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Posted at 6:23 PM ET, 12/10/2010

[Updated] Filibernie and Mr. Smith: Is Senator Bernie Sanders still filibustering? Yes!

By Alexandra Petri


He threatened to do it!

Now he's doing it!

This is the most excited I've ever been to watch an old man read facts into a microphone! On C-SPAN! I thought it was exciting when someone eviscerated his ex-girlfriend during a C-SPAN book lecture. That's chicken feed.

As his filibuster continues, this man is acquiring new Twitter followers at an exponential rate! He has inspired an " "Is Bernie Sanders still talking?" site. It's great!

Of course! This is the sort of thing we imagine when we picture politics! This is due to the bewildering fact that, as a nation, our ability to picture what goes on behind the political scenes is limited to what we dimly gleaned from the Jimmy Stewart classic Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (with the exception of those of us who followed The West Wing). At least, I think it is. Like the silent majority of Americans, I have never seen Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. But I did read the back cover of the DVD. Based on this, whenever people ask me how it was, I say "I think it used just the right amount of cinematography." I think more Americans are like me than will admit it, because their references to this film are usually limited to some variation of the sentences, "But today's D.C. is a far cry from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" or "Mr. [INSERT NAME] Goes To Washington?"

But apparently there is a famous part of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington where Mr. Smith filibusters. There's a similar event in the second season of The West Wing, where Senator Stackhouse filibusters, but I could only find footage of it that had been overdubbed in Spanish.

That's nothing compared to what Bernie Sanders has going on!

This man has been speaking since around 10:25 a.m.! That's more than eight hours! Usually, if you have been talking for more than eight hours, it's a sign that you are unhinged, the man who once sat next to me on a trans-Atlantic flight, or an oral historian reciting the Iliad in its entirety. Usually, it's terrible. In fact, my lingering fear of commitment stems from the belief that this might at some point lead someone to talk to me for eight hours straight.

The only time I've talked to someone for eight hours straight, this person wound up taking out a restraining order against me, and halfway through speaking I ran out of thoughts and had to fall back on bad poems that I had memorized in my youth. Sanders has not done that, unless the sort of poetry he enjoyed as a youth sounded like an epic ramble about the nature of privilege, society, and whom taxes benefit.

So talk, Sen. Sanders, talk! Talk at greater length! This is history in the making -- or, if not, it certainly looks like it should be. Speak! Speak! The last time I shouted "Speak!" at my television set with this much enthusiasm, I was watching a trailer for The King's Speech.

Quick, quit reading. This is the only time I will ever say this: Don't wait! Act now! Turn on C-SPAN.

Update, 7:25 p.m.: Eight and a half hours later, Senator Sanders' filibuster has ended. Unlike Mr. Smith, there was no staggering and waxing lyrical about lost causes. Mr. Sanders expressed his belief that it was possible to do better than the tax compromise and then yielded the floor.

I have to say, I feel a little cheated. This is like tuning into a marathon of the Star Wars films just as the second Death Star explodes, except that instead of at least getting to watch the Death Star explode, you have to listen to someone mention six times that your standard of living will be worse than your parents', at the rate things are going.

I return to my original position on C-SPAN.

By Alexandra Petri  | December 10, 2010; 6:23 PM ET
Categories:  Big Deals, Congress, Petri, Senate  | Tags:  America, CSPAN, filibuster  
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He quit? Why does everybody quit?

Lazy Americans.

Posted by: AndrewW1 | December 10, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Now THAT's what I call a FILIBUSTER!

For some reason, today's "filibuster" is no longer a "FILIBUSTER." All a senator has to do is say he "intends" to filibuster, and that triggers the 60-vote requirement. What?

That's like a mugger demanding my wallet, and I tell him, "I intend to punch you in the nose." The mugger is supposed to say, "Oh, I'm sorry. Have a nice day."

This "modern filibuster tradition" isn't even a rule. Harry Reid could just call for a vote, and the filibusterer would have to speak up or shut up.

Supposedly, the Senate has important business and doesn't want to be shut down by filibusters. The reality is that only the important business is shut down.

So I say, "Man up, Harry Reid." It's blabber time.

Posted by: divtune | December 12, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

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