Campaigning at Swarthmore

Photo courtesy of Swarthmore SGO

As a former member of both the Student Budgeting Committee (SBC) and the Student Government Organization (SGO), I’ve now run three campaigns for office here at Swarthmore. I have tabled each and every time. The very first time I campaigned, one of the seniors who stopped by remarked, “I’ve never seen someone tabling here!” That has been indicative of my general election experience: nobody else tables.

We just got done with the SGO presidential election, and though the results aren’t out yet, I have to say I’m incredibly thankful for the huge outpouring of support we’ve received. Meeting people in person to campaign for votes is such a delightful experience; there’s nothing else like it. I have even invited my opponents to table with me in the past.

How many people knew there was an SGO election this week? I have a hunch that it would be few if not for my efforts to raise turnout; in fact, last year I was credited in The Phoenix with raising turnout, too. SGO sent out just one email about the election and did no other advertising. There were no debates or candidate forums.

Swarthmore political campaigns are usually tepid: as I previously stated, I am the only person to table. (My running mate Bradley Holland, shout-out, thankfully joined me this year.) Instead, candidates rely on their large social networks, graphic design expertise (of their emailed platforms), and limited flyering to take them over the finish line. Basically, if you’re friends with a candidate, you are likely to hear about the election; if you are not, then you’re much less likely to vote. Elections come down to being popularity contests.

I am opposed to elections being just glorified popularity contests, which is why it’s a philosophical statement every time I table. I believe that our candidates should be out there getting votes, speaking with the student body, hearing people’s concerns, and doing what it takes to be a true representative. I’m also hopeful that by tabling, I’m gaining experience for future campaigns for public office, which require real work on the ground.

This election comes down to one question: continuity or change? I don’t know what the people voted for; the results aren’t out yet. However, I am hopeful that regardless of the result, Swarthmore will prosper under our new student government. We had good candidates this year and we fought a good race.

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