The Repudiation Election

Well, that was certainly the most entertaining Student Government election I’ve ever witnessed.  Before getting to my main point, I first want to take a second to thank the candidates for running.  I am sure that the last couple days have been very stressful for all involved, but this election was definitely an alembic that generated the highest ever level of interest in Student Government.

Now that I’ve said all the nice stuff, on to the melodramatic insanity of the four day campaign.  I came into class in Austin North on Monday to find a flyer suggesting that former Presidential Candidate Daniel Vargas, S.J.D. Candidate, had poor attendance at Student Government meetings. Not to be outdone, Vargas himself handed me a flyer on my way back from class claiming that his opponent, Rachna Shah, Law ’13, had voted for discriminatory policies.

Claiming that an HLS student voted against diversity is like claiming that a third grader voted against Santa Claus. Having been at HLS for three years, I can say with reasonable certainty that no one here is hot for segregation. Without giving any sort of context regarding what the precise issue at hand was, it’s flat-out bizarre to say someone is against diversity.

As for the attendance canard, that attack called to mind the partisan complaints about how often President Barack Obama goes golfing.  Do we really think someone who went through the trouble of campaigning won’t show up for the job?  Are we to believe that a President Vargas would skip Student Government meetings once he’s seated upon the HLS throne?

I don’t think negative campaigning is always a bad thing. Sometimes an electoral opponent has actually done something wrong that should inform our judgment of his wisdom or character. But the attacks in this Student Government election played to some of the public’s worst stereotypes of HLS students as dissembling mercenaries who lack any sense of decency or common sense. Just ask Above the Law.

To be sure, the election is a victory for President-elect and 3L Matt Gelfand’s reform agenda, and I wish him the best of luck in constitutionally mandating transparency for Student Government (and, er, in choosing who the actual President will be next year). However, I suspect that a good chunk of the student electorate was simply repelled by the spectacle of the two other candidates pettifogging over personal attacks and rebuttals.

John Thorlin is a 3L. His column runs Thursdays.

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