Let’s be clear here. Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down Texas’ onerous abortion restriction law was a major victory for the politics — not the tactics — of the obnoxious protesters who screamed the Texas Senate into temporary shutdown three years ago.
In a ruling that agreed with the protesters’ protestations that the law went way too far, the high court threw out the statute that effectively closed some Texas abortion clinics by setting standards they could not meet.
But we err if we in any way view this as vindication or justification for the childish protest mounted by folks who didn’t seem to understand how our system works.
Those with the most votes win — at least temporarily — no matter how loud or long you yell to try to prevent the votes from being cast. Absolutely having the votes, of course, does not mean absolute power. A Constitution prevails and courts interpret the Constitution. That’s what happened Monday in the proper process — as opposed to the 2013 Senate gallery protest — available to those who believe they are aggrieved, even if they are in the minority.
I believed in 2013 that the Senate gallery protest was a low point in my more than 35 years of watching the Texas Legislature. The protesters were way out of line, then-GOP Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst screwed up in letting it get out of hand and Democratic senators on the floor acted unconscionably in waving their arms to further rouse the rabble in the gallery.
And the screamers, it turned out, couldn’t have been more wrong in predicting their nonsense would be s a landmark turning point that would change the course of Texas political history.
Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, the performer of a vote-stalling filibuster — silly stunts of endurance not equally available to all senators — used the attention to launch her 2014 gubernatorial campaign amid Democratic optimism unseen in Texas in many years.
She, of course, wound up losing to Republican Greg Abbott by a wider margin than Democrat Bill White lost to Republican Rick Perry four years earlier. So much for Democratic optimism.
Anybody have a possible 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee with a chance of winning?
I thought about that terrible night for representative democracy in Texas when Democrats in the U.S House sought to stand up for gun control by sitting down on the chamber floor last week. So moving. So unprecedented. And, like the 2013 filibuster in the Texas Senate, so silly and nonproductive.
Like the Texas Senate Democrats, the Democrats in the U.S. House didn’t have the votes to get what they wanted. You can’t always get what you want. In fact, when you don’t have the votes, you pretty much never can. And you shouldn’t, save for — as in the important Texas abortion case — when the courts rule the majority out of line.
Lawyers and reasoned argument — not screamers and unreasonable demands — are the minority’s best weapon. It doesn’t guarantee victory, but it does skip over the screaming embarrassment of fruitless protest.
So let’s be clear. The protesters were right that the Texas abortion law was wrong. And they were right in predicting it would not withstand court scrutiny. But they remain wrong in interfering with the legislative process.
That process — the very heart of how we make law — must always remain more important than anything it produces.