Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Late Night Democracy

Several year ago the first US gay marriages were state sanctioned. I was in college, and the Cambridge City Hall opened at midnight to grant the first same-sex couples marriage licenses. I was about 45 minutes away and let some stupid paper due the next day dissuade me from making the trip. That night may prove to be the most important civil rights landmark moment of my lifetime and i missed it.

now the democrats have gotten serious about the Iraq war debate. Harry Reid called a very rare round-the-clock session including votes all night long. He ordered cots for senators to sleep in and speeches will continue on the Levin-Reed Redeployment Bill for quite some time. Sensing that this could be the turning point, I was sure not to miss it. Following a potluck I went by Val's place to pick up some gallery passes. At ten to ten, Evin and I set of biking for the Capitol Building. A pleasant 4ish mile ride later we arrived. After much security processing we were in the senate gallery to watch the debate. We arrived just in time for Joe Lieberman, the Benedict Arnold of peace. Hard as it was to sit politely through his remarks that is a large part of what democracy hinges on, so out of respect for the Republic I held my tongue.

There is something awesome, literally awesome about the Senate Gallery. Though the space is truly grand what makes it awe-inspiring knowing that this was the room where the civil rights acts were passed, where clean air and water legislation was voted, where wars were declared, and peace treaties ratified. this was the room where most of the major decisions of the Modern (and now contemporary) world were made and without paying a dime, I was able to sit and watch the deliberations concerning the most important single issue of our day. As a citizen, watching people i had worked on behalf of, given money to, and sent letters take positions and hearing their reasoning struck me as the pinnacle of representative democracy.

The best line of the deliberations was when a Dem Senator, Lautenberg maybe, was discussing the link between Iraq and Al Queda. He remembered the solemn resolve we had on 9/11 and the betrayal of our trust the president created when he opened the Iraqi front. The Senator compared it to if FDR, after getting news of Pearl Harbor, had attacked China. Sherrod Brown also had a poignant line, "with every vote that is lost, lives are lost". I thought he summed up the costs of stubborn ego/politics-driven obstructionism quite succinctly and with the appropriate moral weight.

Evin and I stayed past midnight. We saw Collins, Lieberman, Sherrod Brown, and another one i can't remember maybe Mikulski. Then there was a quorum call just after midnight followed by a vote of some sort, cloture perhaps. Senators streamed in including the leading pair of Presidential hopefuls Clinton and Obama. HCR was stouter than i she seems on TV and Obama a good bit taller than i thought. He kept backslapping Leahy and touching him in a warm reinforcing kind of way. It was so exciting to see Bernie Sanders vote in the Senate and quite hartening to not hear santorum's name called. All in all the excursion was highly worthwhile and I hope to do it again, though possibly leave before midnight and arrive home before 1am.

Update: later this week i'll add a link to DC's premiere political limerick writer. for now here is one of mine related to the above post.

Senators stayed up all night,
To discuss all the troops and their fight,
should they come home,
or continue to roam,
putting grown men on cots just ain't right.


At 7/18/2007 , Blogger BZ said...

Why are those obstructionist Democrats filibustering again?

At 7/18/2007 , Blogger Eli said...

Ah, I wish I could have been there.

As stubborn as Joe Leiberman was last night at the Capitol, he was worse on, at which - to the bewilderment of my roommates - I sat weeping.

Or maybe just muttering. But you get the point.


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