Texas Spring?

Tuesday night I followed on Twitter the progress of Texas state senator Wendy Davis’ heroic filibuster against evangelical governance in that state, governance represented by a proposed law—which earlier in the special session had passed the Texas House—that would essentially rob many Texas women of their constitutional right to govern their own reproductive lives without interference from an Old Testament Yahweh, a first-century Jesus, or their self-proclaimed representatives in the state legislature.wendy davis

If you think that first sentence was a mouthful, you should have seen Democrat Wendy Davis in action, all 11 hours of action performed before her frustrated Tea Party colleagues, an admiring gallery, and almost 200,000 livestream viewers of the filibuster on the Internet.

That last datum is significant. For most of us, the only available means of seeing Senator Davis in action, of watching the proceedings—which were quite exciting at the end because of a midnight deadline at play and Republicans’ willingness to lie about the vote taken after the deadline—was the Texas Senate Livestream on YouTube, not on cable television news. Or, like me, one could follow it on Twitter and get updates from folks who were watching on YouTube.

I tried in vain to get live TV coverage of the rather unique and significant event that was unfolding as midnight approached in Texas.  MSNBC’s tagline is “The Place for Politics,” and since there was some interesting politics going on in the Lone Star State, particularly a liberal-versus-conservative style of politics, naturally I figured I could follow it on The Place for Politics.

Except that MSNBC wasn’t covering it live (they did mention it during evening programming). Neither was the Cable News Network or the Fox “News” Channel. Nothing live. As James Poniewozik of Time pointed out,

As midnight approached in Austin, political observers were watching a nailbiter on YouTube; but on cable, you could see an interview about Iraq on Fox, a climate debate on MSNBC, and, toward the end of Anderson Cooper’s CNN show, a report on an attempt to ban the wearing of saggy pants.

Poniewozik also noted:

It was online and in social media where the story really took off, and even played out. As partisans from both sides traded shots on YouTube, Twitter became an extension of the Senate gallery, with users weighing in (President Obama’s twitter account directed attention to the filibuster at one point), cracking jokes, and even offering unsolicited  advice to the legislators on the points of Texas parliamentary procedure.

If all this sounds like an American version of “Arab Spring,” in which social media has played a critical role in the attempted dissolution of Middle East despotism, then maybe it is, at least a tiny little bit. Cable news, whether it was because of producer indifference, lack of resources, or poor editorial judgment, missed something exciting and, we can hope, ultimately game-changing—there is talk already of Wendy Davis running for Texas governor in 2014!

The point in all this is that these days, just because the official news bidness misses something, that doesn’t mean it will escape the instant notice of motivated people who care about, in this case, the right of women to control their own reproductive health and to keep religious and other zealots from dictating to them when to become parents.



  1. ansonburlingame

     /  June 27, 2013

    OK, Duane, I think I now understand your position on filibusters. They are “good” as long as they support your politics, right? But if one’s that disagree with your politics use that “tool”, then filibuster’s are “bad”, right?

    I received an email for McCaskill today asking me to sign an online Thank You note to the above lady in Texas. I refused to do so. BUT, I support individual decisions related to “choice” for sure, reproductive decisions including abortion. So why should I not thank the lady in Texas?

    By and large I feel the same way about filibusters that McCaskill feels about abortion, safe, legal and rare. Otherwise let the majority decide in any legislature.

    Today filibusters in the federal Senate are overused, in my view. Why bother in the first place as the House will control really controversial proposed legislation. The end result in such divided government is no legislation, which by and large might not be all bad for the country, though it drives partisans crazy!!

    When legislative bodies, bicameral legislatures, are controlled entirely by both parties, well I can see instances when filibusters might be mandated, no matter which Party controls, totally both houses of legislation. But in a divided government such as we have federally today, why do we need a filibuster?

    Be sure you answer such a question while at the same time considering “what if” the GOP controlled both the Senate and House and White House, federally.

    As for Texas and reproductive liberty, well let the majority in Texas decide is my call. And for damn sure a Senator from MO has no business telling Texas as a State how to govern. Only when or if sexual issues come before the Senate am I interested in her views on the subject!! On the other hand, I support safe, legal and rare on abortion, but doubt that the majority of voters in MO feel that way. And I also believe that “quack” in PA was not, really, a doctor, or at least a very good one. He should have been “disbarred” by the AMA before it ever came to legal action for murder!!!



    • I have learned over the years that when you say “I think I now understand your position…” that you usually don’t. Such is the case with the use of filibusters.

      I have argued for a couple of years now, at least, that filibusters should remain a part of the legislative process in the Senate. My problem is that they ought to be genuine filibusters, the kind that state senator Wendy Davis conducted in Texas. She couldn’t eat, go to the bathroom, sit, lean on the podium, stray off topic, and at one point the Republicans objected to her being helped with her back brace for God’s sake. Now that is a filibuster, my friend. And if your pals in the U.S. Senate were required to do the same thing before they gum up the works, I would be among those admiring their commitment, if not their cause.

      As to why the Senate should even bother with filibustering anything because the House will kill it anyway, I submit to you that your suggestion pretty much says it all about the party you generally support.

      Finally, as for your declaration that “the majority in Texas” should decide whether a woman has “reproductive liberty,” I say you are sadly lacking in any understanding of what a constitutional right is, Anson. I suppose you also think that your right to free speech ought also be subject to the whims of a majority vote? Or how about your right to assemble? Or to worship? Or maybe if you decide to sell your property we should also put that up to a local vote and give your neighbors veto power over your decision?

      I find it revealing that when it comes to a woman’s right to control what her reproductive organs do that you think her options should be put to a vote and the majority should rule.

      Sad, is what that is.



      • King Beauregard

         /  June 27, 2013

        The Supreme Court ruled in favor of interracial marriages (Loving v. Virginia) at a time when 70% of the country was opposed to them. If you believe that majorities should dictate our civil liberties, you are openly siding with the racists and bigots of 45 years ago.


    • Anonymous

       /  June 27, 2013

      AB, I believe Duane supported Rand Paul’s filibuster a short while back, I do not remember the topic. It seems he has been consistent on the filibuster subject.

      Now I do agree with your view on abortion. I think most would agree that safe, legal, rare is the best solution. However, I think the Republican Party is really harming itself with their bullying tactics on abortion laws at the state level. Trying to humiliate women with probes and inflicting financial burdens on women seems to be doing real damage at all levels.
      Now on the other hand, look at the way the gay community has approached the issue of gay marriage. They have succeeded in convincing heterosexuals to support their cause and the results yesterday from the SCOTUS is proof that the less belligerent approach seems to work best.
      On a recent trip to DC a Republican Senate aid ( yes, Republican) told our group that Democrats take their small victories and move forward, while Republicans tend to take their ball and go home whenever they do not get their way. I think we saw the results of that from the SCOTUS.



  2. ansonburlingame

     /  June 27, 2013

    When the Constitution establishes our liberties then SCOTUS should of course protect them, Constitutionally. But the Constitution does not cover “everything”. It, the constitution is very clear what the federal govenment SHOULD do in terms of governing. Last time I checked, all else is left to the States and such matters must be governed by the States (as long as they act constitutionally) Did I miss something in that line of thought that either of you don’t understand?

    Need I remind you that we fought a civil war over “states rights”, because of slavery. Do we need another one for civil liberities for gays, straigths, lebians and all the other combinations of anatomy, real or “implanted” and sexual predilections?

    As for HOW a filibuster is conducted, well do whatever you like if you can get the Senate rules to agree as well. If you don’t want to let someone go to the bathroom, fine with me. Hell let’m starve as well if you like. The ISSUE that I address was whether or not any filibuster, bathroom slips or not, be allowed. So we agree it seems. Let’m filibuster all they like and I will not raise a stink over no bathroom slips!!

    I also don’t write thank notes to women who talk and don’t go to the bathroom while doing so. Courage my hind foot!!! Mind over matter sounds more like it to me, or one helluva big bladder?

    I have to ask Jim if Duane just threw me a “strawman”? I’m still no real clear on that definition???



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