Amid the craze of the government shutdown fueled by heated debate inside our federal government, one almost unbelievable phenomenon was the 21-hour filibuster by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
For those needing a U.S. history reminder, a filibuster is essentially when an elected official prevents anyone in his legislative body from voting by refusing to end the debate, usually, by hogging the floor talking. It’s an age-old tactic in the politician’s playbook, dating all the way back to Ancient Rome, where Roman Senator Cato the Young would give long, drawn-out speeches until nightfall to foil the political maneuvers of Julius Caesar.
This strategy still thrives in today’s political landscape, and it’s gotten no less extreme. While Cruz’s 21-hour speech may seem unfathomable, there have been several other extreme examples in modern politics. But how do these politicians prepare for these dauntingly long presentations? Here’re a few famously employed tactics that have allowed politicians to remain at the podium long after hours.
Not to be crude, but to address many of us have probably wondered: How do these politicians not run off to the restroom after all these hours at the podium?
There’s actually been a lot of unanswered questions surrounding this mystery, perhaps because it’s one we might not want the answer to.
Texas State Senator Wendy Davis reportedly donned a catheter during her 11-hour filibuster of an abortion bill earlier this year. The 50-year-old democrat also wore pink running shoes and a back brace to remain standing and speaking to block this legislation, a move that was apparently effective, resulting in the bill failing.
The longest filibuster by a lone senator occurred in 1957, when Strom Thurmond of North Carolina spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes, from 8:54 p.m. on August 28, 1957 and did not stop until 9:12 p.m. on the 29th, in an attempt to prevent the Civil Rights Act of 1957 from passing. In order to prepare for this insanely long speaking engagement, Thurmond took steam baths up until the day of his speech in order to dehydrate himself, “ridding himself of any access liquid.” While speaking, other senators purposefully asked lengthy questions in order for Thurmond to quickly take a break and gobble down a sandwich in the cloakroom before running back to the stage.
21 hours of things to say
I don’t care how good of a speaker you are, even my chattiest acquaintances would have trouble finding things to talk about for half that time. While Senator Cruz spoke primarily about the Affordable Care Act, A.K.A. Obamacare, he made a few off-color references in order to keep his train of thought going, bringing in Darth Vader and even reciting the famous Dr. Seuss children’s book, “Green Eggs and Ham.”
My personal favorite filibuster?
Well, it’s not exactly real, but it’s the most entertaining to me. For those of you fellow Parks and Recreation fans, you might remember comedian Patton Oswalt guest starring on an episode this past season, where he ‘citizen filibustered’ the Pawnee City Council from amending its constitution.
The episode that aired only showed a small bit of what Oswald actually said. In reality, Oswald showed up, the show didn’t give him a script and just told him to “start talking.”
“Filibuster”. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.
“Putting Your Presentation before Your PowerPoint.” SlideGenius. December 9, 2013.
Root, Jay. “Ted Cruz Ends 2013 As He Began It: No Apologies.” The Huffington Post. December 19, 2013.