SGA elections could revolutionize campus, or simply marketing strategies

By on February 6, 2013

By Mason MacFarland–

In all levels of government, there’s an amount of marketing genius required to win an election. You have to make difficult decisions about your public identity that will ultimately determine your level of voter support. Often this necessity can obscure the truth about candidates’ values and instead reveal truths about their perceptions of the people whose votes they expect to gain.

One group of SGA candidates has made some particularly interesting marketing decisions. Their moniker, “Cardinal Revolution,” stretches across their posters alongside their logo, a Cardinal-adorned fist raised in front of a sunburst.

Let’s talk about revolutions. From the entry in the New Oxford American dictionary, it looks as though there are two possible meanings that these SGA hopefuls could have been thinking of.

The definition they had in mind would have either been 1) “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system,” or 2) “a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it.”

Is anyone expecting force to be used this election? I just want to prepare myself if I’m to be maced next time I walk past the SAC. Could someone catalog all the new social systems that the SGA has put in place? Just the university-wide ones. None of the others count.

Or, wait — there was a political candidate recently who was talking about dramatically changing the way government is organized, and altering people’s ideas about it. Which one was that? Google suggests it was probably every one of the last 19.5 million of them. I’d say that’s a low estimate.

So what about fists? I’m not sure what the raised fist of the Cardinal Revolution logo is doing, but something tells me it isn’t shaking angrily at any oppressors. And I’m not saying that’s the only proper function of a raised fist — I mean, I’ve seen it used to great effect at an all-ages pop-punk concert. I’m just saying that, coupled with the word “revolution,” the fist symbol is painting an inaccurate picture of what SGA can really do.

Importantly, though, these SGA candidates aren’t the first folks to misuse the word “revolution,” nor are they the first to wrongly decide that fists are the most appropriate method of expression. Concepts like these have been overused for a long time now, and even more so in recent years since revolution has become something of a fashionable concept for young people.

But fashionability may lie at the heart of the problem. There’s something lazy about fashion; there’s something about the nature of trends that requires of participants a notable level of cognitive dissonance. Remember when we all used the power of hashtags to end the atrocities of the LRA in Uganda? Nice job, guys. No, don’t worry about making donations or attending any rallies. The hashtags totally did the trick. (They didn’t. We should still be talking about things like this, but we aren’t even thinking about them.)

Beyond the laziness, though, we should understand that “revolution” is a neutral term. Great change has no more inherent value than great consistency, so rather than becoming enthralled with the mere idea of revolution, why don’t we go the extra mile and distinguish for ourselves which things need changing and why?

The problem I’m getting at here is that a band of prospective SGA representatives can slap a fist on their posters, fasten the word “cardinal” to “revolution” and probably win a solid portion of voters right then and there without lifting another finger. If you feel a little insulted by this technique, then you might be in the unfortunate minority — I can’t help but think Cardinal Revolution may have been right to believe a bit of strategic marketing could win them the election.

Don’t mistake me. I’m in no way undermining any actual revolutions, past, present or future. Neither am I encouraging or discouraging anyone from voting a certain way, or at all. In fact, I wish Cardinal Revolution the best of luck in their campaign. But we’re in a position now that demands we think long and hard about what needs revolutionizing, and if we don’t use reason, then even real revolution won’t matter.

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