#NoBillNoVote Shows How Social Media Impacts Politics
After the mass shooting in Orlando where 49 people were killed, I needed to clear my head so I went for a run. We’ve seen this political script before. Congress will tweet out some “thoughts and prayers” and then move on with their lives. Nothing was actually going to get done. Why would this time be any different?
But something different did happen. I was scrolling though my Twitter feed when Congressman Chris Murphy’s tweet caught my eye. He said he was going to hold the Senate floor for as long as possible to force a vote on common sense gun reform. His hashtag #Enough started trending and people around the nation paid attention.
But then Rep John Lewis stood on the floor with his fellow Democrats and declared that he was not moving until common sense gun reform was voted on by his legislative body.
Woah. Things just got interesting.
You can try (unsuccessfully) to ignore the power of Congressman John Lewis leading a sit in. I called my mother (a civil rights activist herself) and insisted that she turn on the television.
“He’s doing it again…” I said reminding her of the days when Lewis would lead students in protest, even leading to personal injury.
“Gah!” was her response. “I have’t been able to follow along. I’ve been out all day. But this is great. Can you think of anyone more qualified to lead a sit in?” Naturally, she was excited. My mother had participated in the movement and even went to jail as a result.
But I couldn’t think of another person who was more qualified.
“Do we have the raw courage to make at least a down payment on ending gun violence in America?”
However, the rules governing the House of Representatives dictate that when Congress is not in session, CSPAN can’t film. Congress voted those rules in place on their first legislative session of the year. If anything, Democrats are actually causing the CSPAN black out because they’ve “forced” the House into recess. Don’t worry though, Democrats have done the same thing when the GOP was staging a protest on the House floor.
CSPAN had to issue a quick statement that might have well have been a shruggie emoji.
But then social media came in. Members of Congress started tweeting and hosting live Facebook Video giving interviews about the sit-in and showing America what the House rules dictated what the cameras could not.
Turns out “Periscoping” on the floor of the Senate is against the rules. In fact, the sargent-at-arms was seen (respectfully) asking Members of Congress to put their mobile devices away.
They didn’t listen.
Even CSPAN, the organization who was forced to turn off their cameras to follow the law started picking up on these social media feeds and broadcasting them to the rest of the world.
But we cannot ignore the significance of what is happening.
Once again we are seeing the power of social media to give us access to events that are happening around the world. During the Great Revolution in Iran, people communicated via Twitter because the government was controlling the media networks. #BlackLivesMatter started in part because activists organized on social media and said they were going to report what was going on in their communities. When CSPAN couldn’t cover the United States Congress last night, the House took issues into their own hands began covering themselves. Members got around what could have been a movement in the dark by sharing the message they specifically tailored directly to their key audience: their constituents. This tactic also forced the Speaker’s Office to tread carefully on their next move. Tonight shows how much of a force social media is in the world and maybe — at some point- our brothers and sisters in Orlando will see justice.