I only joined Twitter recently, and under duress from people who said I was an idiot and a bad reporter without it. The week I joined, the Boston bombing and ensuing manhunt happened, and I spent a long, creepy night glued to my computer screen “watching” the manhunt unfold across a million feeds. It was weird and it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t think I’d learned anything I couldn’t have learned in the morning, from reputable news sources, and I did learn a few things that turned out to be totally worthless—even harmful. I thought this obsessive Twitter life was pretty bullshit.
But I kept trying, and last night, when I got home late and checked Twitter, I saw the #standwithwendy hashtag blowing up. I had forgotten all about Texas senator Wendy Davis’s filibuster of a bill to restrict abortion access, and so I hopped on the live feed. Holy shit, was that the right choice. I couldn’t suck my eyeballs away long enough to get another beer, or to make dinner, or to do anything. I just sat on the couch, willing the good guys to keep going.
If you weren’t watching last night and have just caught up by reading news stories this morning, here’s how it all went down: After about 11 hours of nonstop, on-topic speaking about the bill, without resting, leaning, eating, or drinking, Senator Davis was interrupted and silenced by Republicans on a bullshit claim that she’d gone off topic. This ending of the filibuster didn’t seem to play by the rules—it should’ve been voted on by the senate body—and other Democratic senators (who are in the minority in the Texas legislature, duh) picked up where Davis left off, repeatedly stalling the vote. “Parliamentary inquiry,” they’d begin, then they’d ask long procedural questions or read paragraphs directly from the senate rulebook. With about 15 minutes to go, Senator Leticia Van De Putte, who had come to the senate floor from her father’s funeral, asked, after a motion of hers was ignored for a colleague’s, “Did the President hear me or did the President hear me and refuse to recognize me?” Then: “Parliamentary inquiry… At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?” (Video of her question is here.) At that, the gallery erupted in cheers and applause, which grew into chants, which then became its own sort of cheer-filibuster, as the noise of the crowd was loud enough to drown out the roll call that would surely pass the bill.
The president of the senate repeatedly asked for order; the audience refused to shut up. And they ran out the clock like that, screaming and clapping and shouting “Wendy! Wendy! Wendy!” Just after midnight, the Republicans tried to vote on the bill and claim it had passed; after hours of consideration, it was decided that the vote was clearly not valid. A couple of news outlets reported the bill passed, including the AP (booooo, you guys); the Twitter feeds of local reporters maintained that no one was yet sure.
And I fell in love with this whole stupid Twitter thing. I tried not to! I tried to stay in hate or dislike with it. But TV wasn’t covering this amazing thing, the internet was, and following the feeds of journalists who were in the room and people whose video or audio didn’t cut out when mine did, and reading the jokes (the jokes! They were so excellent) made the lonely couch-sitting experience into a big party, with some of my best friends, my coworkers, and a ton of complete strangers. It was like every super-important sports game ever mixed with the best episodes of The West Wing mashed together, except it really mattered.
Shit, that was a good party to be at. I laughed, I cried, I screamed at the screen, I cursed. And the good guys won! For just a minute! Who knows what happens next—another special session to vote on this bill, another attempt to roll back our rights. But for an evening, it felt shockingly victorious to watch, even before we knew who’d really won, because the attempt itself was so valiant, so hard-fought. I’d never loved government more… until this morning, when I found I could love it more.