It’s a Good Thing that John Cena is Running for ANUSA

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In less than three weeks from now, I go into my fourth consecutive, and final, ANUSA
elections. To my knowledge, no other currently enrolled ANU student has been so
regularly and deeply involved in student politics, and one common theme I have noticed
has been the prevalence of satirical or ‘joke’ tickets – groups (sometimes actual
nominees and sometimes just a social media page) that aim to poke fun at the festival of
hack that is the annual election process.

Every year, serious candidates become frustrated and annoyed at the process. The
logical reaction for each is to be worried that they might miss out on a position due to a
satirical ticket that might siphon off votes, or make the race too close. That was
originally my reaction in 2014, when I missed out on the position of Vice-President by
few votes, and one of the satirical ticket candidates had gotten 120 first preferences.

That is an understandable response when you’re faced with the stress of running in a
competitive election and want to give yourself the best chance. Let’s, however, look
logically at the effect on the actual races – it is unlikely that they will make a serious
impact on the results without the presence of extraordinary circumstances. Even then,
the actual impact may actually be positive.

From the highly Facebook-popular Bullet Train in 2013, which did not run any
candidates, to Adjective and Catch in 2014 and Reclaim in 2015, the only result has been
that elements of the student body have engaged themselves in the election where they
would not have done so otherwise.

Yes, a number of people voted for these tickets – the Adjective Presidential candidate
was indeed very close to the number of votes received by one of the sincere tickets in
2014 – but surely everyone who voted for Adjective had no intention of ever voting for
one of the serious tickets.

It is difficult to believe that someone who was going to vote for a serious candidate and
then changed their intentions after realising that a satirical ticket existed, would not
even put down a serious candidate in subsequent preferences.

Yes, there are a number of people who might go to the polls because one of their close
friends is in the running for a position, but then do not feel as though they can identify
with the policies of any serious tickets, and thereby, instead vote for a joke ticket. But is
that really a bad thing? It is quite likely that such a person probably would have left the
ballot empty if they had strong enough feelings to vote for a joke ticket.

A major positive is instead that a lot of people who either have their first interaction
with the elections through satire end up taking a more serious role in the issues facing
the student community. One of the people who ran the original Bullet Train ticket,
Maclaren Wall, ended up being one of the most vocal voices in the issues facing the ANU
Union, and continues to advocate for the betterment of student organisations, such as
Woroni.

It is quite likely that the satire of these tickets and the scrutiny they provide, make their
constituents think about the elections and the issues therein. It’s the same reason why
Barack Obama slow-jams the news with Jimmy Fallon or does an interview on Between
the Two Ferns.

It’s about reaching a new audience.

And if circumstances do fall in place, and one of the candidates from a joke ticket does
get elected, is it really that bad of a thing?
Last year, when one of the tickets self-destructed (remember Ready-gate?) and Reclaim
ended up having the first column on the General Representative ballot, Zac Rayson from
Reclaim got elected.

What ended up happening? Well, all those who have worked with Zac attest that he’s
done an amazing job and is going to be a Probity Officer at the upcoming elections – one
of the most important jobs in the election.

Ultimately, if someone not worthy of a role was to get elected, it is a pretty good
indication that the rest of tickets and candidates needed to get their acts together and
were evidently not talking about what people wanted to hear, or were not worthy of the
role themselves.

People who get annoyed by these tickets need to calm down. It’s now an established
part of ANUSA elections and, if they’ve had any impact, it’s probably a positive one. More
people are involved in the process than otherwise – and that can only be a good thing.

Karan Dhamija is a presidential candidate on the Connect ticket