Posts Tagged elections

IUSA campaign season upon us again

Starting this week, we will be assaulted by candidates in the IU Student Association elections, which will be held later this spring. As a veteran observer of people running for office in student governments (this is my ninth year of collegiate experience), I am willing to bet that, like the last eight student government elections, people are going to run on unimportant issues, nonissues and issues about which they could not make a difference if they really wanted to.

So instead of settling for somebody who pledges to lower tuition (something IUSA will never really change, but the state legislature might), or a group that promises to increase IU’s national ranking, think about issues student government can have an effect on and vote for the people who want to make a positive difference in our daily lives as students.

With that in mind, the key issue for any IUSA administration will be the infamous bus plan. I am a strong supporter of the bus plan, but from what was promised to what was implemented, it has been badly fumbled. The next leader of IUSA must be committed to getting the bus plan we were promised at a reasonable price. This isn’t rocket science. Whether you walk, ride, drive, take a bicycle or levitate across campus, the bus plan will benefit everyone once properly implemented.

But the rest of the details are important: rather than pledging to decrease tuition, IUSA needs to focus on real problems and offer solutions that are within grasp. So here are some simple ideas for tickets to work on:

Why do we pay $19 if we register for classes by phone? Does it really cost the Registrar more than if we trek to Franklin Hall and register in person? I’d bet it costs the Registrar less to have us register by phone, so why are we paying $19 to do this? IUSA should work on eliminating this silly fee.

The litter problem around campus needs to be addressed. More garbage cans along popular pathways and more frequent pickups of cans that overflow would be a start. Or how about working on getting the sand cleaned up after the snow has melted? During the winter, there is more than enough sand on the sidewalks around campus to fill the sandboxes of every kid in the county.

It would be nice if IUSA took the time to convince the campus physical plant to mow and water lawns at times other than lunch time. People like to sit outside and enjoy the expansive green spaces on campus, and there is no reason they should acquire a wet bottom when they sit down, or be pushed away by lawn mowers.

Another issue, and you might laugh at this one, but we do need more pencil sharpeners around campus.

We need an activist IUSA that reaches out to faculty and staff to encourage amicable relationships among everybody on campus.

IUSA needs to push for a safer campus: better lighting and snow shoveling along key pathways.

Better food options in the main library’s cafeteria and reasonable heating and air conditioning of classrooms across campus: It’s hard to learn if you’re sweating or freezing.

The election rules this year, as in previous years, seem a bit insane, so candidates probably cannot avoid violating them. Right now it is a bit early for an endorsement, because the scandals that can (and will) come about, have yet to materialize.

Some of the ideas discussed by the parties that have already declared their candidacy seem good. Of course, there are still several weeks before the election. More parties will probably appear and existing parties can (and probably will) put their feet in their mouths.

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A Naderite for Bush

A Bush victory will revitalize liberal support for the environment, abortion rights and civil liberties

By Adam Lederer | Indiana University
See original IDS Column

Trust me when I say, this was not a happy election for me. When it came to the presidency, I faced a decision on the ballot between the lesser of three evils. Ultimately, I held my nose as I pressed the button that recorded my decisions at the Monroe County Courthouse in Bloomington, Indiana, on Election Day.

To be honest, neither Gore nor Bush are particularly appealing prospects to be president, and looking into my crystal ball, I doubt either one has the ability to last more than one term in office.

With that thought, I actually want Bush to be president of the United States for the next four years, and not because I am a Republican. I’m not. I voted for Ralph Nader this year because I am, for the most part, a left wing liberal with a few odd conservative streaks in me and I thought it was high time that the political dialogue in the United States needs a broader spectrum, particularly toward the left end. It also didn’t hurt that I live in Indiana, a state Bush was expected to, and indeed did, win handily.

Bush as president is a strategic thought—with the House and the Senate so closely divided, whoever is president will not be able to get much done, and we will have the ultimate “do nothing” Congress—hamstrung by the close split and the constant threat of Senate filibusters. This “do-nothing” Congress will probably not pass a lot of laws, which might be a minor blessing in disguise — considering Congress’s past record.

The truth is that liberals need to be out of power—the past eight years have been eight years of triumph with Bill Clinton ascending to the throne in 1992 defeating a sitting president and four years later thumping a well respected Republican in the form of Bob Dole. As such, liberal causes have advanced somewhat, but liberals themselves have become soft—losing that fire in the belly that coaches use to motivate people and motivate causes.

Take, for example, the environmental movement, a movement that has grown soft and weak with a “supporter” in the oval office. The environmental movement’s brightest days in the public spot light were when James G. Watt was Secretary of the Interior Department in the early 1980s. The environmental movement was able to effectively focus attention on the environment by using his name and actions in order to rally support. Today, Bruce Babbitt’s name effectively raises a collective yawn from the environmental movement—but doesn’t do a single thing to put fire in the belly of environmentalists and increase activism.

Liberals also need to effectively counter the Religious Right—and the Religious Right has rallied against Bill Clinton while liberals haven’t done much to counter the Religious Right. Four years of a Religious Right friendly president will help the ACLU and other liberal organizations focus attention on issues that matter: separation of church and state, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. Liberals also need to focus on countering the effort to pass a constitutional amendment to ban the burning of the American Flag, an effort that continues to exist despite the fact that a burning flag is something that ought to be celebrated because it represents the freedom to do what we want to do, a freedom that does not exist in too many other countries. Trust me, I’ve never had the urge to burn the American flag, but when they take my right to do so away, I will suddenly have the urge.

Clearly an offensive needs to be launched to support a woman’s right to choose. There has been a gradual creep over the past eight years to restrict the of women—creeping restrictions forcing parental notification, attempting waiting periods, and attempting to restrict partial birth abortions, a form that is rarely used and used only when the life of the woman is threatened. These “minor” restrictions threaten to blossom into full-blown restrictions that will lead to another era of back alley coat-hanger abortions. A Bush presidency will give the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) a focal point for their cause, as well as means the raise funds and increase activism.

And yes, this point reminds me of one of the most serious problems with a Bush presidency, and that is the Supreme Court. Bush has threatened to make appointments to the Supreme Court that will take the United States back in time to a period when women had no right to choose, when prayer in school was state-sanctioned and when free speech was restricted. However, it’s not likely to happen, since it takes a two-thirds majority of senators to confirm judicial appointments and only 50 or 51 senators will be Republicans. Just as Gore would be forced to compromise and moderate his choices if he is our president, Bush will be forced to moderate his nominees in the hopes that they are confirmed. Either way, we probably won’t be seeing extreme appointments to the courts for the next four years.

Which leads us to a history lesson: Usually the party of the incumbent president loses seats in the House at mid-term elections, with the only modern exception being the Republican losses in 1998. This suggestion from history means that the Democrats might be able to control the House and the Senate after the 2002 elections. If Gore is elected, Democrats will probably lose House and Senate seats in 2002, and that’s not really desirable in my book. If we can continue to tilt the board in favor of liberals in Congress that helps sets us up for a liberal president to be elected in 2004, assuming the Democrats learned the correct lesson from these elections.

And to close, a Bush presidency would also bring us one major victory when Rush Limbaugh is put out of business. Limbaugh has thrived on the Clinton presidency, and if Clinton had not been elected in 1992 and re-elected in 1996, he wouldn’t have had anything to complain about for the past eight years. Limbaugh really wants Gore to win so he can spend the next four years complaining about Gore and how Gore stole the presidency from Bush on his radio talk show, thus making money. Nobody wants to listen to him praise Bush for four years — people only want to listen to complainers.

Adam Lederer is a graduate student in Public Affairs at Indiana University. Like Dick Cheney, he earned his bachelors and master’s degree in political science at the University of Wyoming.

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Comments about this column:

This was based upon an earlier column in the IDS.

I think is a fairly successful adaptation.  I was constrained by space–there are a number of interesting points to make.

What’s also interesting is that it turns out I was echoing something that Peggy Noonan, a Reagan and Bush speechwriter, said in her 1994 book, Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Of course she was saying that the conservatives needed to be out of power having grown lax while in power during the Reagan/Bush years.  She also said that Clinton was going to be a one-term president.

She was wrong, but I hope that I’m not.

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Elections without substance

Election season is upon us, and we’re not talking about the presidential primaries. We’re talking student government.

Wait. You didn’t realize that the IU Student Association elections are here?

If so, you are not alone, because for some reason the powers that be decided to move the elections up to the last day of February and first day of March from the previous time of late March, early April. To be honest, I’m not sure if this is a good or bad development.

What I can say is the IUSA elections this year sound an awful lot like a bunch of credit card commercials; not that the four tickets have been campaigning, but three of the four have named themselves in suggestive fashions.

Take “Platinum,” for example; that name alone sounds like three-quarters of the commercials I see on television for credit cards. “Blue” also sounds like a credit card — specifically the American Express Blue Credit Card; and between the two, that will leave you “POOR,” the third ticket running for IUSA.

I would have incorporated the fourth ticket in there, but their name, “CREW” doesn’t really sound like a credit card; but it does remind me that IU started a women’s crew team last fall out on Lake Lemon.

Of course, as is tradition with student governments across the country, whether at the high school or collegiate level, the candidates are running on unimportant issues, non-issues or issues where they have no chance of making any difference whatsoever.

Blue, for example, wants a “damp” campus; something that the rains last week were able to achieve in a short period of time. Of course, what they really want is a liberalized alcohol policy — something I am sympathetic toward. Unfortunately, it’s not an issue that IUSA can really tackle, making it a non-issue. What we really need is an effort on Capitol Hill to reverse the ill-effects of MADD and other organizations that fought to raise the drinking age to 21 and thought that by preventing access to adults under 21, you could solve the world’s multiple problems.

The folks running under the POOR banner want to reduce the cost of an IU education, and they appear to be focused on this goal with a single-mindedness that would make a baby trying to nurse look like an amateur. I do have to give them credit; they have recognized that IUSA doesn’t directly control tuition costs, which means they are running on an issue where they have little chance of making a difference whatsoever.

Platinum’s goal is “to inform students and to also get feedback from the student body, as a whole.” At least they have something in common with CREW, whose pointless platform is that they are running as a team and that IU needs more leadership. In short, these two tickets don’t really appear to have any substantive goals like Blue or POOR, which means they are running on truly unimportant issues.

I believe that student governments shouldn’t waste their time on issues on which they will only have limited effects.

Our student government should, instead, focus on quality of life issues on campus: more garbage cans to prevent littering, urging the people who maintain the lawns to avoid watering before or during the lunch hour, making sure that receptionists across campus are polite to students when answering the phone or greeting them at their desks or ensuring that students waiting to register for classes aren’t bored out of their gourds while waiting in line in Franklin Hall.

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Can eight minds think alike?

In just under a week, I, like thousands of other Bloomington residents, will head to the polls to decide the fate of the Bloomington City Council and the school system. This election has already been one of the most interesting elections I have witnessed in years due to a controversial referendum involving the schools. There is also, within the city, a city council election that has proved to be amusing.

In terms of the city council elections, I have really only given it substantial thought twice: once about a month ago when I had a strange revelation and this past weekend when I had a complete reversal in my thinking.

About a month ago while I was driving across Bloomington from one place to another, it occurred to me that until that point I had only heard from the Republican candidates. At the time I thought to myself that it was really neat. Imagine, a political party being unified enough to get nine candidates to run for office as a block, in the hopes that they would prevail and control city council. They also had given up on the mayor’s office, opting to let the incumbent Democrat retain the seat unchallenged.

Ironically, shortly after I returned home, Pam Service, the incumbent Democrat City Council member from my district (District 6) who is not running for reelection, rang my doorbell and encouraged me to vote for the Democrat running in my council district, thus shattering my brief notion that the Democrats were not going to be visible at all this election season.

I was still impressed enough with the Republicans that I continued to ponder whom I would actually vote for. Neither of the candidates running in my district are so inspired that I feel compelled to run out and vote for them early, nor so dastardly as to have caused me to run out and campaign against them.

I pretty much stopped thinking about the issue until late last week when I viewed the results of a City Council candidate survey in the Bloomington Independent and quickly realized that I was in the presence of something strange and improbable: Eight of the nine Republicans on the City Council ticket answered the questions as a group.

The odds that two people will ever agree on every issue 100 percent of the time is somewhere near zero, even if both people are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or (even) members of the Reform Party. So if I wasn’t actually witnessing this event, then I must have been witnessing the world’s first eight-headed body that is not completely physically connected. Think of it as a new type of Siamese twin, if you wish.

Naturally, that is improbable as well, so there’s something fishy going on with the Republican side of the City Council ticket. This running as a group thing has gone too far: the last time I witnessed a group of people running together, at least they had the decency to admit that they didn’t completely agree on every subject. Of course, it was a marathon.

It is true that there have been a couple of occasions when the Indiana Daily Student and Herald-Times have cornered the candidates separately and interviewed them separately from the groupthink approach that they as Republicans seem to have undertaken this year. My impression at the time was that the individual candidates acted more like deer caught in headlights than individuals. Of course that held for the Democrats as well: the inane profiles published by the IDS and the H-T are exactly that: inane profiles.

This impressive show of “groupthink” has managed to turn me off. I still do not have any strong opinions one way or another about the two candidates running for office in my district. But since I have strong doubts about the ability of eight men and women to agree on every issue, I am disinclined to believe the Republican ticket’s unified answers to all the questions. Which means that by default, the Republican in my district is facing an uphill battle to get my vote during this last week.

Which presents another problem: I never vote a straight ticket. As such, I have to find at least one non-Democrat to vote for. I can either vote for Michael Schitt, the Libertarian running for City Council At Large, or one of the other two non-party mayoral candidates.

That decision is one I’ll be mulling over between now and Election Day. I hope that those of you registered to vote in Bloomington will do the same and remember to get out to the polls next week as well. It is important that students are involved in the city as residents, not just be visitors passing through.

Oh yes, and about that other vote I’ll be casting: I already know that I support quality education in public schools and I will vote accordingly.

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