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MARCH 23, 2012

Honesty is the best policy — unless, of course, “seduction” is the policy in question.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines seduction as “The action or an act of seducing (a person) to err in conduct or belief; allurement (to some course of action).” In other less pretty words, seduction is manipulation’s sexy sister. She embodies choreographed identities to make certain subjects err, much in the same way that politicians rhetorically flex to get elected.

By this time after spring break, the ASUC-sponsored courtship between the student body and ASUC candidates will be in full swing. Sproul will become a battlefield of catchy nicknames and neon-colored signposts, vying for your attention and loyalty, seducing you with promises of accountability, transparency and democracy.

The candidates have particular identities in mind, though each and every student makes for good target practice. Leading the parade with diverse beaming smiles, get ready for: 1) Student Action instead of words for Greek gods and goddesses, and democratically minded busybodies. 2) CalSERVE the people instead of the privileged, representing diversity to erase exclusivity. 3) Well, let’s face it. I could list a bunch of independents and third parties, but it’s not like they’ll win.

In the American spirit of elephant vs. donkey-type partisanship, Student Action and CalSERVE seduce voters with intimidating professionalism and comforting radicalism. Both parties exploit Cal’s beloved element of “diversity,” and base their platforms on equal student representation — Student Action claims to hold the government accountable for “every student, every year” and CalSERVE has been “making change since 1984” (change couldn’t wait until after 1984, could it?).

Seriously though, I admire their active participation in the government (political action trumps circular moralism any day). They organize our dynamic student groups, ranging from every dance team you can imagine to literary publications you can’t. But we also elect our campus politicians as privileged jesters who meet with the university’s appointed royalty — the Chancellor’s ever-elusive court of administrators. All for the sake of representing the good of the people, rather than pursuing their own selfish interests, our elected jesters could be chains that link hope instead of juggling it with identity politics.

Maybe my heart is too faint to handle go-getting powerhouses like Student Action and CalSERVE, so the idealistic and honestly cute rhetoric of independent candidates and parties have pulled my strings. Jesters in their own right as well, moving to warm the hearts of the commoners at the risk of getting their heads cut off by the King and Queen. SQUELCH! and Students for a Democratic Party (SDP) are my fantasy football team.

Okay, so maybe I don’t really get football or the ASUC. But after two and a half years at Cal, I have gathered that: 1) Public comments in our student government are regulated by a couple of minutes that can be cut short by senators. 2) The ASUC allocates money to student groups who spend thousands of dollars on parties, retreats and log cabins at Lake Tahoe, (and since I only know things in groups of threes). 3) The ASUC endorsed and passed the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative two years ago, in spite of the university’s economic situation (raising fees because Lower Sproul is an “eyesore” instead of continuing the employment of 30+ janitors?).

The ASUC operates under what has been the university’s smooth operating system — a world-class structure of bureaucratic loopholes that erode its very foundation. A party that admits its own idealistic limitations, the SDP wants to restructure the ASUC altogether. Promoting a cohesive community of students interested in each other’s welfare rather than that of their prefabricated identities, the SDP advocates neither anarchy nor socialism, but a town hall-like structure of a General Assembly.

Together with the satirical prowess of SQUELCH!, these two parties are rallying for the student body as a whole rather than “the issues of a student political party’s own members and coalition.” Currently, the ASUC’s lopsided participation perpetuates submission to the administration, as dominant parties are unable to accurately represent “every student, every year” and “make change” when ideological clichés are exchanged for substantive arguments and potential compromise.

Though SPD and SQUELCH! represent another reductive binary much like the one I’ve been dismissing, they also represent clear spaces for effective dialogue and heightened consciousness of each other’s realities, rather than the simplistic “values” of the community in question. Because of our obsessions with maximizing efficiency and protecting individuality, we live in diagonal lines that meet but shift at the threat of compromising identity.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results,” a mug with a picture of Einstein’s face once told me. We have been voting for the same parties over and over again, expecting their platforms to ring true once elected. Though change is a process and not a guarantee, a new party system in the ASUC is possible, soon through AirBears. Be moved by the truth of our university’s tumultuous reality — do not err in a desire to “make change” with one party, only to account for another party’s conception of “every student, every year.”

Contact Pilar Huerta at 

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MARCH 23, 2012