The fine art of the filibuster
With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg I decided to review the process of what happens next. I remember many of the procedures, mainly the president nominating and the senate voting.
But I have been trying to understand every part of it.
So I’ve done some research. There are all of these terms – majority, super majority, nuclear options.
They do not mean “nuclear option” literally, of course.
At least I don't think so. I didn't click down that path and probably should have.
Anyway, I got to reading about the filibuster. It’s a tactic in which they talk about an issue so much they delay its official decision as long as possible. It's meant as a power play, in which time, the clock, and speaking-about-anything is weaponized. Historically, they've filled some filibuster attempts with such things as reading from phone books.
You'd think at some point someone would disallow that.
The reading of a phone book into the official record.
On occasion, the ones hoping to vote on something have successfully stopped a filibuster, but it took so long, it's almost as if the endless filibuster was preferred to the staggering effort of bringing one to an end.
What a strange concept.
Surely we have to allow some form of debate, not just move on and vote. Then again, I've spoken to many people on the subject of voting and most don't seem to put thought into it at all. I get that, in explaining a subject, some people aren't very good at staying on topic, or they are indeed going somewhere with their line of thinking but it takes a while. The argument becomes abstract.
I myself find I can do that. I get metaphorical and seems as if I’ve gone off subject.
That said, there could be some kind of interpretation needed. This is a metaphor, that was literal, this is still on topic, that actually wasn’t, but yes, in case you didn’t know, this is a filibuster.
Like the difference between art and pornography, you know it when you see it, don’t you? When you get to the point of reading a phone book, isn't it obvious? That's blatant stalling. But how do you actually identify a filibuster versus some who has a lot to say and cannot say it in a concise way? It took J.R.R. Tolkein three books to tell his “Lord of the Rings” story. He did indeed have a lot to say.
Most of that book, of course, is people going on a long journey.
They do at one point stop and debate what to do with the ring, but that doesn't take up all three books, it's just a small portion. While J.R.R. Tolkein had a lot to say, he didn't always have his characters act the same way. Some, in communicating, are brief and to the point. I think most people agree he was a great writer. Even still, I don't think he'd work in the current world, what with twitter and a limit of 140 characters.
That would not have been his medium.
I get it.
Not every can get right to their point and stay on topic. We know that merely listing a lot of information is not part of a real debate. No one digests information that way. It's the worst way to retain something in your memory, just listening to a list.
I wonder if those words are somehow connected, etymology.
Anyway, what's in that gray area between concise argument and filibustering? We need to have room and acceptance for people that have a longer way of speaking. Still, is there no room for art in these debates? Andy Kaufman would get on stage and read from “The Great Gatsby.” It was meant to be humorous in a “meta” way.
Is that something that we should give an ear to during these debates?
Should we look for the appearance of art? Or humor?
Strom Thurmond once spoke for 24 hours during a filibuster. It was 1957, and he was attempting to delay the passage of the Civil Rights Act. He spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes, the longest filibuster ever recorded by one single politician.
That's certainly notable. But is it admirable?
I don't think there is any level of bravery involved in pulling such a thing off. The human body is very capable of going and going like a bunny with a battery in its back if you push yourself. It certainly does show commitment. I'm sure some people would disagree, but when you're faced with something you believe in, you don’t easily give up.
So Strom Thurmond didn’t give up. That's how racist he was.
Sometimes I try to wrap my head around the ways we take in information now. There are all kinds of ways to educate ourselves. People do indeed listen to speeches, but those speeches tend to hover around a certain length. People also read tweets. There are documentaries that are multi-parts and are hours long and then there are headlines. What's really the best way for someone to get a point across? I guess it would depend on the point in question.