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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Two days ago, during the clusterfuck of Student Government elections, I had two dissimilar but equally disturbing events occur that I thought explained how voting results were so systematically banal, year after year.

First I overheard a Unite pamphlet-eer equate Student Senate to the U.S. Senate near the Reitz Union.

The phrase "Unite is, like, the dominant party," struck a chord with me. This was said before any mention whatsoever of anything else about Unite Party.

Let's set aside the obvious fact that the U.S. Congress is a capable body comprised of inept politicians and SG is merely rendered inept by the numerically grand but politically limited authority the university administration is willing to bestow upon it: a $14.4 million budget for "activities and services."

Why would a randomly sampled student, and a stranger to Senate partisanship, need to know so urgently that the party he's being petitioned for is the "dominant party?"

To warrant this character before the platform of a party itself suggests fascism for the sake of fascism.

Some hours later across campus, a Unite Party politico personally approached me. She handed me a platform fact sheet immediately.

I asked if she was running, and she replied, "No."

I asked if she was involved in SG, and she replied, "No."

My eyes lifted from the carefully designed, high-quality placard indicative of professionalism and wealth.

"So why are you fliering?" I asked.

"My sorority is making me. If I don't, I get in trouble," she said.

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It's seriously troubling when a social institution representing less than 20 percent of the student population is mandating, through coercion, a dominant representation of the entire Student Body.

What I think is more revealing is the way that together these two scenarios show Unite's truer (though perhaps not conscious) ideology.

This is a party that falsely represents dominant opinion through coercion but also justifies this very status through the nature of its own domination.

This is why you will never see a revision of the codes that promote non-institutionalized parties or online voting. This is why every student organization that receives SG funding will continue to be politically reactionary. It is why Aramark will likely never pay impoverished Immokalee farmworkers a penny-per-pound increase for their tomatoes. It is why those who seek "real" SG participation will align with Unite. That is why two out of 10 students will continue to adorn some verification every semester that they have done their civic duty by voting.

This does not make non-dominant parties as banal as their counterpart's artificial authority.

On the contrary, it raises the very virtue of the mission.

Just as 1850s suffragist Lucy Stone understood she was seeking to correct "circumstances… impossible to change" in her time, minority parties fight year after year knowing the cards are stacked against them.

That is true courage. I love having those people who are still willing to fight for real pluralistic student representation, despite tremendous odds, represent me.

Matthew Clark is a history senior at UF.

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