The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
Alert Readers (ARs) know by now that this column can at times be somewhat peripatetic. While I always start off with the best intentions of staying focused, I often find myself wandering from topic to topic, confusing both the ARs and myself along the way. I also tend to repeat myself, albeit not in the same column, but I must confess to occasionally revisiting familiar themes from previous columns.
One such familiar theme is the Beer Drinkers Party (BDP). Throughout several election cycles I’ve been talking about starting it, but still haven’t gotten around to getting it off the ground. Apart from my proclivity for procrastination, the main reason I haven’t done anything about starting a BDP is money. I abhor both the techniques used by the major parties to raise money (such as annoying robo-calls) and the ways they spend the money they raise (more annoying robo-calls and libelous ads on TV and radio). I would also note that in a time of governmental stalemate one of the few legislative priorities on which politicians from the two robo-call parties (RCPs) can agree is exempting themselves from no-call laws that apply to everyone else.
Raising enough money to elect candidates from the BDP would only be the first step. The next challenge would be getting anything done. All branches of government at every level (federal, state and local) are currently dominated by the RCPs, whose shared stranglehold on the political system isn’t likely to loosen any time in the foreseeable future. Elected officials from the BDP would never constitute more than a tiny minority in a system controlled by the RCP duopoly.
For over two thousand years one of the more effective tools available to members of minority parties has been the filibuster, essentially a way for determined individuals to thwart the will of the majority. As early as 60 BC Cato the Younger was giving long-winded speeches to prevent the Roman Senate from voting on legislation pushed by Julius Caesar. Nineteen hundred years later, in 1837, the first filibuster occurred in the United States Senate. In the 20th century filibusters became a favored tactic of opponents of civil rights legislation. In 1957 Strom Thurmond (who was both a bigot and a prohibitionist) set a record with a filibuster of 24 hours and 18 minutes. Seven years later Robert Byrd (another prohibitionist and a former Klansman) fought the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with a personal filibuster of 14 hours and 13 minutes. Last month the Senate considered curtailing the right to filibuster, but ultimately decided to preserve this time-honored tradition.
However useful filibusters might be for most politicians who find themselves outnumbered, they would pose a particular problem for members of the BDP: What about bathroom breaks? Strom Thurmond purportedly relieved himself in a bucket in the Senate cloakroom while keeping one foot on the Senate floor. In 2001 St. Louis Alderman Irene Smith made the national news when she needed to answer nature’s call in the course of her filibuster of a redistricting bill she didn’t like. Her performance (which inspired me to write a song for the Courthouse Steps titled “Hand her the Can” to the tune of “Stand by your Man”) was captured on video and may have served as a cautionary tale for Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, who reportedly had herself fitted with a catheter before embarking on her recent 11-hour filibuster of a bill restricting abortions.
The point is, whatever problems calls of nature pose for most politicians, these problems would be magnified in the case of beer drinkers. It’s easy to imagine legislators from the BDP talking ad nauseam. That part of filibustering would be easy. But, talking for hours on end without frequent bathroom breaks would be a completely different story. One need only look at the lines outside porta-potties at a beer festival to understand the magnitude of the problem.
In Texas legislators from the BDB wanting to stage a filibuster would face an additional challenge even bigger than controlling their bladders….controlling their conversations. The rules of the Texas Senate require that all speeches be “germane” to the topic at hand. As I noted at the outset, I sometimes have trouble staying on topic. I couldn’t do a filibuster for five minutes, much less all day.