Good thing we’ve still got politics in Texas — finest form of free entertainment ever invented.
— Molly Ivins
The last time I witnessed a countdown to zero that meant anything to me was when I was a child, watching as the Apollo rocket to the Moon was launched. It felt then like I was watching the buzzer sounding the beginning of the future.
It took over 40 years, but last night while watching the live blogging on a Daily Kos thread that witnessed the proceedings in Texas, I finally experienced a countdown just as riveting, with personal implications for all our futures: Texas state senator Wendy Davis’ heroic 13-hour filibuster that ultimately tabled approval of an onerous anti-abortion bill, Texas Senate Bill 5 (or SB5).
If Davis’ filibuster had failed and the vote took place before midnight CST, our counting to zero would have been a launch to the past. Davis’ filibuster had to hold the floor of the legislature’s chambers to prevent the senate from voting on the 25th of June, the last day of a special session called for this senate bill to be approved. If the bill was approved and signed into law — a certainty given the Republican majority in the Texas state legislature, Texas would have closed almost every abortion clinic in the state.
SB5’s primary provision was that abortions would only be performed at surgical centers. This meant that only five of Texas’ 42 abortion clinics would have been designated to remain in operation. A woman living along the Mexico border or in western Texas would have to drive hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion if the law had passed.
According to Texas senate filibuster rules, Davis had to stand the whole time she spoke, forbidden to take bathroom breaks or lean on anything to support her physically. By 10 pm CST, she already had two strikes against her procedurally according to the legislature’s filibuster rules and a disputed third. After three strikes, her filibuster would have had to end.
It was then that she got the support of her colleagues, fellow Texas senate Democrats, some of whom were members of the infamous Texas 11. These are the same senators whose delaying tactics in 2003 included hiding out in Oklahoma to prevent a quorum and therefore the passage of a state redistricting plan that would have disenfranchised largely Hispanic congressional districts, thus favoring the Republicans. These were state politicians who knew the rules about quorums and parliamentary procedures enough to maneuver them for their purposes.
At roughly ten minutes to midnight, it appeared time was up on the Democrats’ procedural challenges that had allowed Davis to remain on the floor and delay the vote past midnight. It was then that the people sitting in the audience above the chambers would not have it. A spontaneous demonstration of jeering the chair of the legislature broke out, calling “Bullshit” on the call to end the challenges and to commence the vote, and chanting “Wendy-Wendy,” making it impossible to hear the call to order, let alone conduct a vote, or clear the chambers of the audience.
Yet, two minutes past midnight, the chairman called a vote. Though there was no way an audible vote could be heard, he declared that SB5 had passed. It took the Senate Democrats with their iPhones on satellite time to counter that the vote happened past midnight. The Republicans tried everything they could, even setting the clocks back, to try and ram the bill through. But as of the early morning hours of June 26, the Republicans conceded. SB5 was dead. At least for today.
I digress from my usual Fe-911 op-eds and general musings to make this report because this is not just a news story. It’s a road map for the next few years. From Turkey, Bulgaria, Brazil, Cambodia and now Austin, Texas, Uranus square Pluto is erupting in cities around the world, and the USA wake-up call is getting louder. Whether it is for the SCOTUS striking down the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, NSA tapping into your privacy, or politicians telling you what you can and cannot do with your vagina, now is as good a time as any to ride the global waters of this astrological signature.
Movements are afoot not only to dismantle the New Deal but also the Great Society with the Civil Rights Movement, and the Woman’s Movement, inch by inch. It should give us pause that Rep. John Lewis, a survivor of the violent police push back against civil disobedience for voting rights in the 1960s, is alive to witness as Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and John Roberts strike down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act — an act he put his life on the line for.
Had it not been for the success of Wendy Davis’ heroic stand, the last minutes of yesterday’s Mercury shadow period before stationing retrograde would have been the tragic beginning of a long and terrible slide backwards. Just because Uranus in Aries (the sign of ME) is squaring up against Pluto in Capricorn (the sign of big intrusive government and business) doesn’t mean that the big guys are always going to win. I hope with these planets it really means that the battle lines are sharp, crisp and clear.
Indifference is not an option. We cannot tolerate it, cope with it or allow it to happen within ourselves any longer. The big overreach is everywhere, from both sides of the aisle, and from within the public and private sectors. If we ignore it or distance ourselves from it because it may not matter to us, we do so at our collective peril. It does matter to us, to others and to the rest of the world. Equal opportunity and equal rights. Our individual privacy. Who makes decisions on what my uterus is for? What of these things would you feel indifferent about? Would you care if this was denied to someone else?
Last night in Austin felt like that rocket launch of Apollo 11 — the first ship that landed on the Moon in 1969. We watched the machinery of democracy at work where it must, and it was relentless, exhilarating and as creative as our friends in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. It was heart opening. But this cannot be the exception. It better not be.
We need to continue. The forces we are up against have the time, the lawyers, the politicians, the guns and the money with no less than Jesus on their side. Or so they say. This time we need to be the rocket. We need to break free of the moorings, because the countdown is beginning and the forces we fight are pushing hard: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2…It’s time to push back. Push. Push. PUSH.