With the ASSU elections next week and the longest primary campaign season in US history wrapping up, elections are on everybody’s mind. Stanford students are generally a dutiful bunch when it comes to voting in national politics, but a much smaller portion will probably bother to fill out their ballots for campus elections.
My freshman year I hardly noticed ASSU elections day—why would I take the time to vote when I was perfectly happy with my Stanford life? Weren’t all student senate candidates essentially the same, anyhow?
The next four years completely transformed my point of view, and not just because I realized that Stanford fell a bit short of utopia as I got increasingly involved with the administrative side of student life. Anyone who has ever dealt with any kind of large decision-making body—be it the Stanford administration, the United States government, or the human resources department of a multi-national corporation—knows that the fundamental nature of the people in charge makes a big difference. Mostly, it makes a difference whether those in management positions enjoy bringing all kinds of people together to work toward some sort of common goal; or whether they simply enjoy wielding power for power’s sake. Real progress can only occur with the former, working with the latter is an exercise in frustration and disappointment. This pattern is as true at the local level as it is in headline-worthy national politics.
A wonderful example is none than the sixteenth American President, Abraham Lincoln. From his early days in Springfield politics (and even before that) Lincoln thrilled at bringing very diverse people together to focus on common interests to achieve some goal agreeable to all. Even when he moved on to bigger and much greater political arenas, Lincoln never forgot the lessons he learned in the most local of political circles. Taking the effort to unify diverse interests is crucial to progress—otherwise all that remains is directionless and pointless bureaucracy, whether at the local City Hall or inside the Beltway. Unproductive fringe extremists are also much more likely to arise when the general public loses interest and stops participating in the political process.
One of the main reasons The Review is endorsing the Sharma-Cackler slate for ASSU Executive is because their campaign demonstrates a true understanding of the executive direction required to make real institution-led progress. One of the ASSU’s primary jobs is to interface between students and administration to ensure that student opinions are heard and taken into consideration when important University decisions are made. This procedure won’t succeed unless the ASSU develops some fair method of filtering the plethora of student voices into thoughtful, actionable policy recommendations for University administrators. Their platform is discussed at more length elsewhere in this issue, but Sharma-Cackler have proposed a number of well-planned initiatives to define the institutional workings of the ASSU so that it can better serve the student body.
The bottom line is this. Whoever you vote for next Wednesday, voicing your opinion is just as important in local politics as in national. If you care enough to vote in this fall’s Presidential election, then make sure you vote on April 9th!