Both Sides of Endorsements
December 6, 2018
“Endorsements, let’s take a moment to look at the dictionary definition: an act of giving one’s public approval or support to someone or something. Recently, there have been many discussions about endorsements and how it is influencing popularity, favoritism, etc. While honestly, some of it may be true, it’s not all true. Endorsements are a show of support and approval.” ~ Javed Nordell, former SBVP 2017-18
There have been many points discussed regarding how endorsements injure the integrity of the student elections. And while some of the points made are potentially correct, I believe they’re exaggerated.
A common argument made is that endorsements turn the elections into a popularity contest, and that this is a bad thing. But there is a lot more to popularity than this argument affords.
Olivia Maloy, a candidate in the upcoming elections, explains why popularity in elections can actually be a good thing: “Yes, elections really are a popularity contest. It’s getting the attention of the many and saying, ‘hey, my ideas can work.’ If you want to win, you need to get the majority to vote for you, to like you. You, basically, have to be popular. Why is that bad? It’s not. It’s not evil, it’s not vain. In fact, sometimes it can be a good thing…What is the deciding factor in elections? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not endorsements. It’s the voters. If you want a good leader as SBP, the majority of the students have to vote for a good leader. The winner has to be popular with the students. So, yes, the election is a popularity contest.”
I have had the wonderful privilege to participate, as more than just a voter, in the past two Student Body Elections, and I have had the great pleasure of being a proud endorser of previous candidates since I was in 8th grade. I will admit that I have, prior to the election cycle, offered my services and endorsements to the candidates of my choice, without knowing fully the platforms and campaigns of their contestants. However, this ultimately had no effect on my vote. Though I did vote for the candidates I endorsed, it was NOT because they had asked for my endorsement months in advance, or because my name was on their pages for the whole school to see. In fact, the only reason my name was on their pages was because I truly believed that they were the best people to serve as Student Body President.
I asked Hannah Cook, former SBP 2017-18, for her opinion, and she replied with this: “Endorsements are definitely not the most important part of a campaign, but they are a great way to build ethos. Of course, you need to have a solid platform and campaign page… but people also want a president who is engaged in the school…When used right, endorsements can be a decent reflection of how involved a candidate is in the school.” She does add, and makes it clear, that “the number of endorsements each candidate has is by no means a true measure of who is the most engaged and who would make the best president.”
In my experience, there are three main reasons to endorse someone:
1) You have studied their campaign and platform, and fully support them as a candidate.
2) You have known the candidate for some time, and you know they are a person of integrity and would make an excellent SBP.
3) You were asked by a candidate to endorse them, and you agreed before studying their campaign. Endorsing a candidate after studying their campaign not only improves the integrity of the race, but also shows that the candidate will be a brilliant Student Body President.
Endorsing a candidate because you know them personally, and know them to be an honest and trustworthy person, is truly beneficial to the race.
Endorsing a candidate before studying their campaign, as well as the campaigns of the other candidates, can be detrimental, but you can still study their campaign after agreeing to endorse them, and you can ask for your endorsement to be removed if you so decide later on.
Endorsements are also a wonderful way to show support and encouragement to candidates. As you can imagine, running for SBP is very stressful, and takes a LOT of time and effort. Last year, as many of you will likely remember, there was a lot of drama during the elections. I got into a debate with some members from a candidate’s staff regarding Savannah Lorcher’s campaign page. Later that day, after the debate, I received this email from Savannah: “Hey, thank you so much for defending us and spreading the happy vibes in that SBP discussion. I’m feeling pretty down right now with everything that’s happening, so your contribution really helped.” As a candidate, it is very relieving and encouraging to have students who support you and allow their names to be put on your page.
Another issue that has been addressed with endorsements, is the “obligation” to vote for a candidate that you endorse. Keslee Peterson explained the issue like this: “Endorsements force voters to commit to a candidate before they are educated voters and even know who everybody running is and what their platforms are.” But this point is simply untrue. Endorsements don’t force voters to commit to anything. When a candidate asks for endorsements, they do not, at least in my four years experience, ask the students to commit to vote for them. An endorsement is just an expression of support, for why a specific candidate would make a good SBP. Agreeing to endorse a candidate is not a commitment to vote for them.
Evan Reichard, one of our many amazing SBP candidates, put it very simply, saying: “Endorsements are a natural part of the election. It is one’s own choice to support a candidate, so asking is fair game. And, regardless of what you think of them, there’s no real way to prevent them from happening.”
Maddie Harmon, another SBP candidate in the upcoming elections, had this to say about endorsements: “Endorsements are kind of a tricky tool… but I’ve found an exception that I think is totally fair. If someone were to, perhaps, offer an endorsement, all on their own, to a candidate they find a liking for, I believe it is then appropriate to accept. This way, people aren’t blindly following a leader they haven’t studied.”
Endorsements are an intrinsic part of any election, and they can, if done properly, add a lot to the integrity of the race. Before voting day comes around, make sure you study all the candidates and their campaigns. If you want to endorse a candidate, DO IT! Don’t hesitate to show your support of our amazing student leaders. Before agreeing to endorse anyone, make sure you study their campaign, and the campaigns of the other candidates We are a school of independent thinkers. I dare you to independently decide who to endorse for our next SBP.
Quantity Conquers Quality: How Endorsements Impact SBP Elections
Every year, heralded by emails from friends, student shares, and announcements through homeroom, the student body president election begins. You go to the campaign pages and watch funny videos, laugh at memes, and, of course, scroll through a seemingly infinite list of endorsements. These endorsers range from alumni you have never heard of to your best friend. But, unlike the memes, the consequences of these endorsements are far from laughable. In fact, endorsements threaten the integrity of our elections.
There are three main ways that endorsements threaten our election. First off it locks in the student vote before the election happens.. Secondly, it is just another method of peer pressure. And, third, it turns the election into a popularity contest.
Before we can truly understand how serious of an affect endorsements have on the election, we need to understand how the endorsing process works. Sometime during the fall and winter semesters each year, a flurry of emails fly around Canvas. “Could you endorse me for SBP?”, “My really good friend is running for SBP and you should endorse her.” And, “No one has been more inspiring to my life. You should endorse him.” Slightly taken aback and overwhelmed you give a tentative, “sure”, and your name is added to the growing list of endorsers.
The big problem with this is that you don’t know what you are endorsing! As far as you know he could have no plan for what he wants to do when he is SBP. You also do not know who else is running for SBP. So when that time of the year rolls by again you find out that the candidate you are endorsing has no plan, or that maybe your best friend is also running. You are a person of your word, though, you endorsed that candidate and you have to stick with him. Your vote is effectively locked into place as soon as the tentative sure exits your mouth. Senior, Keslee Peterson, sums it up very well: “Endorsements force voters to commit to a candidate before they are educated voters and even know who everybody running is and what their platforms are.
To make things worse, peer pressure strikes. As a young freshman scrolling through the campaign pages I stumbled across the endorsements. “Who is Nathan Fales?” I asked. My older sister leaned over my shoulder. “Oh, he was SBP last year.” I was then filled with a sense of awe. I scrolled through the seemingly never ending list of endorsers. “This candidate must be amazing if they can get so many people to endorse them,” I thought to myself.
Then, the election turns into a competition to see who can get the most endorsements. What should be a valued vote for who will be the best leader for our school turns into a popularity contest.
“I believe that endorsements in Student Body elections are not a reflection of a person’s ability to lead. I believe that they change the dynamic of the elections to a contest of popularity,” said senior and student body vice president Jacob McGuire.
Senior, Josh Christensen, sums up this issue with endorsements quite eloquently: “The question of who to vote for is reduced from which of the candidates best represents you to which candidate did everybody else vote for. In this way, the use of endorsements can damage the integrity of school elections.”
To end this, I would like to extend a personal challenge. This election, instead of endorsing someone, wait and figure out who you want to be Student Body President, and then let the other students make their own choice. Keslee Peterson says: “We are a school of leaders learning how to think. Don’t tell people what to think.” If you already committed yourself to a candidate, talk to them and ask them to remove you as an endorser. To those candidates reading this, I dare you to run a campaign without endorsements. Please spread this article to others so that we can make our election reflect the true value of the voters and the candidates.