One might be tempted to give Kaleb Hoffer credit for being transparent in his campaign advertisements. I mean, at least we know who’s backing him. Signs posted across campus make it abundantly clear that he’s being supported by PepsiCo, Inc. The reflective student body or faculty member on the other hand, shouldn’t be able to see those signs without wondering, at least for a second, whether or not these signs are a symbol of the biggest problem in American politics today.
I contacted Mr. Hoffer about the signs because I wondered at first if he was getting any kind of kickbacks from Pepsi for advertising their products on his campaign banners. He was speedy and forthcoming in his reply, explaining to me that he has “four of those banners [that] were donated in exchange for campus advertisement.” As to his motives for making the deal with Pepsi, he told me “I wanted a big sign that would stand out and [that] people would notice.”
Based on this information, we must ask ourselves about the huge ethical issues these signs reflect. Exactly what kind of values are we teaching our students and ASEWU candidates here at Eastern? On one hand, by allowing corporate sponsorship of our ASEWU candidates, we may be teaching them about the “real world” of American politics. On the other hand, shouldn’t we, as an institution that exists to improve society through education, be more obligated to teach our future public servants that compelling and innovative ideas are more important than simply winning the election?
It’s no secret that in American politics, a candidate simply cannot win without a huge campaign budget. Advertising is not free, and in order to make one’s platforms heard, one has to advertise. What this fact of American political life accomplishes, however, is a system in which the best ideas do not necessarily prevail, but rather the ideas that have the most money behind them.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I had some of the most productive ideas in existence on how to improve EWU, my district, state or country. It is theoretically possible that I could publish my ideas through social media outlets or even op-ed sections of print news. The fact that corporations and special interests are spending the gargantuan amount of
money that is spent on political advertising that they are suggests, by its very existence, however, that those free forms of advertising are simply not enough to win an election.
This type of campaigning has no place on the campus of an institution that promotes higher thinking for the greater good. It sets a dangerous precedent for the culture at our school and further promotes the same type of good ol’ boy system that we see in American politics – a system that rewards those who know how to network and market themselves, and discourages thoughtful, honest students from presenting good ideas.