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Thoughts on the student election

Joel Kolb | Friday, February 8, 2013

Coverage of the student body presidential race intensified over the past week, with the election being held Wednesday. Even with the delayed results, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the election and voting as a whole.  
In most elections, it is often tough to discern the best way to cast your vote. This election is no different.  Essential questions need to be asked, such as, “What does a vote for a candidate actually mean?” Is a vote an endorsement for the whole person? If I vote for the pair of students running from Zahm, am I endorsing Zahm House as a whole? As a Stedsman, I surely hope this isn’t the case. Or is a vote an endorsement of strictly someone’s platform, judging them solely on what they could feasibly accomplish in office, regardless of their stances on broader moral issues? For example, a candidate might be a morally challenged person but successful at fostering pragmatic solutions to take place between two schools of thought. Does a vote for this person implicitly tell society that it is okay to live an immoral life as long as you are good at your job?
Admittedly, I have no real answers to any of these tough questions. Even so, I believe just trying to answer these questions can lead you in the right direction when choosing a candidate.
Additionally, every election reminds me how skeptical I am of most politicians, no matter if it involves electing a student body president or electing a United States senator. Is there any way to know for certain the person I am voting for really is the person they say he is? It is entirely possible that my vote for the earnest Ben Stiller in “Night at the Museum” is actually a vote for the obnoxious and knifing, albeit hilarious White Goodman from “Dodgeball.” In the end, it’s always tough for me to realize that there is no way to know exactly what I have voted for.
Getting past the general uncertainty of elections as a whole, a review of the candidates in this election shows a particularly ambitious group. We have heard about printers in each academic building and a restaurant in DeBartolo, as well as a social justice forum and even renovations to the stadium. At the end of the day, however, I’m not sure realistically what impact the election of any of the pairings will bring about.  As far as probability of occurrence, the promise of Domer Dollars on Eddy Street might as well be a monorail running from Zahm to St. Mary’s. The sad fact is many of the election promises and goals are bound to be broken and unfulfilled.
For me, it is always tough to get past inevitable letdowns which accompany elections. Maybe it’s because I’m cynical. Maybe it’s because the last election I ran in resulted in a loss to a close friend. Regardless, one thing which continued to bother me in this election cycle was the lack of a Catholic identity on any single ticket’s platform. I may be wrong, but I did not see any platform which included something close to building Notre Dame as a Catholic campus. Sure, candidates cited being more inclusive and broadening the Notre Dame family, but not a single ticket highlighted or looked to improve upon the foundation of this University. I feel, if a ticket really wanted to break out from the pack, they would assert and embrace our Catholic tradition. If the student body fully embraced these ideals, inclusion and a sense of family would surely follow. Instead, I was left to choose between five similar tickets and one ticket which at best brought about some needed comic relief.  
My challenge for everyone, including myself, is to look past all the shortcomings of the election. We all need to realize most of the action items in the platforms will go unfulfilled. But in the end, it is really okay. These candidates will all surely put their best effort forth, but it is our job to realize they are students, like us, who need to balance work, play and potentially running the student government on top of that. If nothing else, it makes more sense to vote for those who I feel best represent the University and its ideals rather than who will get a Redbox on campus the fastest.
If there is a runoff, I implore everyone to ask themselves the aforementioned questions before casting their ballot.  Exercising the right to vote is important to be an active member of any society  and I hope that my reflections shed light onto what your vote really means.

Joel Kolb lives in St. Edward’s Hall and is a sophomore studying mechanical engineering. He can be reached at jkolb1@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.