The fourth floor of Maloney Hall rings with the sighs of thousands. They’re in the elevators again. Piles of fliers are being dragged down hallways around Lower Campus, and heaved into trash rooms engorged on this wasted paper. And the knocking, the I-swear-to-God if-it’s-another-one-of-them, the knocking quite literally hits home. We’re never safe. Each knock thunders with the terror of another awkward interaction.
UGBC election season is back.
Now, before I make the claim that UGBC’s yearly elections primes students for a lifetime of political apathy, I must stress that this is not an attack on the character of any of the candidates. I don’t begrudge them for running. I don’t even begrudge them for their aggressive campaign strategies. That’s politics. You do that to get elected because you have to. And I can’t use their campaigns to make judgments on their character. I can’t gauge how earnest they are with their strategies, or how one campaign interacts with the other. I can’t say for sure how opposed they are to the agenda of the other candidates.
I have no basis on which to judge how sincere their apparent emotional investment in their platforms is.
And that’s part of the problem. The imagery associated with UGBC campaigns is so sanitized and cliche that it becomes nearly impossible to glean any personality or distinction between the candidates from them. It all seems so achingly sincere, but that sincerity is troubling when backing empty invocations of school pride. The posters and the videos roll out, lathered with this kind of stuff. Pair some platitudes and vague declarations with a certain color eagle design and you’ve got a winning poster. Slow fades and meaningful real-talk glances toward the camera give you a perfect campaign video. Sprinkle in some handheld-camera-filmed-walking-around-campus-talking footage to get that everyman politician effect that every good politician wants. We’ve seen it all before. Expect to see it again. In 20 years, the UGBC election eagle image will be your city’s skyline in a mayoral race. Appearances at Hillside will transition effortlessly to photo ops at that timeless sub shop you take your kids to after their baseball games. Gasson Hall, meet Main Street USA, and welcome to the Society for Abused Imagery.
Politics has a formula. How different are the candidates, really, when they’re both trafficking in the same imagery and rhetoric? Are their platforms really that different? Both candidates run as the reform candidate, and the same kinds of promises get made every year. “Transparency” is a term that gets waved around. “Repairing UGBC’s image,” too. But when every campaign talks about transparency and repairing UGBC’s image in the same way with the same image, the impression students get is of a very un-transparent government. It reminds students that this is just something candidates will say to get elected. So why have any faith that what these candidates promise isn’t just pandering?
We can’t be sure, and that makes us wary. In too many ways, we are reminded of real world politicians, and we remember how duplicitous they can be. This fear grows as elections heat up and these junior politicians strive to stress just how different they are from each other to make the election seem important. But the perception is that there’s really nothing distinguishing most of these campaigns, and the campaign imagery/rhetoric does little to change that. Why the red eagle versus the blue one? Or, perhaps the more accurate question: “Why?” Only a couple weeks ago, UGBC was desperate to get enough candidates for the election. That’s very telling.
We should expect our student body to recoil at the smell of politics. Everything that smacks of political gamesmanship triggers that feeling of disillusionment sweeping the nation. At the most malleable point in our generations’ lives, America was as idealistic as it had ever been in the last 40 years. Change we can believe in. Faith. In politics. That seems laughable now. One short college career span later saw a Congress totally mired in internal squabbling to the point of shutdown, along with the bitter, slow death of a grassroots protest movement. Political activity has been reduced to the bare minimum-a Facebook profile picture change here, a Huffington Post link there. And we’re only 20! We will bear this scar for the rest of our lives. Down at the timeless sub shop, our kids will ask us how baseball players can make so much money when there are people around the world starving, and how come there’s not a law making those players give their money to the poor people? We will scoff. Don’t believe me? Ask your parents-they might have been hippies once. It took Watergate to well and truly kill one generation’s idealism. All it apparently takes now is an abstract eagle design and a three-word slogan. Politics is boring.
Now let’s talk about staplers.
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.