The A.S. Party System: Social Clubs in Drag Disguise
by Ryan Neal


Another student election has come and gone, and once again the Open People’s Party emerges victorious. In fact, they have won the Presidential and Vice Presidential positions every year since the party’s conception in the 2006 election. If one party continues to win year after year, what is the point in having any at all? Throughout my investigation into the election process for my contribution to The Bottom Line’s election issue, the one concept I can still not understand is what possible purpose this party system has, and why we need one.
The defending champs, O.P.P, say they can be the bridge between students and the university. They want to put power into student’s hands, protect the voice of students in decision-making, embrace diversity, and keep fees low while protecting student services. They promise to protect the rights of Isla Vista by fighting the Social Host Ordinance on the grounds that is a violation of privacy and police authority.

On the other side is Student Voice!, a party that wants to represent all members of the community, put power into the hands of the students, and strengthen the relationship between the students and the administration. They want to keep student services while working to “reduce the financial burden on students.” They support all races, genders, religions and sexual orientations, make sure residents aren’t exploited by landlords, give students a voice in policy making decisions, and defend against “invasive policies” like the Social Host Ordinance.
Sound familiar?
This year we had a new option: Students With A Plan (S.W.A.P.), who “are not a party, [they] are a movement.” They are different because they want to make college more affordable by “seeking a solution to budget cuts that protect student services and avoid fee hikes,” and fight for the rights of students in the community. They feel their strength is in their diversity and individuality.
As an english and philosophy double major, I have spent a lot of time doing close readings of texts and writing about the similarities and differences that many people would consider “pulling out of my butt.” But even I had a hard time finding any sort of substantial differences between these three mission statements. To be fair, Student Voice! makes a distinct point about keeping our campus as environmentally conscious as possible, and S.W.A.P. wants to direct money toward counseling and anti-depression programs. The truth is that other than these few points, there aren’t any real differences between the three.
In his 1965 song, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Bob Dylan described political parties as “social clubs in drag disguise.” That is exactly what our current structure of student parties is, a popularity contest masquerading as a political system. When you pass by the blue, green, or tie-dyed colored tents, populated with people wearing corresponding t-shirts, do you ever hear anything about differences in policy, ideologies, or plans? I sure haven’t. Instead you get offers for free shirts, free food from competing Isla Vista restaurants, pretty signs with catchy slogans, and an exciting atmosphere with balloons and hip music.
I’m not trying to bad-mouth the hard working people that run for these positions. I am just asking why we have the party system at all, especially when there just aren’t any real differences. Why draw arbitrary distinctions between people that all want to make college the best it can be for each of us? We all want to have the power and decision making to be in our hands. We all want someone to oppose the tyrannical landlords at Harwin and Wolfe. We all want to keep services like Student Health and Rec. Sports while preventing fee hikes.
I would like to see an abolition of this seemingly pointless system. A major complaint is that O.P.P. has won each year because they have superior funding. By eliminating the parties, candidates can base their campaigns on open debates on policy differences and why they are the most qualified for the job, all while saving money on things like tee shirts and pizza slices. A.S. already holds these debates, and can surely help with the cost of making signs. If anything else, it would just do away with the eyesore of endless blue and green pieces of particleboard we all have to bear when riding to class during these couple weeks of spring.