Republican dominance in Texas is no longer assured. Last week we saw the representatives of a previously dominant party morph into poisonous vestigial organs. The abortion bills which couldn’t pass the two-thirds test during the regular session were presented again during a “special session” when bills only need a majority vote. Thanks to the cunning and hardworking efforts of our Democratic delegation, Planned Parenthood, and other key interest groups, a hearing on Thursday was packed, and history was made when SB5 never reached a vote on Tuesday night (although a shot clock replay went on for hours).
The story of how the “peanut gallery” spontaneously erupted close to midnight on June 25 is a microcosm of the napping giant that is about to shove out the Grand Old Party. As the days unfolded, we watched the House consideration of the bills, waiting patiently as House Democrats stalled with various tactics. We sat in silence, holding our seats while the House adjourned due to countless efforts by House Democrats to postpone.
We were respectfully silent (since they told us that even the OWS “jazz hands” were a violation of the rules of decorum) as self-serving Republicans pretended that they cared about women’s health, while actually just taking a stand which they could sell in their upcoming re-election — as chronicled by @JFarrarDist148 in a tremendous Personal Privilege speech. We were perplexed and horrified as Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R) linked rape kits to abortion procedures. Because the House Democrats’ parliamentary maneuvers were so skillful, they were able to shorten the time necessary for the brilliant filibuster by @WendyDavisTexas. The gallery observers exploded during the final 15 minutes when Sen. Leticia Van De Putte (D) @leticiavdp politely asked why her requests were ignored. Her question was the symbol of all our frustrations, and we couldn’t take it anymore.
For those of us witnessing the constant barrage of attempts to curb abortion in Texas (and other states), it has been a stark wake-up call. We have been tending to our other interests, while allowing these people to sieze what isn’t theirs. Nobody OWNS me, or my state. They have to earn it each election cycle by representing our interests honestly. I’ve been a Democratic precinct chair for years, but have never felt the need to bang on doors as much as I do right now.
I remember when Texas was a one-party state under the Democrats, and John Tower stood alone in the Republican leadership. I was teaching a community college class in Austin on Texas government and assigned each student the task of volunteering with one of the parties during the gubernatorial campaign (1978 Hill-D v. Clements-R). The students who chose the Democratic party were ignored, while those who visited the Republican offices were met with open arms.
As for that “wedge issue” under debate — it’s not just “All Politics is Local” as former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill proclaimed. Politics is now personal, at least for those of us storming the Capitol now. I hope that the Republicans who have been using women’s bodies as their battleground understand that when you pick an issue, it’s not a good idea to take on people who like to vote AND have long memories.
Andy Schmookler’s Like The Dew article last week “Manifest GOP Insincerity about Abortion” also put the issue in perspective — the needs of LIVING citizens in this world, nation and state which merit attention are being ignored by the sanctimonious bellows of those championing the rights of unformed cells.
As Texas opens another special session Monday, I fully expect the Republicans to be talking until they’re blue in the face, which unfortunately for them, will probably mirror the color of the results in the next election.