Late last Tuesday night, I sat in a dark room with my I-Phone in my lap, watching a blonde woman on the screen. I found it a bit strange, as this is what I would expect of someone having an affair– seated in a dark room while his family sleeps, communicating with a screen in hushed tones.
Yet, I was in rapture watching the goings on of the Texas state legislature. I had jumped on Twitter an hour or so before and saw the hash tag #standwithwendy. The hash tag kept coming up on my screen, so I checked it out and learned that Wendy Davis, a state senator from Texas had gone on a one woman crusade: a 13 hour filibuster. The Texas legislature was trying to pass a law that would, practically speaking, severely restrict access to abortions in Texas.
Up for consideration that day was Texas Senate Bill 5, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and would tighten regulations on abortion clinics and the doctors who work at them. SB5 requires that the procedure be performed at ambulatory surgical centers and mandates that doctors who perform abortions obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
Critics say the measure will shut most of the abortion clinics in Texas as only five out of 42 clinics qualify as ambulatory surgical centers. Those five are located only in major metropolitan areas. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) acknowledged that the ultimate goal of the legislation is to shutter abortion clinics.
That is the back story for #standwithwendy. Men and women from around the globe were watching on Twitter and via the Texas state house’s live internet feed. With the Texas Senate session ending at 11:59pm last Tuesday night, we watched Wendy Davis attempt to stop the vote on the bill with a nearly 13 hour filibuster. Texas rules are much more restrictive than those never used rules in the United States Senate. Texas rules require that a person speaking on a bill not take a bathroom break, not drink water, neither sit nor lean, and not speak on a topic other than that of the bill. Speaking without break for over 11 hours did Wendy, until the GOP tried to shut her down with a procedural vote (claiming that she went off topic). Republicans voted that she did and with roughly 10 minutes left, aimed to pass SB5. Then chaos erupted in the chamber. Bill protestors began screaming and chanting making it nearly impossible to hear. Those protestors ultimately prevented the bill from passing.
Because of Twitter and social media– and her one woman filibuster– Wendy Davis became a media sensation. Her one-woman filibuster ignited the left and woke up thousands of people– men and women alike– to the erosion of a woman’s right to choose.
After the fallout of last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning– ending with frazzled looking Republican men attempting to steal the vote claiming it occurred before midnight when it clearly occurred after to hundreds of thousands of people watching via social media– smart money was on the GOP hoping that what was a sleeping giant would go back into its slumber. No reason to awake the majority of eligible voters– women– with more threats on their ability to make choices on their reproductive health.
So, as the left was drunk with joy in the Supreme Court’s partial repeal of the defense of Marriage Act, Governor Rick Perry decided to kick an already pissed off foe. Governor Perry– known as not one of the sharper knives in the drawer– stepped in it by recalling the Texas legislature back for another 30 day session to get the GOP abortion bill passed into law. Texas lawmakers have reported back to Austin where they will eventually pass what may be the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the United States. Only this time, because of Wendy Davis and her one woman filibuster, he’ll do it with the entire country watching.
In Governor Perry’s defense, last Tuesday was not a good example of democracy. Although Senator Davis provided an impressive example of standing up for one’s beliefs and principles, ultimately one person would have held up legislation– whether good or bad– from being passed. The GOP had the votes to pass the bill; that’s democracy. When the GOP attempted to use parliamentary procedure to stop the filibuster of the bill (which was done with as much finesse as if Moe, Larry and Curly had been the GOP members in charge), protestors prevented a vote by screaming so loud that a vote could not take place.
Initially, I watched with glee as the GOP was apparently thwarted of its goal to pass this law. But as I thought about it, had that been a gun-rights senator attempting to filibuster a hand gun control bill, that clearly had the votes to pass, I would likely be a bit pissed off that a vote was never taken. I would be apoplectic if a bunch of NRA members prevented a vote on the measure by screaming. In that case, I would have questioned whether democracy really spoke– and isn’t it the same if we don’t agree with the legislation?
So in Governor Perry’s defense, I would expect my governor to call the legislature back into session to get a bill passed that failed to because of an unruly mob.
But, is getting this bill passed in the GOP’s best interests?
Two years ago, after Indiana’s legislature defunded Planned Parenthood, I wrote:
November of 2010 Republicans were flying high, doing very well in the midterm elections by wooing independents and suburban women with a message of fiscal discipline.
Since then, it seems like national Republicans are trying to piss off everyone but rich white men. They have gone after a major voting block in Latinos by demonizing illegal immigration and rejecting the DREAM Act; it has implicitly gone after blacks (not a block they had a chance at wooing in large numbers with Barack Obama as President) with its continued failure to stand up to “birthers,” which many people, regardless of race, find not so veiled racist overtones. The party went after unions, ironically pissing off many of the people who got them elected just weeks before. Recently, baby boomers and the elderly have had to listen closely to Republican proposals to privatize Medicare– making recipients have to shell out thousands of dollars more for the same coverage. Until very recently, the only people exempt from Republican cross hairs were rich white men and women.
You can take women off the list as the GOP is going after them too. In Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels is playing politics at the expense of women. Earlier this week, Gov. Daniels signed legislation prohibiting Planned Parenthood in Indiana from receiving federal funding. The Indiana law bars federal funding for “any entity that performs abortion or maintains or operates a facility where abortions are performed.”
Since 2010, we saw Republicans lose a national election based upon the votes of Latinos and women. Since then, they have only given Latinos lip service and are now again seeking to severely restrict women’s freedom to choose. Immediately after the 2012 election, the GOP freely admitted to having to expand its base. There was even an acknowledgment that placating the Christian right would only lose future elections. Then, less than one year after the election– an election the GOP should have won– it goes back into default mode: claiming that government is ill equipped to make decisions for people, except in areas they want government to make decisions for people.
Will this come back to hurt the GOP in 2014? Maybe, maybe not. The issue is more likely to hurt GOP chances to take over the White House in 2016– especially this episode remains in memories two years from now. Something tells me that instead of Sandra Fluke, you’ll see Wendy Davis campaigning with Hillary Clinton in 2016, reminding women to vote to retain their rights over their reproductive health. Rick Perry being in the GOP Republican primary mix– especially with Hillary Clinton dominating the Democratic primaries– will only serve as a better reminder. For success in 2016, the last thing the GOP needs is another reminder of its overreach on women’s choices in reproductive health, which can be better visualized as rich, old, white men telling poor, young women what to do with their bodies. By recalling the Texas state legislature back to reconsider this bill, Governor Rick Perry just became thet poster boy of the rich, old, white guy.
Filed under: National Politics