Friday, April 24, 2009

[Hannah] "The Baneful Effects of the Spirit of Party...."

Now I am way late to this show, but I finally sat down (a week after this year's election) to try to figure out Berkeley student government, a topic about which I am less than passionate. I would belong to the "cut student fees and don't bother me as I walk to class" party. Obviously, it is incredibly intense, and as with most student governments, spends most of its time debating the nature of student government itself.

Okay! So the Berkeley student government is run on a party system. The two parties - constituted out of the stunningly diverse and huge Berkeley undergraduate body - are, um, I guess, standing for different things, although it's hard to tell from their website, which basically demonstrates that one of the parties is organized around ethnic loyalties and the other one is structured around a core constituency of the engineers (??) working with the fraternities (????). This, obviously, bewildered me.

Luckily there is this helpful three year old blog fighting an (obviously failed) effort to dismantle the party system of student government. It describes the parties thus:
Student Action: The current party in power, Student Action has dominated ASUC politics for the past 10 years, with a short unsuccessful exception in 2003-2004. It exists upon a philosophy of "benefitting all students", ironic because this is exactly what it doesn't do. The party is known as a "moderate" party because of its rejection of communist revolution. Its odd alliance largely comprises of mainly Jewish, White and East Asian voters, Greeks, environmentalist hippies, dormitories, oddball progressives and conservatives. The strangest alliance is with the conservatives, who are told "vote for us because you have no choice" (we'll get to that in a second), even though Student Action has never benefitted conservatives. ... It embodies the principle of resume-building for its senators, executives and countless brainwashed interns. They elect only good-looking candidates, most of whom have no backbone, and are true politicians.

The other main party - swept into power last week, I might add, is described thus:
CalSERVE is the oldest ASUC politica party, originating in 1986. It is staunchly progressive, and its philosophy is social justice. Because it professes that it only benefits the underrepresented students at Berkeley it is somewhat narrow-minded, with a reputation of being hostile to many groups on campus, among them some groups that traditionally support Student Action. Rigidly controlled, CalSERVE senators are forced to vote with the party line in fear of being liquidated or sent to a Gulag. It appeals to underrepresented minorites (Blacks, Latinos, all 5 Native Americans), overrepresented Filipinos, progressive Whites and Asians, and Graduate Students. Slightly more honest and candid than Student Action it loses its appeal because it targets certain voters and communities. Strangely, it has been recruiting many ethnic moderate libertarian/conservatives (Justine Lazaro, Ashley Thomas) and Jews (Max Besbris) in an attempt to fight back attacks of being racist and bigoted. Of the senate candidates who are elected, all of them are extremely attractive and hot; of the executive candidates elected all of them are extremely unattractive and ugly (go to ASUC history to see what I mean). A few of their male members have resorted to physical violence or the threat of physical violence on the senate floor.


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