Sundberg: Finding ASUO solutions after a one slate election
One of the main foundations for democracy is the concept of having an adversarial system, where ideas are debated against each other in a sparring manner. Arguments are fine-tuned through the process of being torn down, picked away and challenged by the opposition.
A great example of this practice is in the British Parliament, where once a week, the prime minister from the ruling party goes through a rigorous debate with the leader of the opposition party. The questions thrown at the prime minister are strong and direct, unlike some questions lobbed at politicians by the media in the United States. The questions, in turn, elicit surprisingly concise and poignant responses from the prime minister, revealing clarity in the ruling party’s ideology.
Without this strong practice of adversarial politics there is the likelihood of parties and politicians becoming lethargic with their policy initiatives. With it, however, not only is there an accountability to voters but also an accountability to the opposition party, proving that the government is not just being controlled by empty suits.
The United States Congress often lacks this adversarial tradition. Instead of the high energy and quick back and forth debate between leaders of the two parties, there are long monologues and a rehashing of positions that are not being tested in that very moment — the dissection and rebuttal of their position often comes later, in another monologue or through the media. Trump would not want to be questioned or grilled by opposition Democratic lawmakers in a debate, and he shies away from this adversarial practice.
Bringing this idea back home, the ASUO election featured only one running slate, though the lack of competition does not disqualify the slate from potentially being great stewards for the University of Oregon. From top to bottom there is a wealth of qualified people for ASUO next year.
However, part of the process of fine-tuning and growth does come from a competitive campaign season. Though in the past there have been ugly moments during the election season, the tradition of debate will be missed. Being accountable to not only the electorate, but also being pushed to a higher standard by an opposing party is what modern nations are built on.
What is missing from the ASUO’s structure is that opposition party that shares some stake in decision-making powers throughout the year. After the campaign, the newly elected slate is still accountable to the student population and is under the eye of the media, yet it is missing the compromise and deal-making with formal decision makers of a different view point. The current system could benefit from the multifaceted accountability structure that many governments have built-in.
Though there is the possibility that this would make governing more difficult throughout the year, the case for having a built-in opposition slate serving as a small stakeholder in decision-making within the ASUO is still strong. The ruling slate’s plans and ideas for governing would be under constant review and scrutiny from the opposing slate which would help to continue and refine the majority slate’s governing, an example being the governing in the UK. Students on campus may not have enough time or constant commitment to keep up to date with ASUO’s decisions and policies, and a governing opposition slate would be able to help in keeping policy in check. It would be beneficial for students to consider that perhaps our campus democracy isn’t as functional as it should be and that we need a system that establishes an opposition party, so that even in years with one slate, there is guaranteed accountability to the campus community — this election and beyond.
Another benefit would be a higher likelihood that more students can be directly represented in the ASUO if another slate is present at all times throughout the school year, and could serve as a go-to place for students with qualms with the slate. Additionally, an insurgent slate that runs heavily on one key issue, such as tuition, could keep key issues that students want alleviated in the spotlight throughout the entire school year. While there wasn’t an opposing slate in the election, a platform within the ASUO that remains keenly critical of the organization’s actions could help fill the role of an opposing slate without the drama of elections and pressure of acting as president or vice president.
Overall, there is a lot to be desired for this spring term. The fantasy that a civil, eye-opening and respectful campaign season would be happening this spring (unlike a certain election last fall) will not happen. Fatigue for any election at any level may be at play, but the democratic tradition of adversarial politics can be invigorating.
Students should want even more than just another slate to choose from in their election. This unique election invites some new and unique ideas. Students should push for an adversarial form of government in ASUO, where the ruling slate is held to a higher standard by an internal opposition slate and more opportunities for representation are available.
Follow Mateo on Twitter @MateoSundberg