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At some point in our lives, we have come in contact with a student leader. Whether it’s the student council president, debate team captain, glee club president or editor in chief of the school paper, a student leader, especially in high school, represents the ideals of democracy and meritocracy.
This is a lie.
They say that history repeats itself, and this is no truer than in a student election.
Though the faces may change every year, the same two archetypal candidates remain—whether in school or national elections.
The first archetype is the unopposed “establishment” candidate. Establishment politicians, in general, are the friendly, familiar faces in government. They have a well-funded political machinery and deep ties with the administration.
Establishment candidates in a student organization are the same. Good-looking, popular and charismatic, these candidates have been part of a club or organization since their grade school years. They’re almost always guaranteed to win an election.
With these candidates, “debates” become unbearably pointless. This is because they tend to stick to the status quo, which is always a safe way to secure a position.
This is not to say that establishment leaders aren’t worth your vote. They’re there for good reason: experience, competence and motivation.
It becomes an issue only when a candidate is unopposed. Such an election is boring and results in low voter turnout. This, in turn, affects constituents in such a way that they tend to be apathetic to other concerns.
When an establishment candidate is pitted against a strong opposition candidate, the former is forced to clarify his views and prove to people why he is worthy of their votes.
The second archetype is tricky to identify.
Usually, this archetype joins organizations where he is “appointed,” not elected, to his position by the previous administration.
Apparently, the positions these candidates desire are so valuable that they’ll do anything to secure the title—from making friends (or enemies) of their opponents, to throwing them under the bus or spreading fake news about them.
There are two reasons such candidates exist. First, people tend to choose individuals who appear competent when they actually aren’t. When presented with a list of candidates, even seasoned leaders stick to the names and faces they are familiar with, rather than those whom they don’t know too well even if they show true promise.
Secondly, it’s desperation. As a student gets older, he slowly realizes that his last years in high school can have a bearing on the college or university that accepts him. When push comes to shove, choosing between the truth and adding another entry in one’s CV is a difficult decision to make, even among the best of us. As Cersei Lannister said to Eddard Stark: “In the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
But whether it’s student body elections or national elections, the seeds of political division and outright corruption have already been planted and taken root. And while it’s easy to point fingers at candidates who do not live up to our expectations, they are actually not entirely to blame. They are the manifestations of a deteriorating culture.
All elections will have winners and losers, and when the dust settles and the new leaders emerge, the least we can do is respect the process that put these people in power. It is when we allow apathy and divisiveness to take over that everyone loses.
No exceptions. —CONTRIBUTED