certain restrictions, that the people’s voice may be heard and that improvements can be made without all of the paperwork. That doesn’t help external unions, but a baby usually doesn’t start walking by running. Maybe politicians shouldn’t either.