West Wing fans are no stranger to the peculiar political term filibuster. Originally a meaning close to pirate, mercenary or rebel, it’s an attention-grabbing, floor-stealing, talk-a-thon stalling tactic meant to delay Congressional proceedings until some demand has been met or attention drawn to an issue. So this week when 26 Democrats held a “sit-in”, they were using the rules of bureaucracy to basically stage a protest about guns. Granted it wasn’t technically a filibuster, and the selfies, live streaming, fluffy pillows and Dunkin’ Donuts lent it a pajama party feel. But it eventually it ended and while it seemed like nothing had been achieved, like all good political stunts there were both winners and losers.
25 hours later the sit-in didn’t result in any new gun control measures but gun control advocates and liberals were able to show that the issue is still one that defines and energizes the liberal agenda, and particularly in the context of recent mass shootings, will continue to do so for this election. Plus those few dozen Democratic members who participated get to look like heroes to their constituencies, and they made sure those at home were watching thanks to social media.
One loser included presidential candidate Donald Trump, who made a speech attacking Hillary Clinton in a bid to spin that day’s media cycle but was (finally!) trumped by the other side who hijacked the airwaves. The other loser is the system itself, which ground to a halt thanks to the actions of a few. Of course this is not the first sit-in to occur in American politics, but it’s troubling that it’s more recently been used to put forward one side’s agenda at the expense of the country, rather than trying to meet in the middle. As CJ Cregg said, “I’m all for bipartisanship as long as we get the credit”. After all, as the Democrats proved this week, there’s no point in taking extraordinary action unless everyone knows about it.
Wondering how far people go for a protest? Movie for your mood: Mr Smith Goes to Washington