The Daily Gamecock

SG officers should not endorse candidates

Elections should be fair to all participants

Last week, a discussion began taking place during the Student Government senate session on a proposal that could serve as an example for our national elections system. Initially, it was proposed in Student Senate that official titles not be used in endorsements of candidates in Student Government elections. For example, instead of “Student Body President Chase Mizzell supports Candidate X,” it would be “Chase Mizzell supports Candidate X.”

It was pointed out that this proposal simply allows for more power-wielding in elections by standing SG executive officers, because far more people know who the current student body president is than the current head of the senate finance committee or student comptroller. In an amended version, it was proposed that personal endorsements be eliminated entirely — and this makes perfect sense. In America, we are “lucky” in the sense that even though endorsements still skew our democracy towards the desires of big-name sponsors, at least we have two political parties with strong name recognition and media machines that can balance each other out. As a result, high-profile endorsements of candidates belonging to one political party are countered with high-profile endorsements of candidates belonging to the opposing party.

Imagine, however, a scenario where the only body with power was the one currently in office. Imagine if our president, with his privileged access to media, high worldwide name recognition and business clout was able to name his successor without an opposing political party machine. Isn’t it strange that it is perfectly acceptable to deride the Russian Federation for its farce of a democracy when Putin successfully handpicked his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, but perfectly normal to remain silent when current Student Government insiders essentially handpick the next executive officers year after year?

When faced with a choice between the “President’s Guy” and “Other,” would you ever really choose the latter, especially given that their name most likely doesn’t ring a bell, they’ve never been covered in the news until now and the entire standing government is clamoring for him or her to lose?

The existing Student Government election system is an essentially similar system with only one “party” — the current members of SG. If you pay your dues, work on a couple of projects with senior members, and live and breathe Student Government, then you are almost guaranteed a spot on the executive board — or at least a showdown election between two SG-bred candidates.

There is no opposing force to bring in outsiders and to counteract institutional bias in elections. But it should not be this way — Student Government’s elected positions should not operate like a closed-door fraternity, where if you finish “initiation” you are granted a cozy “full-rights” position.

Students who did not start out in Freshman Council or on executive committees as underclassmen should not be intimidated from running as candidates in Student Government elections and should not feel pressured to participate in a personal endorsement popularity contest in order to win.

Instead, elections should be fair to all students, SG insiders and outsiders, by eliminating personal endorsements and allowing candidates to campaign on their own innovative, fresh ideas rather than as proxies of established figures. If we embrace this electoral reform, our Student Government elections will serve as a symbol of inclusiveness and a warning against favoritism. It will represent the ideals of the millennial generation, ideals that stand in stark contrast to the dysfunction and back-room politicking visible every day in the system of the generations before us.