You know how when you go to weddings that involve people you aren't all that close to, you secretly kind of think it would be kinda fun to see a wedding that went all south? Someone saying, "I object!" An ex running down the aisle at the last minute? No? Just me?
Well, ok, but surely you've seen the news coverage of some giant brawl in a foreign parliament (it's always parliaments) and thought what fun it would be to watch someone punch Paul Ryan in the face? Ok, not just me.
We kind of got something pretty close to that in Texas tonight (last night now). The Texas Senate had until midnight to vote on a wide-ranging (some, like me, might say draconian) anti-abortion bill that had already passed the House and would surely be signed by the Governor. So the last hope was a filibuster to kill debate. That filibuster had to last until midnight. Wendy Davis did her best, but the guy in charge of the Senate was pretty clearly going to kill her filibuster and get the bill to a vote tonight come hell or high water. (He'd said as much.)
It was all a fairly moot point, too, as the Governor could easily just call another special session which would be safe from a filibuster from a time perspective. The bill clearly has the votes in both houses, so why not just let Davis have her filibuster and move on? But, no. There were shenanigans. Parliamentary inquiries to eat up time. Claims that Davis broke the rules, all of which were upheld (wrongly in my view). The crowd (the vast majority of them were there to support Davis in the filibuster) erupted. More parliamentary inquiries. Some motions. A second attempt at filibustering that was also killed.
The best moment of the night was another female Democratic Senator, Leticia Van De Putte, making the most epically awesome parliamentary inquiry ever, "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?" (The chair had declined to recognize her for a motion, turning to a male Republican instead.)
Then came the crowd filibuster, the chaos, the inability of the Senate leader to conduct a roll call vote because no one could hear. Now there are Republican claims that a vote on the abortion bill was taken and it passed. Democrats are saying it wasn't taken until after midnight so it doesn't count. Chaos and disorder have taken over.
What started out as a rare, fun, and beautiful thing -- one person standing up for something she believes in, following a time-honored tradition that says it's her right to do so -- has turned into the most embarrassing spectacle in politics that I've ever witnessed. It got as close to the silly brawls I've seen in foreign parliaments as anything I've seen in American politics. I didn't actually see a punch, but I guess it'll do.
Still, it's a pretty sad statement on how far our political civility has devolved that we can't even agree on whether a bill has passed. It was an engrossing evening from my perspective. I do enjoy political theater. But maybe it would be better to live in a less politically dysfunctional atmosphere where order and civility actually reigned. As of an hour and a half after the midnight deadline, the Texas Senate still isn't quite sure whether the vote counts or whether they're adjourned. That's not a banner night for American government.