The Texas Senate on June 25th. A senator I never heard of before today started a filibuster. And the internet exploded.
This is what democracy looks like. This was a night of surprising political drama. And I was watching.
It started with some chatter on my Twitter feed. Apparently, the Texas State Senate was voting on a bill to limit abortion rights in the state of Texas, a bill called SB5. Senator Wendy Davis took on the monumental task to filibuster in an attempt to hold out the Senate until the 12PM deadline. She got up to make her case in front of the State Senate at about 11AM. And she stood there for ten hours. During that time, the senators that wanted the bill passed found a couple of instances to call her on violating the rules of a filibuster. Those rules state that a person must continue speaking or else they cede the floor. They cannot sit down, or lean on anything. They cannot take a break or eat anything or go to the bathroom. They just keep talking.
So Senator Wendy Davis talked. And talked. Until nearly 10:30 when she was called on some BS infraction. At this point the Senate tried to call for a vote. And a miraculous thing right out of the West Wing happened: the other senators opposing the bill jumped in with every bit of Robert’s Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure they could to try and stall. It was like watching every John Grisham film crossed with every good episode of The West Wing.
To watch the live stream of the Senate, it was the most riveting thing. Here were people struggling against the intentions of other lawmakers to push through a bill to deprive women of proper medical support. And they were doing everything they could to find the words, to find the questions and precedents, to keep the discussion going as long as they could. Two senators along with the heroic Senator Wendy Davis deserves a call out. Senator Kirk Watson did his best to take the points that Senator Davis got called out on and tried to hold the floor.
But it was Senator Van de Putte, who came from her own father’s FUNERAL to get into the fight, who got the most amazing quote of the night. When the President refused to hear her point of order, she said: “At what point must a female Senator raise her hand or voice to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?” Boom. Mike drop.
Those trying to kill the bill made it until fifteen minutes to midnight. It was nail-biting. And at thirteen minutes to midnight, they looked set to lose the fight. The President of the Senate started to call the vote. It looked hopeless.
And the people screamed. The gallery above the Senate erupted as one and started cheering, shouting, screaming, no matter what. State troopers and cops came into the gallery, lining the walls, and started trying to clear them out but to no avail. They locked the doors to the gallery, witnesses state, and kept them in there. The President of the Senate tried to quiet them but they wouldn’t be quiet.
They shouted. They cheered. They screamed. And they RAN OUT THE CLOCK.
A bunch of Senators stood on the floor, confused and looking lost as the people in the gallery showed just how much they cared about making sure women’s choice was protected. And the clock hit 12PM. The people ran down the clock on a Texas Senate and blocked the vote. At least, that’s what we thought. As it did, the President of the Senate was trying to get everyone to vote. He gathered the senators up close to the podium so they could hear correctly and then called the vote.
Let me be clear. I was on YouTube with over 100,000 other people watching as the senators called a vote after midnight when they should not have been able to do so. As soon as that happened, democratic senators called them on it, stating: “It’s after midnight.” Twitter and Facebook exploded into madness over it and people began shouting it down from the gallery. The senators disappeared and for a while, nobody knew what had happened. Was it legal? Wasn’t it? We online went to Twitter to follow what was going on, scouring for information. Sources began tweeting that the official legal record of the vote stated that it was held on 6/26 – that is AFTER midnight and therefore it would not be a legal vote. Only nine minutes later, the same website record stated it was 6/25 after all – someone had changed it! But the internet was watching, folks, and that doesn’t go unnoticed.
And in case you needed a physical example:
Meanwhile out in the rotunda, a livestream captured everyone staying put with shouts of “Hell no, we won’t go!” The democrats were pulled back into a closed session to decide if the vote was legal while around the country, everyone waited.
At nearly 3AM it came down from Wendy Davis’s twitter, passed to the people in the rotunda. The bill was recorded as coming in at 12:03AM. As of my writing this at nearly 4AM, the bill is reported to be dead.
And that is because of the people. Those people in the gallery rose up in a voice I had never heard before, the energy electric, to shout down a bill they did not want to see get passed. For the good of women’s health, they blasted it out with thirteen minutes of screaming and shouting and cheering. And of course, there is Wendy Davis.
Senator Wendy Davis started this yesterday with a filibuster I had never heard about. She got up on her feet and for ten hours, she didn’t sit down or stop talking. She did this because she believed that this bill needed to be stopped and she was willing to sacrifice her comfort to do it. She was willing to stand up and have her voice heard to be the face of people across Texas and even across the country who believe in a woman’s right to choose control over her own body. Because of that choice, she did what few people have the guts to do – she spoke truth to power and she helped her cause win. Wendy didn’t finish the filibuster out at midnight but the people did it for her.
There are few times I can say I’ve seen political moments that captured me to the core. This was one of them. I shouted at my computer, tweeted more than perhaps I ought to have, snarked with people on Facebook and joined people across the internet in solidarity with the folks in Texas. Now, at 4AM, I can’t imagine having gone to bed. I got a chance to watch democracy at it’s best and watch as people tried to steal a vote and lost.
It’s also important to note that while this historic moment was going on, while this political drama that is integral to our nation was going on, the mainstream media sources had absolutely nothing going on. Nothing about this. They were not on the ball at ALL. Instead, information came through Twitter, shared from person to person through hashtags. When the livestream on YouTube inside the senate floor went down, it was a Ustream by a gentleman named Christopher Dido that got the world the information. When the announcement came down that the bill was killed, he was there. When Senator Wendy Davis came out to thank everyone, he was there. He was the only eyes for the 15,000 or more folks watching. So thanks to him, people could see what democracy in action looked like, while CNN was broadcasting stories about Paula Deen being a racist, the latest Kardashian story, rehashing old news cycles, and then reporting on muffins.
Congratulations internet. Texas Senate GOP, nice try attempting to reset the rules of time and invent an extra hour on 6/25. You failed. Let that be a lesson what people can do.