At the time of writing, there is a chance that, for the first time in recent memory, an unopposed candidate will lose an election to RON. Muireann Kane is polling at 56% among decided voters in the Communications and Marketing race, with RON at 44%, but with 30% of respondents undecided.
Still, Kane will probably win, in large part because there’s no one legitimate or effective campaigning against her. Sometimes, very rarely, some people do want to advocate for RON, such as the group of students who recently made a “RON for TCDSU Comms” Facebook page, but before yesterday, the page hadn’t made any posts since February 20. The fleeting campaign in the race reeks of students taking an easy shot at an ill-prepared candidate – not alone in that description across the six races – and of an exploitative move coordinated by the group, even though they did not run for the position themselves.
In that way, the election is Kane’s to lose. She’ll be judged on her campaign, rather than her campaign versus another. Which is what makes it remarkable that Kane has managed to make it a close race for herself. There are people who passionately want her to lose. The “RON for TCDSU Comms” Facebook page very diplomatically say, “we need an election, not a coronation”, but, as Kane herself noted at the Media Hustings last Thursday, this is beside the point. The people running the page told Trinity News that they have “nothing against the current candidate”. Of course they do. There have been a lot of bad, unopposed candidates over the years. For them, it’s personal.
Her campaign has been undoubtedly bizarre. Most people know that she didn’t have a Facebook page until very late in the campaign, and ran her social media from her personal Instagram account. On her Facebook page, she shared an Irish Times article about a Rembrandt exhibition in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Her post: “Rembrandt, a campaigner before his time? #YesWeKane.” At the Council Hustings, when asked if she was concerned about whether her manifesto was accessible to visually impaired people, she replied by telling a room of the most hard-progressive people in Trinity that she herself was “of the glasses persuasion”. Then, in a video interview with Trinity News, in what must, in part, have been a side-swipe at the people criticising her, she noted with a disapproving tone that there had been no one translating the hustings into sign language. Furthermore, her manifesto suggests a level of incompetence in, or perhaps ignorance of, the exact skills required for the role. The colour of the font, for example, varies between black and various shades of blue, while her biography paragraph sees the size of the font decrease gradually downwards.
But why are people RON-ing her and not people before her? It’s fine to be bad, but Kane’s campaign is bad in the wrong way. She didn’t know what a question about visually impaired people was referring to, and didn’t campaign through Facebook until she came under pressure. The unopposed candidates who sailed past their RONs had the same empty manifestos but were better at playing the TCDSU game: befriend the Halls JCR team, consult the people last year’s candidates consulted, project virtue, and never criticise anyone. Kane’s biggest problem is nothing to do with her campaign per se; her lack of preparation made her an easy target.
And that bears thinking about. Voting RON for Communications and Marketing is a valid choice. But as you do this, ask yourself honestly how many similar candidates you’ve seen go through TCDSU unopposed, who had just that bit more advice or help from their friends, who knew just that little bit better what to say to a TCDSU Council, and what not to say. And who won, because they were just that bit too boring for anyone to notice them, and who kept everything plodding along year-on-year until now, when TCDSU finds itself with its largest deficit in recent memory and vanishingly low levels of student engagement.