If you weren’t watching the livestream (courtesy of The Texas Tribune) you missed an astounding piece of drama. I only caught the last 90 minutes, but wow.

Wendy · The charisma and eloquence of Senator Davis was astonishing. By the time I started watching, she’d been silenced by the Republican legislators’ tactics and just stood there, watching and smiling.

Texas Senator Wendy Davis

Gaming the System · I don’t think the transparent sleaze of the efforts to rule her out of order were all that terrible. The whole point of being governed by elected legislatures is that it’s rule-based, and wherever there are rules they can be gamed, and that’s OK. Ms Davis gamed the rules to head off an awful piece of legislation that would essentially restrict access to abortion to rich women in urban centers. The Republicans gamed the rules to try to push it through. The real issue is the legislated policy, not the legislative tactics.

Sports Metaphor · Whatever the real issue was, those tactics were pretty damn gripping to watch. At 2:57AM Texas time, the bill was officially dead; and, if I may be forgiven a view through baseball lenses, this was small ball; Beating out a bouncer to reach first, getting to second on a sacrifice and third on a passed ball; then beating the throw home on a short fly out.

First, Wendy Davis held the floor for all those hours and kept the openings for opportunistic Points of Order to a minimum; forcing the Repubs way into transparent-overreach territory.

Second, the immense legislative skill of the Democratic Senators in running out the clock. There were lots of them, but in particular, the lawyerly silver-haired lizard-skinned slow-talking Texas-drawling Senator Kirk Watson burned an incredibly valuable 15 minutes or so of the last hour politely dissecting the finer points of the motion to close debate on the motion to appeal the ruling on the motion to kill Wendy Davis’ filibuster so they could pass the bill. I’d hire that guy to represent me in a complicated big-money litigation, any time.

Texas Senator Kirk Davis

Senator Watson, courtesy of UStream contributor ChristopherDido.

Third, the eloquence and timing of Senator Van de Putte, rushed to the debate from her father’s funeral, carefully ignored by the Republican chair in a useful legislative delaying tactic, raising the stakes from rules-gaming to gender-politics with “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”

Which only reinforced the subtext of pudgy old white Republican men silencing strong-voiced women speaking for other women. This can’t be good for them, electorally.

Fourth, the activists in the gallery who, when the majority had mercilessly squished all the Democratic legislative tactics, just started screaming and wouldn’t shut up till the clock ran out. At ten minutes to midnight, I said to my wife, equally fascinated beside me on the couch, “That gallery has staying power” and yeah, they did.

The real inside-baseball Texas-legislature cognoscenti will have more to say about how the Republican backup chair was out-dueled by the Democratic point-of-parliamentary-inquiry veterans, on average at least twenty years older than him by the look of them. But at the end of the day it wouldn’t have worked if a bunch of ordinary people hadn’t come to scream at the people they elected; and I can’t imagine a more fundamental exercise of democratic power.

What a show. My faith in the usefulness of democracy is refreshed. And I’m not even American.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Paul Hoffman (Jun 26 2013, at 09:18)

s/even/at all/

I have no idea why Canadians would find the filibuster anything other than uniquely US anti-democratic tawdry crap. My legislative process professor was embarrassed to even teach us about it. I believe he called it "a common shame".


From: Jacob Childress (Jun 26 2013, at 09:45)

I was a body in the crowd last night and during the House debate on Sunday night. I can't emphasize just how important local information sharing was to both legislative action by politicians and direct action by citizens. Activists on the ground were able to organize and people all over the world were able to follow the story largely due to the combination of social media and professional journalists reporting for organizations like the Texas Tribune. Well-funded local, city, and state newspapers are as crucial to civic engagement as ever.


From: Jake Munson (Jun 26 2013, at 11:26)

"The real issue is the legislated policy, not the legislative tactics."

One of the reasons I read your blog is because of logic like that. Most people who are passionate about politics cannot see the forest for the trees. You obviously can, and proved it right there.

I am not on the same side of the "political aisle" as you, but that's beside the point. I wholeheartedly wish that more political participants could be this way, and stop trying to destroy the other political party but instead work for the people.

There is a lot more common ground out there than people realize, even with lightning rod issues like Abortion. But we rarely see that common ground because of all the hate and theatrics that get in the way.


From: Ian Rae (Jun 27 2013, at 11:38)

"The real issue is the legislated policy, not the legislative tactics."

Jake, I too enjoy this blog, but this sentiment comes close to saying "the ends justify the means".

I'm just reading The Passage To Power -- a biography of LBJ. The tawdriness of Texas politics in 1960 is pretty shocking; voter fraud was a given, for example. So, if filibuster "tactics" are the worse thing in Texas politics today, we can count it as a win for democracy.


From: Jay Calaus (Jul 14 2013, at 09:49)

//an awful piece of legislation that would essentially restrict access to abortion to rich women in urban centers.//

Is this about the Pain Capable abortion ban? How is it awful?


From: Jay Calaus (Jul 18 2013, at 13:50)

In the end, Senator Wendy David's filibuster was not able to stop the bill from being ultimately passed. It is now the law of Texas.

Gov. Perry signs HB 2, Congratulations to Texas Right to Life for a job incredibly well done



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