After a frenzied week of campaigning marked by slate dropouts, personal attacks, and continued voter apathy, the 2011-2012 ASSU elections are finally over. Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look at what actually happened and what is store for the future.
Beginning with the top of the ticket: Zimbroff and Wagstaff win the ASSU presidency with a staggering 87% of the vote. While their victory is not all the while surprising, the intricacies of this year’s race should not be overlooked. This year, more than in the past, we have been able to witness the (all too powerful) influence of SOCC and other endorsement groups on the race. A crowded field of four legitimate slates very quickly dwindled to two contenders after endorsements were doled out.
In an op-ed posted on the Unofficial Stanford Blog and the Stanford Review blog, James Mwaura – a presidential candidate on one of the dropped out slates – lamented the overwhelming grip the establishment has on the process. And Mwaura couldn’t be more right: there is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which one endorsement can have such a fundamental impact on the outcome of an election to the point where challengers can’t even conceive of winning without it. More on that later.
The second defining dynamic of the race were the personal attacks on Stewart MacGregor-Dennis’ character and outlook on life. More than anything else, I believe this is what sealed the fate of this election before voting even started. A quick glance at the petition totals garnered last quarter indicate that MacGregor-Dennis and Druthi had a slight advantage headed into Spring quarter. At that moment, nothing pointed to such a lopsided outcome. And then, after a week of intense criticism and mudslinging, the result was one of the biggest electoral defeats in recent ASSU history.
Now, is this one of the pitfalls of public life? Yes. Did MacGregor-Dennis make it easy on his critics by being aggressively self-promoting? Yes. Can a legitimate claim be made that some of the criticisms of his personal life could be relevant to his performance as Executive? Perhaps. Was a line crossed during campaign week? Definitely. This was a student government election and we should all be able to voice our opinions and preferences but, ultimately, I was disappointed in how many of our peers zealously verged on cruelty throughout the campaign season. Let this be a lesson to future leaders that maybe the world is not yet ready for “radical self-realization.”
Finally, a glance to the Undergraduate Senate race will confirm the two overarching themes of this past week: SOCC’s influence and student disinterest. (The GSC race, as always, was lackluster and uninspiring). There were only eighteen candidates running for fifteen positions on the Senate. In a race that can barely be characterized as competitive, SOCC won out, getting its 12 endorsees elected. Just three years ago, the Senate race had close to fifty declared candidates, thirty of which were competitive until the very end. So what on earth happened? One thing is for certain, reinvigorating student interest in the ASSU should be one of the main goals for this year’s executive. We cannot thrive as a student body without the best possible student leaders.
We have yet to see what a Zimbroff and Wagstaff presidency will look like next year. When their choice of chief of staff and the application for their cabinet comes out we will have a much greater understanding. However, from all who know them or have gotten a chance to speak to them, the consensus is that we have elected a pair of likeable, pragmatic guys who will quietly and steadily try to improve student life in the limited ways they think they can be successful.
And quite honestly, that sounds just about right. Don’t expect extravagant increases in the cabinet, or the creation of ludicrous ‘czar’ positions, or an unachievable 40-page platform, because that’s not what’s in store for us (at least, I really hope not). And, as always, let’s make sure to keep our elected representatives accountable and ensure that their initiatives #makesense.