In the political world there are two definitions for the term filibuster. The most common understanding concerns talking bills to death in the Senate, and the other is an unsanctioned invasion of a country to take it over. What both meanings share is a determination to wear out the opposition until the matter is settled. A siege of sorts—never giving up.
Famous uses of the filibuster include Andrew Jackson’s 1818 foray into Spanish Florida. Playing a little loose with his orders, Jackson entered the poorly defended territory, claiming to hunt down runaway slaves, and thump the Seminoles who provided sanctuary.
This extra legal foray caused an international incident. An American general, invading a weaker target, under questionable authority. In the end, this filibuster paid off. Washington informed Madrid they supported Jackson’s invasion and the US took control of the peninsula from Spain. Done and done.
The moral to this filibuster story is—never blink, never give up, never excuse.
In 1957, and in 1964, Southern Democrats, made use of the filibuster to talk Civil Rights legislation to death. In the ’57 debate South Carolina Senator, Strom Thurmond nattered on for 24 hours, and 18 minutes, still a standing record. And again in 1964, with Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, who droned on for 14 hours and 13 minutes. Despite obstructionist resolve, both bills did squeak through with assistance of compromising northern Republicans.
What America is facing at his very moment is a Trump-style filibuster, containing both meanings. His insufferable, boorish delaying tactics, unblinking lies, and frivolous lawsuits have characterized this nincompoop’s newest version. He is certain he can hold out against America.
And I am tired— we all are tired, sometimes to the point of despair. But, friends this struggle against malignant arrogance, greed, and hate is a filibuster we cannot lose. Not only for a place called America, but for the enlightened spirit of our country. Our legal traditions must be protected from this fallible, flawed, would-be autocrat.
Trump has filibustered his whole life for something he’s never found nor earned—blind adoration. And that doesn’t meet our traditions or expectations for elected leaders. They work for us. In a real sense our country has suffered an unauthorized invasion of our government, a hostile take over, and the man’s filibuster continues, unabated.
Poet, Langston Hughes speaks to our moment in a portion of his 1922 poem, Mother To Son.
“So boy, don’t you turn back;
Don’t you sit down on the steps,
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard;
Don’t you fall now—
And Hughes is right. We can not fall. We must stay vigilant and wait this immediate threat out.
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir, “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight.”