Week In News: The Filibuster To Watch (Online)

This past week, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis became the talk of Twitter with her 10-plus-hour filibuster over new abortion restrictions. But the major news networks failed to cover the event with live video. Host Jacki Lyden speaks with James Fallows, national correspondent with The Atlantic, about how this event brings new importance to web video over traditional TV news coverage.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED form NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Coming up, the films Alfred Hitchcock directed before the talkies. But first...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STATE SENATOR WENDY DAVIS: Senate Bill 5 would prohibit an abortion past 20 weeks of gestation, and that gestational age itself, there's some argument about the way...

LYDEN: Texas State Senator Wendy Davis from her 10-plus-hour filibuster this past week.

James Fallows of The Atlantic joins us, as he does most Saturdays, today from the site of the Aspen Ideas Festival. Hi there, Jim.

JAMES FALLOWS: Hello, Jacki. Nice to talk to you.

LYDEN: Wendy Davis' filibuster, Jim, provided at least a temporary delay to the Texas bill that would restrict abortions in that state. It was followed so heavily on social media. You don't see these standing filibusters much anymore, do you?

FALLOWS: No, you don't. I thought there were two things that were very interesting about this episode. One was it's the first event I can think of that really bypassed TV as a user participation event. It was live streamed by The Texas Tribune. It was on Twitter, et cetera, but didn't seem to be on the cable TV networks.

The other is this is a reminder of what a filibuster is supposed to be. We've gotten so used to these sort of painless filibusters or filibuster threats that the Senate minorities used over the last six or seven years to hold up almost everything that we've forgotten there is a legitimate role for somebody who's willing to go to the mat to stand on his or her feet for 11-plus hours. And that's what State Senator Davis was doing.

LYDEN: Yeah. Now, Jim, as you know, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed an immigration bill this week. And it looks like fat lot of good that'll do them in the House because, as you know, Speaker John Boehner has already pledged to come up with the House's own version rather than take up the Senate's bill. What do you think of the prospects there?

FALLOWS: I think that it's important for the Senate, which has been so narrowly divided for the last couple of years, to have at least some degree of bipartisan comity on this one. And it's quite a remarkable moment for the Republican Party. A number of its own leaders, you know, for example, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, had been saying that if the Republicans can't find a way to change their position on immigration and make themselves more appealing to minorities, especially Latinos, they're just going to be in a death spiral electorally.

And it does seem so far that the House of Representatives, the Republican majority there doesn't seem to care about that. So we'll see this next stage, forced ramifications, substantively and politically for the immigration topic.

LYDEN: Jim, as I mentioned, you're in Colorado right now attending the Aspen Ideas Festival. And I understand that in your opening speech, you said that one of the most useful things we can do for American politics right now would be to study the original gilded age up through World War I. What exactly would that teach us?

FALLOWS: It was the time in our history - our current history - that most resembles the strains we're going through now where you had a globalization changing people's ways of making a living. You had rapid industrialization. You had immigration at a faster pace than now. You had corruption, you had political partisanship, you had almost anything we're concerned about now. And the interesting thing about that first gilded age is that by the end, it produced a lot of quite positive results.

You had the Populist Movement representing farmers. You had the Progressive Movement trying to find ways to tame raw capitalism. You had W. E. B. Du Bois with his leadership of African-Americans. You had Susan B. Anthony and her colleagues. You had all sorts of people thinking about how America could respond and become stronger in response to turmoil like what we're going through now. So we would do well to have a list of similar leaders when people look back on us.

LYDEN: James Fallows is national correspondent with The Atlantic. And you can read his blog at jamesfallows.theatlantic.com. Jim, enjoy Aspen, and thank you.

FALLOWS: Thank you, Jacki.

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