Power of the People OR An Amazing Day to Watch our Legislative Process at Work

There have been several big decisions in our legislative system this last few weeks. Some I worry about and some I am very very happy for and proud of. 

Today I want to share with you my experience last night.

I grew up in a small town in Wyoming. It was a very conservative atmosphere. My father did work in the county politics and helped at a local level on big campaigns too. When President Bush the 1st came to town, my dad helped with the preparations, with greeting him, with driving the small motorcade. 

From a young age I felt differently than “most” of the people in my circle of relationships. When I was 5 I urged my dad to vote for Carter instead of Reagan. I was teased by my grandpa and uncles for “being a tree hugger” in high school. I seemed to be one of the only people in the room who was offended by racial or sexist jokes. A few young ladies and I formed a “feminist group” in high school and were politely told to sit down and shut up.

After I left home I learned more, broadened my horizons, decided how I felt about different subjects. But politics – it had always turned me off. It honestly made me frustrated and angry. I felt that no matter what “we the people” did, nothing would change the way the government wanted to do things. I felt like the people didn’t really have a say and didn’t really have a chance to change things much. I felt like my vote didn’t count – especially after the whole Florida Bush (the second) and Gore problem. 

In the past 8 years or so I have come back to those political roots I was given. I have started being outspoken about my beliefs and I have started supporting various causes I believe in. With the introduction of social media into my life, I also feel like I received validation. I found out that there are a lot of people who believe like I do. That I am NOT an anomaly. I found a group of people which I could relate to and learn from. 

Last night, though. LAST NIGHT, y’all. Last night changed the way I will look at politics forever more. 

First of all, I watched the proceedings streaming live on the internet. WOW. Second, I realized the best place to get real information is Twitter. I know, weird, right? The news outlets certainly weren’t covering it. 

In the Texas state legislature a bill was brought forward restricting a woman’s right to choose her own healthcare, and which would effectively shut down almost all of the clinics in which women can gain access to abortions. 

THIS WOMAN 

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promised to filibuster this bill. Wendy Davis started her filibuster yesterday morning a little after 11 am. The deadline for the vote on this bill was midnight. The rules: no sitting, no leaning, no touching a desk or chair or railing to get support to stand. No eating, no drinking, no using the restroom. No help of any kind whatsoever. She had to talk that entire time, without stopping. She had to stay on topic and not keep repeating herself. She even tried to put on a back brace and they VOTED THAT SHE COULDN’T! When the president announced that decision, the gallery erupted in screams and boos.

And Senator Davis kept going. 

The gallery was packed. JUST packed. The President of the Senate reminded them several  times that disrupting a senate session could get you thrown in jail for 48 hours. When one supporter of SB5 shouted that abortion is genocide, he was removed. When one young supporter of Wendy Davis and a woman’s right to choose stood and yelled that the decision on the back brace was “bullshit” and flipped off the president, she was removed.  

At one point there had been three challenges to Ms Davis’s filibuster. Two were on the subject of germainess (that she wasn’t staying on track) because she talked about RU487 (morning after pill) and sonograms. The other challenge was for aid from her back brace. There are all kinds of rules about every part of a legislative process. Crazy complicated rules. Someone called to end the filibuster and table the motion because of the 3 challenges. The president was trying his best to get that vote in. There were two senators who stood to challenge the decisions. They all had out Robert’s Rules and Someone’s rules of legislation, and the bylaws of the Texas State Senate and everyone was trying to figure out what the real situation was. The president seemed to just be striking everyone down and not following his OWN rules. Senator Watson and Senator Van de Putte (who by the way was at her father’s funeral all day and STILL came to work on this very important bill) tried their best. I thought they did amazingly. The president seemed to keep swatting them away. The gallery grew restless and booed the president – upset with his decisions. The president would not answer Senator Van de Putte’s question as to why her movement was ignored when it was clearly heard. He again dismissed her coldly. 

And THEN.

Then Senator Leticia Van de Putte asked the president “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”

And the crowd went INSANE. 

With 15 minutes left and the president and the GOP senators pushing hard for the final vote. With Ms Davis still standing, still not going to the restroom, still not drinking, still not yielding the floor. With the need to hurry this along or wait until later….

The crowd went INSANE. 

I literally have chills and am tearing up remembering it. 

The crowd did not stop. They screamed and screamed they stomped. The president could not be heard with the microphone. The secretary could not be heard to call roll call on the vote. The Senators could not hear what they were even voting on and later many admitted they didn’t know if they were voting on the bill or on the previous challenge to the filibuster. 

And yet, the crowd DID NOT STOP.

The senators fighting to stop this bill were waving fingers at the gallery. They were talking pictures for the love of man.

And yet, the crowd DID NOT STOP.

The officers started escorting people out and those people put up a fight. They handcuffed little old ladies. They drug and pushed people out. 

And still they DID NOT STOP.

The president said if they could have order, Ms Davis would be allowed to continue and no vote would be taken until that was done.

The crowd could not hear him. The crowd DID NOT STOP.

They screamed and screamed until 3 minutes after the midnight deadline. 

The president gathered the senators around him and tried for a vote. But he could not be heard and the time stamp on the vote was at 12:02. 

The vote did not count and the bill did not pass. 

When the pictures of the crowd in the capitol and outside of it came through I was in tears. So many people fighting for their rights. So many amazing people there. And they STOPPED THE VOTE.

I am happy this bill did not pass.

I am so much more amazed to see that our political system really can work, and that the people really can have a say. That we really do have power to change things. If that crowd had not been there last night, the president would have simply mowed over all of the arguments and called for a vote. And the bill would have passed based on the vote that didn’t actually count. If those people hadn’t said “spending 2 days in jail is worth my individual rights” and stayed there and screamed and stopped the bill, it would have passed even though there were obviously a lot of people who didn’t support it. 

I have never seen anything like this.

I was so pumped last night I couldn’t sleep. I was so amazed by this spectacle. 

If you didn’t have a chance to watch it, google SB5 and try to watch the last 40 minutes. Or at least the last 20. It was so amazing to see people making a difference in their own lives. Taking responsibility out of the hands of the privileged and making it their own. 

Now, now I have a new direction in my political views. I will always remember that I DO have the power to make a difference, and I will get out there and help make it happen. 

 

 

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