Heroes, Villains, and a Hell of a Night in Texas

(Automatic Update: While this piece stands at the moment, namely at 3:16AM ET, it looks as if the Republicans’ little parlor trick that I linked to below — namely their apparent attempt to change the time stamp on the vote making it appear legal and valid — may have gotten them busted. Bottom line: SB5 may not have actually passed. Stay tuned. Update To the Update: Confirmed: SB5 is dead. Wendy Davis won. And so did a lot of other women. Adjust what you read in the following accordingly.)

I want you to imagine a basketball game where the championship is on the line. Let’s say that, like me, you’re a Heat fan and you were watching last week’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and you witnessed both teams being practically toe-to-toe right up until the very end. Imagine those last seconds counting down, the home crowd on its feet going absolutely insane because the Heat had pulled ahead and it looked like LeBron and Wade were going to make it two in a row for Miami. But then, when the clock hits zero it just keeps right on going; the game doesn’t end. The Spurs are given the time they need to catch up and they win, not in overtime but in some bizarre netherworld of unregulated, technically non-existent space-time. How fair do you think that would be? How fast do you think something like that would lead Heat fans to burn the American Airlines Arena to the ground. Okay, so maybe it’s not a one-one analogy, particularly since Miami fans would probably enjoy burning a building to the ground regardless — and obviously the Spurs aren’t pure evil or anything — but the scenario I described is basically what just happened in Austin, Texas. The Republican arm of the state senate there essentially knew it couldn’t win in regulation so, in a move that should surprise no one at all, it cheated.

If you watched the incredible scene in Austin unfold just a little while ago, you know that there hasn’t been anything like it in American politics in — well, certainly not that I can remember. Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis of Ft. Worth attempted a 13-hour-long filibuster aimed at stopping SB5, a bill that would likely shut down most if not all of Texas’s abortion clinics and impose draconian new restrictions on abortions for women in that state. But just a couple of hours short of her midnight goal, Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst stopped Davis, claiming that she had violated the state’s filibuster rules by bringing up a 2011 sonogram bill, which according to Dewhurst wasn’t germane to the topic at hand. Because, yes, in Texas, talking about an intrusive sonogram bill has nothing at all to do with the subject of a woman’s right to an abortion and to control her reproductive system. Again, I suppose this should surprise no one given that in all of one night we learned that not only do evolution and female biology stump the hell out of white, male conservatives, but apparently so does the ability to read a fucking clock.

What resulted from the interruption, though, was a bizarre back-and forth debate over parliamentary procedure that degenerated, as the clock ticked away, into a growing, steady, deafening roar from the women and men in the gallery aimed at carrying out the filibuster the Republicans were trying so desperately to prevent. At one point, almost 200-thousand were watching it all unfold live via YouTube stream and thousands and thousands more were following around the globe on Twitter. Considering the fact that every major cable news network had one or more of its thumbs securely in its ass, providing zero live coverage of what was obviously a very big breaking story in the world of American politics, social media once again stepped up and proved its awesome might as both a spontaneous town square and a gargantuan megaphone when news events happen. The point, though, is that everyone watched as the Republicans did exactly what anyone who’s followed politics knew they were going to do and probably dreaded, no matter how much he or she wanted to be swept along by the passionate uprising in Austin and the #StandWithWendy movement online. It was always a guarantee that the vote on SB5 was going to take place one way or the other, even after midnight in clear violation of policy. Why? Because anything is possible when you don’t give a damn about breaking the rules.

That outrage you’re seeing on Twitter right now? The threats of reprisals at the ballot box and the promises that Wendy Davis’s valiant stand will become a rallying cry to strike down the paleoconservative politics of the Republican party — its ongoing push to, both literally and figuratively, turn back the clock? The old white guys who just strolled out of the Texas Capitol with big shit-eating grins on their faces after cheating their asses off to get what they wanted couldn’t give a damn about that. They don’t care who was watching or how frustrated about it you are on Twitter, particularly if you don’t actually live in the cultural cataclysm that is Texas. As far as they’re concerned, what they just got away with is what they always get away with — a shameless power-grab simply for its own sake, just because they can.

But, admittedly, if we can stay focused and stay really fucking angry there’s always the potential for this time to be different. I’m cynical and tend to believe that nothing ever changes much, no matter how seismic an event may feel when you’re sitting right on top of it, but there’s little denying that the Texas Republicans just created a monster in Wendy Davis; they turned her into Daenerys Targaryen in pearls, not simply a person but a super-hero, an idea, a symbol of the conservative power structure’s ruthless, relentless willingness to do whatever it takes to get its way and the unyielding need to stand against it, fight, and never give up. She helped show the way for all of us. So did State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who had the quote of the night by standing up to the old white men holding court and asking the obvious: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or voice to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?” And so did the gallery full of people who declared in one voice that enough is enough — that this kind of thing cannot go on.

You know what you’re up against because it showed itself in the most pronounced and undeniable way tonight in Texas. It’s easy to say that the unscrupulous scoundrels of the modern Republican party overplayed their hand, but that’s only true if we refuse to let them get away with it. Otherwise, it’ll be just another victory for them, regardless of how they achieved it. Conservatives are so desperate to cling to power as they face down demographic extinction that how they win doesn’t matter a bit — all that matters is that they win. Wendy Davis tried to stop them but couldn’t, not tonight anyway. But make no mistake: This is the loss that should inspire the eventual victory for the forces of progress in this country. This night should galvanize us and be remembered going forward, carried like a banner and shouted as a rallying cry across the land. What is it Texans always say about remembering the Alamo?

Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.