On Thursday, the Georgetown University Student Association senate election saw Chicken Madness, a chicken sandwich at Wisemiller’s Grocery and Deli, win an off-campus seat in the student body’s most directly representative organ of government. The sandwich won in a district where two registered candidates were vying for four seats. After the votes were received, it became clear the sandwich, a write-in candidate, won the seat alongside three other people, one of which was another write-in.
Yet following the election’s conclusion, Election Commissioner Grady Willard (SFS ‘18) recommended that rather than seat the sandwich, a fifth-place candidate should take the position instead. On Monday, the GUSA senate voted in a majority to bar Chicken Madness from occupying the seat to which it was elected.
Such a decision from the senate is a mistake. The GUSA senate election is supposed to represent democratic ideals, and it is wrong for the Chicken Madness sandwich to lose the senate seat into which it was voted.
As an institution that is meant to uphold democratic principles, GUSA officials should faithfully execute the will of off-campus voters and seat every candidate that won the necessary votes. In a GUSA election season marked by low turnout, 9 percent of off-campus students actually voted and voiced their support for a nonspeaking sandwich. Their decision should be respected, not tampered with. In a democratic system, there should be respect for what a plurality decides.
Our community would do well to notice a parallel between the results of this GUSA election to national politics. This past week, both the Senate and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which allows 9/11 victims’ families to sue the country of Saudi Arabia. Such a decision directly challenged the stance of President Barack Obama, who originally exercised his presidential veto power to stop the passing of the bill before it was overridden.
There is still widespread empathy for the victims of those attacks, yet in the wake of the bill’s approval, Congress is experiencing a form of buyer’s remorse as the international ramifications of this statute come to light. Namely, it would also possibly allow foreign governments and citizens to sue American civilians and the government.
Congress blames the White House for failing to enumerate the implications of the bill and is calling for a change to its language. While the bill does outweigh the Chicken Madness victory in both precedent and historical significance, Congress is engaging in a much more extreme form of revisionist history, throwing blame post hoc in an attempt to revise the implications of its actions, rather than accept the future it chose.
In June, British voters voted in a referendum to leave the European Union with buyer’s remorse soon to follow. Media both in Britain and abroad aired interviews where dazzled Brexit voters called their votes “protest votes” and subsequently revealed how little they actually knew about the EU. Many wished out loud for a second referendum, a vote to fix their first.
The right to vote is a right sandwiched between the responsibility of the voter to be informed and the duty of a government to faithfully fulfill that mandate. Congress cannot wish away the 9/11 victims bill, just as GUSA should not force off-campus students to be represented by someone other than Chicken Madness, the candidate that rightfully won their votes.
With so few students participating in the vote, there is a clear disengagement and disinterest in student government, especially among seniors. The temporary success of Chicken Madness is proof of this and thus both GUSA and those students who either voted or chose to refrain from voting should live with their decision.
Students at Georgetown should be encouraged to give their voice to an elected body that serves to benefit and represent them. Yet if they choose to simply elect an inanimate sandwich, then they should live with the outcome of their vote, and the organization should respect the wishes of the voters. Such is the nature of democracy at its most basic level.