Twitter In The Last 24 Hours: “Representative” Democracy, Wendy Davis, and How I Got to Ask Nancy Pelosi A Question

There have been a lot of interesting things on the internet in the last 24 hours. First I watched on Twitter somewhat passively as State Senator Wendy Davis of Texas filibustered a bill that would have closed most abortion clinics in the state. For over twelve hours.

As she got closer and closer to the deadline (Midnight CDT), Twitter got crazier and crazier. Well over 150,000 people tuned in online to the livestream of the Texas legislature, as the chair forced Senator Davis to stop her filibuster. That’s when several other state senators took up the cause of extending the special session until midnight, thus preventing an admissible vote on SB5. I was watching with those 150,000 when this happened:

That’s Leticia Van de Putte, another female senator who had missed the start of the filibuster due to being at her own father’s funeral all day. The cheers that erupted from the gallery at that remark lasted for over fifteen minutes by most estimates, and prevented order from being established in the room. The stalling tactics worked, and SB5 was voted on only after the midnight deadline had passed. It is invalid. I didn’t know this when I went to sleep, because it was still unclear.

Without Twitter, I and 150,000 others would not have even know that this was happening. The sheer numbers of protestors inside the Capitol would not have been there. The collective will of those of us watching and cheering from home would not have materialised. It was magical, like participating in a movie.

I finally went to sleep around 1AM Colorado time after winding down from the excitement of seeing history happen live, and commenting on it in real time. I awoke and rushed out the door to catch the bus, late as usual. It was only once I reached the stop out of breath that I was able to glance again at Twitter. The first thing I saw was the announcement that the Supreme Court had struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (and thereby Proposition 8 in California)!

The celebration today on Twitter has been like nothing else I’ve seen on the site. Overwhelmingly, people from around the USA and indeed around the world are still posting happy messages nearly twelve hours later with no sign of stopping. I feel a part of the celebration because I am able to access it all in one place, at one time. My Facebook has been relatively quiet today, but I’ve been able to revel the victory with total strangers via Twitter. That’s a bit strange, but also feels like community.

This was not always the case. In 2003 when the SCOTUS struck down an antediluvian sodomy law in the Lawrence vs. Texas case, there was no Twitter. I vaguely remember hearing about the case on the news, but I didn’t have a way to discuss it. With anyone. I was in high school, and the only public discussion forum I used was Xanga (oh yeah, old school). None of my friends knew about the case and we were all busy airing our teenaged angst anyway. I don’t remember that case as a landmark moment.

I think that I will remember the last 24 hours as a day, even if it is only one day, where some of my faith in the democratic process in the US was strengthened. My confidence in the political system is the lowest it has ever been thanks to Obama’s political descent into policies that make George W. Bush’s administration look like Hope and Change, the apparent ignorance of those “representing” us, and the fact that my own county clerk’s office couldn’t get their shit together the allow my 2012 vote to count. But any small amount of confidence and pride in the democratic process is welcome at this point.

And then today, something else that would never have been possible without Twitter. I got to ask a question and have it answered in public by former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

The fact that she answered my question directly touched off something of a Twitterstorm on my feed this afternoon, with 30 replies from people on all sides of the issue of student loans and more than a few exercises in online miscommunication. Given that I am already in the process of taking out loans for graduate school, this issue is close to my heart and will almost certainly affect me directly. When else and where else would I be able to directly ask Rep. Pelosi a question and even hope to get a response?I live 1700 miles from Washington, D.C. I am a lowly summer intern at a university. I’m not a professional journalist. I’m not even really an activist these days. But I got through, and had a healthy debate about the response through Twitter.

It sounds a bit hackneyed, but I am better informed this afternoon than I was when I logged onto Twitter yesterday morning. No, they are not paying me to write this (although if they wanted to throw some free stuff my way, that would be cool, too). I’m so happy to be living in a time when this kind of multi-level, national, instant communication and debate is possible.

Update: While writing this, Twitter updated me further on the situation in Texas. It appears that those people you hear cheering for fifteen minutes straight weren’t loud enough for Gov. Rick Perry to hear. He’s called a *second* special session to try to force that same bill through on next Monday. I’ll be watching, Texas! To Twitter!

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