The Access Party, a post-mortem

In 2012, the Republican Party released a 100 page document concerning what went wrong, and how Barack Obama managed to dominate what many considered to be a winnable election. They found that they needed to be more inclusive after they lost 80% of the non-white population, to battle the epistemic closure of ideological members of the party, and to focus on the little victories. The same general principles are true with what used to be the Access Party.

Thus, a post-mortem.

It is no secret that the University of Florida has one of the most toxic political environments in the nation, at any level. Our own esteemed alumni readily admit this to be true. See Bob Graham, two term Governor of Florida, presidential candidate, and three term US Senator who said “I never encountered, in state and federal politics, activities as aggressive as at the University of Florida” or for a more current example look to Debbie Wasserman Schultz whose office routinely throws out any application with Florida Blue Key on the resume.

If DWS calls you corrupt, you have an irredeemable issue.

There exists a seemingly perpetual clash that rivals Sisyphus, i.e. Greek vs Non-Greek. Greek Houses band together and vote as a 6000 individual bloc in order to hold a monopoly over hundreds of paid and unpaid positions on campus, trading positions for votes. This is by no means new or interesting information. Every few years, another scandal occurs by the majority party, whether it is Blue Key leadership creating flyers that slandered the opponent by calling him a child molester, the party not allowing students to eat until they had voted a certain way, or leadership siphoning tens of thousands of dollars per year from fraternity and sorority dues for elections.

And every few years, the name of the party changes in response.

When minority parties like Access exist, they die out in rapid capacity, with most dropping at the end of their first semester. This graph shows the distribution of how long independent parties tend to last before dropping out, and it is fairly clear that the enthusiasm fades quickly.

They lose the Greek population by huge margins and have little funding, making their end nearly inevitable.

In addition, lower tiered fraternities are shut out from the top positions, and a handful of houses get the super-majority of the accolades and positions (in fact, it has been 15 years since the paid position of ACCENT chair was not from AEPi). Even more than that, the supposed pinnacle of UF success is entrance into Blue Key. Blue Key however, is out of reach to the average Greek student in all but a handful of fraternities. A handful of Houses all but dominate entrance.

In terms of involvement, your first two weeks at UF matter more than your next four years, and minority parties need to recognize that. Houses demand subservience and a guarantee of votes from the right half of the graph, and give the leftover scraps of corruption.

Minority parties seem to enjoy the moral high ground. They (rightly) know that they are ideologically justified. Democracies should not be run by a few rich white people in a room. They should reject voter suppression. They should not use people of color as tokens to signal others of their lack of racism. Members take solace in knowing that there is no moral ground to stand on when it comes to joining or supporting the majority parties. Only severe cases of cognitive dissonance and aggressive appetites for power can justify involvement in parties that call themselves Unite, Swamp, or Impact. But this is not enough. This high ground and ideological purism has diminishing returns in electoral politics. The minority party needs to be firm in their foundation, while simultaneously existing as a big tent that lacks the destructive cynicism so harmful to parties. And students need to realize that every position that is promised and handed out to an undeserving student not only hurts them, but also the student community as a whole.

I had a truly wonderful time with Access. As an data analyst, a candidate, and a member of exec, I have been with Access from the very beginning. Even when I spent my summer doing electoral data analysis in DC over the past three months, I never saw nastier politics than I have over the past year and a half at UF. I can only hope that any future independent party that may exist will start will be readily prepared for this, for they will need diverse support, and epistemic openness.

Given what is abundantly clear about the current state, I can only hope for the best.

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