Demagoguery has invaded the Student Union’s political scene
Judging by the current state of affairs in Washington, it is safe to say that decorum in politics is dead. Whether you support the Trump administration or not, we can all agree that there are unwritten rules regarding the demeanor of a sitting president that have been disregarded entirely. We have just passed the second anniversary of Trump’s win this November, yet it feels like Americans have been trapped in his media circus for decades. Admit it: we have all aged significantly. In order to keep men like Trump in check, we must venture forward in an orderly manner. Some may despise bureaucracy, but it is a necessary cog in the machine of democracy. This makes Trump the outlier in an otherwise civilized society.
As young adults transitioning into the workforce, we must embody this ideal of maintaining respect and restraint. There is no place in this world for any more aggressive antagonism. Trump’s callous behavior, rather than his ideas, have seeped into the Student Union. International Student Senator Linfei Yang ’20 has shown himself to be a resourceful, persistent, and ultimately passive-aggressive obstructionist when it comes to fighting for what he believes.
Would you consider his vice-presidential campaign, one plagued with weird imagery and lies, professional? Would you consider a man who vindictively waves fake “SU-branded” slippers in Senate meetings as a response to E-board asking him to wear shoes in the office professional? Would you describe a man with the additional Brandeis emails “firstname.lastname@example.org” and “email@example.com” as professional?
In the MyDeis 2019 and 2020 Facebook groups, where Yang has somehow usurped admin privileges under the noses of over 1400 members each, he pushes his agenda. Whether it’s about the Rose Art Museum via The Hoot or preaching transparency that already exists in the Union, controversy follows him with every post. If the public gets too smart and publicly criticizes his decisions, he will disable the their ability to comment, as he has already done for his Hoot article. He paints himself as the victim of vitriol when he is clearly the one instigating the conflict. With online responses like “thank u, next” and “yeah I’m literally Trump” to criticism, who can take what Yang says seriously anymore?
However, Yang is not the only evidence of populism and the toxic political environment in Washington creeping into campus. Class of 2022 Alex Chang comes to mind as a worthy mentee. He is clearly being coached by Yang, evident in Senate meetings and when both collaborated infamously on Chang’s piano initiative. I choose not to believe that someone is so naïve as to think they can behave with such persistently invasive in public on their own while being relatively new to this institution. It is unfortunate that Chang’s enthusiasm and potential in the Union is being so negatively affected.
Much like Trump’s administration, by controlling the narrative surrounding the senate’s Student Money Resolution, Yang and Chang were able to garner an image of stability and control of the situation with an onslaught of online posts and mass emails, when in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Using these tactics and boasting a petition of 30 signatures out of a possible nine hundred freshmen (merely 3%) that has since been coincidentally deleted, they were able to purchase pianos to no one’s overwhelming demand.
Then came their vice-presidential campaigns. Using the image of “bullied senators trying to make a difference,” they were able to exploit the sympathy of others to get support. I’m disappointed in the community for thinking that valid criticism is the same thing as bullying. We live in a society that relies on debate and the discussion of ideas. We need to be able to criticize and refute what we do not agree with. Don’t worry about being a “bully” if you’re embarrassed by a ridiculous initiative.
Let’s return to the vice-presidential campaign for a minute. It clearly proved that populism is spreading to the public just as much as it is spreading to the individual. As I observe the race for vice president of the Student Union, I can’t help but draw some distinct parallels. By the time this article gets published, we will know who won the election. But for now, didn’t this remind you of in 2016? The two clear front runners are Guillermo Caballero and Aaron Finkel. The former champions a fresh perspective for the government despite never having attended a single Student Union meeting, Senate or committee, while the latter is immensely experienced.
It was Finkel’s election to lose. I talked to people voting for Caballero and it seemed that a lot of his support was simply that “he isn’t Aaron Finkel.” Doesn’t this sound familiar? Supporters want more representation in the Senate for marginalized voices, yet only 5 of the 21 senators this semester are white. The Senate has an International Student Senator as well as two Racial Minority Senators, one of whom runs the Social Justice and Diversity Committee. If Caballero wanted to put his valuable perspective to good use, he should have run for a senatorial position, not campaign to run the Senate as a whole with little Student Union experience.
Now I’m not equating Caballero to Trump in any way ideologically. They could not be more different people. But, in this election, he fits the populist-shaped hole. And I’m not saying Finkel is the perfect candidate either. He needs to prove himself as a strong leader with a backbone.
I know a lot of people don’t really care about the Student Union and feel that we don’t do that much, but we are a resource. We can enact change when people speak up because we offer direct communication with the administration, discounted transportation, and assistance with project ideas to improve campus life. We need to be aware that the toxic political climate has permeated our community, and make sure it won’t cloud our judgment enough to normalize it after we graduate.