Thursday, July 2, 2020

Electoral Processes in the US: Electing the President

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The White House, Washington D.C.  |  Source: Cezary P via Wikimedia

The USA electoral process is a complex one; caucuses and primaries, followed by national conventions, general elections, formation of the electoral college and the selection of the president. Each step of this process has a lot of subtleties, which vary widely from state to state.

Caucuses and Primaries: This is the initial step of the selection of president. This stage of choosing occurs within a political party, where the party picks the candidate to rally behind.

In the state “Primary”', the registered members of political parties cast votes to allocate delegates for the presidential nominees of their parties. In some of the states this is done through caucuses, where groups are formed behind various potential candidates and there is discussion and persuasion between various groups. Republican party allocates all the delegates directly through primary or caucus, however the Democratic party allocates some Super-Delegates over and above the directly elected ones. These selected or allocated delegates are sent to the national party convention to represent their nominees.

In the process occurring between the primaries and caucuses to the selection of the potential electors is decided entirely by the party. The democrats, after the 1968 democratic convention, made a formal mechanism to reduce power of party leaders over the selection process and ways to represent minorities in the electors. This, however, backfired for the party as the delegates selected by primaries voted according to candidates and not the party, which led to the 1972 democratic Presidential candidate to win in only one state. The rules were then reformed and the concept of Super-Delegates was introduced. The Republican party also followed a somewhat similar trajectory, but did not impose as many restrictions on the delegate selection process, and never took measures to include the minorities.

National Conventions: Each parties’ delegates then choose a final presidential nominee at a national party convention. The nominee picks another person, who would be the vice president in the case the nominee wins. Here, there can be pledged or unpledged delegates; pledged ones are bound to support the potential candidates they chose in the previous round, while the unbound, or superdelegates can support anyone they choose.

Electoral College: After each of the parties have selected their presidential candidate, the candidate campaigns across the country to gain favor from the general public. There are speeches, rallies, debates, and other outreach activities, in which the candidates promote themselves. Meanwhile, the parties select some respective potential electors in each state, which are the people who get the last vote in the selection of the president. Each party forms a slate of potential electors according to the state..

General Election:After this, the general election occurs, in which the public votes for a president. However, the public does not directly vote for the president; they vote for the slate of electors for that political party for that state.

After the general election, the Electors are appointed to the state in two ways.. Electors from all the states then form the electoral college, which is the body that votes for the president. The electors are not legally bound to vote for the party they are pledged to, but can be fined or disqualified if they defect. Throughout USA history, though, more than 99% of the electors have voted as pledged.

The electoral college presently has 538 electors and the candidate who wins 270 or more electoral votes, wins the Presidential election.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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