Last night demonstrated an interesting phenomenon. Public outrage against even something as immediately important as the denial of civil rights is directly proportional to the legality of the procedures involved. Generally speaking.
When the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on Tuesday morning, you could see that people were upset, but they were also thoughtful, saddened, and busy with considering the impact of the decision itself.
When Texas’ lieutenant governor claimed that a vote had taken place before midnight when more than 150,000 viewers on YouTube knew better, the internet exploded.
It wasn’t the abortion restrictions that infuriated people long into the wee hours. We have laws in this country right now that make life undeniably difficult for people to claim their constitutional right to make their own health-care choices. North Dakota has banned abortions at the six-week line, for God’s sake, and that state has been accused of trying to close its one abortion clinic. The internet isn’t threatening to clamor its way to North Dakota to tear down the patriarchy.
But very, very early this morning, a good chunk of people who were still awake after midnight wanted to burn Texas to the ground.
We can play spot-the-differences between the two pictures. Texas had a hero in Wendy Davis, and then a sharp spokesperson in Leticia Van De Putte. “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” was the demand for an explanation that pushed an already jumpy gallery into action.
All this activity meant more people watched things as they occurred, rather than reading about it the next day.
There was also no lie that we know of to shove a vote through in North Dakota, complete with falsified timestamps.
All these elements in Texas boiled together to create a furious public that demanded justice. I believe that the main issue was the clearly irregular procedure. If there were no question that Davis’ filibuster had been suspended honestly, that Van De Putte had been properly briefed as she requested, that the vote had been legally carried out, and that there had been no shenanigans after midnight, it is entirely possible that almost everyone would have already moved on from this thing. Oh, we would have been upset. Just as we were when we heard about the decision on the Voting Rights Act.
But we wouldn’t have thrown a virtual riot. Just as we didn’t when we heard about the decision on the Voting Rights Act.
My point in all this: People are not politically apathetic when they settle on grumbling over the changes to the VRA, nor are they merely acting in their own self interest when they do get angry, as they did last night. Public outrage is directly proportional to the legality of the procedures involved.