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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Don’t let bad government slide

    Incompetence can sometimes put one on the fast track for success – and nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in politics. In addition to camera-ready smiles and an aptitude for kissing babies, politicians are uniquely skilled at sounding like utter idiots. President George W. Bush recalled the glory days of his “”subliminable”” presidency when he endorsed Sen. John McCain for president, saying McCain possesses the “”determination to defeat an enemy and a heart big enough to love those who hurt,”” as though McCain were auditioning for a seat in a Kumbaya circle rather than the most important office in the world.

    Less funny, and quite a bit more damaging, was Hillary Clinton’s recent and ludicrous offer of a spot on her ticket for Sen. Barack Obama. Apparently, Hillary forgot that the election was still contested, and that it might come off as offensive to offer the vice presidency to a man who is still ahead of her in delegate totals. This kind of imprecise, sloppy language is a depressing staple in political discourse today, and is equally evident in the political microcosm that is the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.

    In case there was any doubt that ASUA hopefuls model themselves on national politicians, there was no shortage of silliness during the short campaign season. That the platforms of some candidates didn’t inspire outrage and derision from the rest of the student body is disturbing. Take Bryan Baker, whose “”Project Crime Stop”” proposes installing “”security cameras in the entrances and exits of all (residence) halls,”” but when interviewed

    Sunday couldn’t provide a satisfactory answer to the question of when and by whom the tapes could be reviewed. Baker believes that the tapes would only be reviewed when something really bad happened, placing a lot of trust in Residence Life and other university organizations who would positively salivate over this new, high-tech way to bust drunk kids. One of Baker’s fellow candidates, Matthew Ellis, promised the Daily Wildcat opinions board that he would be unafraid to impeach any senator who wasn’t up to snuff, but couldn’t provide an acceptable rationale for the ways in which those proceedings might benefit students, besides vaguely “”trickling down.”” By the looks of the crop of candidates for Senate, Ellis is going to have a very busy year.

    Both Ellis and Baker are evidently earnest, hardworking individuals who truly seem to believe that their bizarre platforms serve UA students’ best interests. Neither they nor the majority of candidates however appeared familiar with even the basic concerns, responsibilities and limits of student government. We don’t require that every ASUA candidate should know the ASUA Constitution backwards and forwards, but maybe we should.

    Of course, if we’re using national politics as our model for student government, that isn’t necessary, as we don’t require much expertise from elected officials either. Imprecise language results in citizens’ and the media’s reduced ability to hold officials accountable for their policies, increases the ability of politicians to deny that what is reported is what they said, and contributes to the general ridiculousness of political discourse today.

    Earnestness alone does not make an effective candidate. The same politicians who use sloppy, hazy language like President Bush or make misguided, plainly stupid statements to the press like Sen. Clinton are in a position to make quite a few important decisions. ASUA is no different – after all, where else can candidates look besides national politics to find a model for their campaigns? While ASUA may not ever impact some students’ lives, to people who didn’t have to sit through the 2008 campaign, student government positions look pretty great on resumes. When these same smart, ambitious, but fatally misguided students apply for those high paying positions at law firms and corporations those jobs can in turn give them the financial means to run for real government positions.

    Running for ASUA is like enrolling in political kindergarten, with candidates only officially forced to interact with the press once, if at all, and the campaign season itself only lasting a couple of weeks. Moreover, embarrassing voter turnout reduces the legitimacy of the organization, and minimizes the power and prestige of a term in ASUA. While it’s too late to prevent unqualified candidates from being elected to senate positions, allowing them to serve their terms in relative anonymity is unacceptable.

    Among their various platforms, almost every candidate talked about raising “”awareness”” of ASUA, and encouraging students to become more involved with the organization. This coming year, let’s give them what they want. After this week’s election, several unqualified students will have seats in our student government. They should earn their time in office – by being questioned constantly about their projects, goals and responsibilities as members of ASUA. As much as these candidates talked about raising “”awareness”” of their work, as it stands now, very few of their platforms hold up well under scrutiny. Rather than rewarding them with indifference, UA students should keep them justifying their existence all year long, and turn them from irrelevant officeholders into accountable officials. Perhaps that will force students seeking a second term to approach student government with more caution and respect for their constituents – and, hopefully, encourage truly impassioned and knowledgeable students to run in 2009.

    Sarah Devlin is a sophomore majoring in English and political science. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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