In terms of campaigns running for UT’s Student Government Executive Alliance, there is no ticket more honest, fashionable, nor funny as Walsh/Edwards 2020. An exercise in seeing how easy it is to run for Student Government, Walsh and Edwards just signed their names on a paper, filled out an online form, and attended a meeting “where they gave you free pizza,” and all of a sudden, they were on the ballot.
Brendan Walsh, a junior Philosophy major, and Max Edwards, a junior Radio-Television-Film major, are different from your usual campaigns in that they don’t believe anyone who wants to run for office is probably worth voting for. So why are they running?
“Well, we don’t want to run for office,” explains Walsh. “It’s been a grueling process, really, with no apparent benefit for either of us.”
Although, they do want potential voters to know they are 100% serious. On the team’s official Instagram account, the only campaign materials are strange, almost-Lynchian videos filmed by Edwards in his bedroom. In one such video, as a recording of terrifying strings plays in the background, he explains that this campaign is not a joke, though “it’s really not about winning, it’s more about sending a message.” If anyone can run for office, why don’t they?
The official Walsh/Edwards campaign slogan, “Vote! For Us?” is a reflection of this sentiment: a commitment to running, but also a disinterest in actually winning. While students should definitely be fulfilling their civic duty by voting, especially in local elections, they would never presume to ask students to vote specifically for them. Utilizing the concept of “crit fails” in Dungeons and Dragons, Walsh explains that three of the other campaigns would have to completely capitulate if they were to have a chance at winning. However, even if they did win, they would resign the positions anyway.
“Well I think maybe we would give a statement first about our feelings on the whole subject and our gratitude for the people who voted wisely, but at the end of the day, we would resign,” says Walsh.
Though, that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped campaigning altogether. At the Student Government debates, they kept their mouths “tactfully shut” as the other campaigns talked on the “issues that actually mattered,” though they were able to get some pretty good jokes in. To them, most of the teams are running very similar campaigns that are only mild improvements over the status quo, and they remain suspicious about whether or not any of the other people running for Executive Alliance really care about the university. With one notable exception — “the campaign endorsed by the Daily Texan”—Walsh and Edwards don’t believe any of the campaigns are being sincere.
“It’s either rehearsed or not rehearsed but should have been,” Walsh says.
As for issues the team cares about, they admit they almost ran on wanting to implement a new dine-in-dollars system, but the university revamped the system before they had the chance. They are quite frustrated over UT’s constant construction projects, namely the renovations of Welch Hall, but they don’t believe Student Government has the power to fix that. Most of the other campaign platforms include systems that will attempt to reduce UT’s sexual misconduct problem, and while Walsh/Edwards believe it to be an issue, they don’t know how they could help fix it.
“You don’t need to be an expert in ethics to understand that it’s wrong to violate somebody in any sort of capacity, but we have no idea how we would fix that,” admitted Walsh.
The campaign team, other than Walsh and Edwards, is admittedly small. Other notable positions include Brooke Reaves, who is the campaign’s “Minister of Schemes,” though Walsh believes “she hasn’t really come up with any schemes.” In the ramp-up to elections, which begin Monday, March 2nd, Walsh said he will produce more propaganda so as to supplement Edwards’ videos.
Overall, the campaign team’s Instagram bio explains their position clearly: “A promise made is a promise broken.” Especially for Student Government, the President and Vice President aren’t true wielders of power and change, but a “middleman between the students and the people with the fat wallets.” Since they will always be beholden to President Fenves, their ability to institute any real change is incredibly limited.
“The only way that things ever actually get done is by mass petition or protest,” Edwards explains. “Presidents don’t write laws, they’re written by Congress and Congress is a massive body that is chosen by a bigger body. The executive alliance at the University of Texas at Austin can’t do anything without the say-so of a massive group of people, but that massive group of people is so indifferent to whether or not things actually happen that there’s no power at all. We have nothing to gain and nothing to lose.”
The Walsh/Edwards ticket, though unlikely to win, serves as an important meta-critique of the role of Student Government and the actual amount of power they hold. As students vote this next week, they should keep in mind the sincerity of the candidates they’re voting for and whether or not those votes will actually lead to the change they want.
Learn more about the Walsh/Edwards ticket by visiting their Instagram page.