Leigh Charlton, Executive Editor
A clear indicator that the frenzy of politics and campaigning that go hand-in-hand with student elections has returned to NCHS is the sudden presence of bold, glossy posters scotch-taped to each and every wall. Most posters sport large fonts, funny or relatable slogans, and the occasional Photoshop job. Each is designed with the intent to make candidates appeal to as wide a group as possible.
When it comes to campaigning, the general rule seems to be to draw attention to the candidate as an individual rather than their goals or any policies they may choose to implement. “What I would say is that is a reflection of candidate-centered campaigns, which is what we’ve observed on a national scale since the 1960s,” government teacher Michael Joshi said. “Before, we didn’t have primaries. The parties would get together and they would decide who they thought the best candidate was, and that’s the name that they would put forward for the nomination. Then we had direct primaries where people are actually voting in a primary for who they want, and so then the parties lose control over the system and it becomes more about the individual running for office rather than the ideas or the party that they represent.”
Current junior class president and senior class presidential candidate Regan O’Malley explains why she believes that funny posters are an effective way to campaign. “I definitely want to be funny because whenever I see a poster that’s funny I’ll pay attention to it, but if it’s sort of boring or doesn’t have a lot of color I probably won’t look at it for very long,” Regan said. “People love to laugh so I kind of want to walk a fine line between “trying too hard” but also trying to appeal to everything that people get.”
As junior social board president and a candidate for student body president, Emma Smith has experience with using different campaign methods, but they all center on her as an individual. Over the past few weeks, she has used a combination of Photoshopped posters, cookies, and brownies to sway votes her way. “I think having a poster about your policies would be great but I didn’t choose to do that and I haven’t done it in the past,” Emma said. “I will say that I have seen a lot of response to my funny ones and everyone has commented on the funny posters around the school for every candidate.”
Sophomore voter Caroline Schuh chooses who to vote for based on individual characteristics. “I choose who I’m going to vote for based on how I like their personalities,” Caroline said. “I think that if you have a strong and fun personality you would be great in StuCo.”
In the context of the real world, Mr. Joshi offered Obama as an example of individual, candidate-centered campaigning. “Obama is another great example of an individual that became more about him than the party or his ideas because he gave really good speeches, he’s really charismatic, he was young, he was our first African-American candidate from a major party, and all of those things helped him win,” Mr. Joshi said. “The focus became more on the individual and who they are and whether you like him or not versus what their ideas are.”
In national politics, expectation for a political candidate vary from their individual campaign promises to the history of their party’s performance. However, at NCHS, school politics diverge from the national model in that the student coalition has a more limited role. “Some people don’t really understand that we don’t really have any sort of authoritative power where we can’t really change any school rules,” Regan said. “Our coalition is definitely more aimed at helping the community and helping the school community when it comes to spirit, making sure that people attends things, making sure everyone feels included and also helping our community outside the school.”
Regardless of how they’re elected, each member of the Student Coalition works hard to ensure that they fulfill their obligation to the NCHS community. “There’s so many things that I think go so unnoticed,” Emma said. “We organize all the spirit days, we do the pep rally, we pick the emcees of the pep rally. We do all the spirit day stuff. We put up the posters, we put it on the announcements, we post in the Facebook groups and everything. We organize homecoming as well. We’ve also organized prom which was a big deal this year.”
To see the results of this year’s student election, check out Maddie Sturcke’s graphic here.