The recent ASG elections were truly a disappointment. After spending countless hours interviewing all of the executive officers and numerous senators about what ASG could improve upon for an article this past fall, I was excited for an election that would surely bring out the best that student leaders at Northwestern had to offer to lead an organization that seemed to be bordering on effective. I was pumped for a debate on the candidates and their abilities to bring about results. Instead, I saw mudslinging, unprofessional behavior and downright absurdity.
When I read that newly-elected Mo Safdari sent out an email to his friends that called presidential candidate Bill Pulte an “evil genius” and claimed Pulte had used illegal campaign methods, I was somewhat amused and only slightly appalled. Then when Safdari proceeded to blame his unprofessional emailing on his own exhaustion, I could only say one thing: really?
But then it was reported that the election commission was blaming Mike McGee’s campaign for the fault, claiming Safdari had been a representative of said campaign. The election commission then posted a letter for students to read before voting that explained the ways in which Safdari had been incorrect.
While this was the appropriate way to handle the email, and I must give props where props are due to the election commission, the original email should not have existed in the first place, and is a symptom of a larger problem of this election cycle. In an attempt to win, the candidates resorted to the lowest of lows — character defamation.
As I talked with friends about the election, I heard rumors of bribery, racism, manipulation and general “douchebaggery” with regards to all of the candidates, especially during the 48 hours before the runoff between Pulte and McGee. But then, how else would we have differentiated between the two? Their platforms were almost identical.
And you know what? The issues the candidates discussed should be the same. Unlike in national presidential elections where there is a true difference of opinion, as a whole this student body agrees on what we want from the administration. We want more campus-wide concerts and events. We want shuttles to make our dorm-to-class commutes easier. We want a reasonable alcohol policy and meal plans that don’t scam us out of cash. ASG claims to represent the wishes of the student body, so logically the candidates platforms should be similar — they should both be what the students want.
With no difference in platforms to discuss, we moved on to the question of character. In this regard, we probably should have been focusing on what we wanted in our ASG president: someone who can represent us to the administration while keeping a handle on the massive bureaucracy that is ASG. We should have been discussing which candidate can best keep things moving and get the best results, who can push our initiatives forward and make sure that every student group gets the amount of funding it needs. We should have been asking which candidate can set realistic goals and achieve them. Instead we took the low road and argued about which one is less of an asshole, in a conversation that seemed to be led by the candidates themselves. This is the kind of crap that makes ASG seem ineffective to the student body and why no one can take the institution seriously, except those within it.
I charge the next group of ASG leaders, who will be working sleep-deprived and without credit for a common goal: don’t let your campaign methods dictate your leadership. Because after a hellish campaign, we deserve better than that. Really.