Tradition

Senators George Maitland and Harry Brown were sitting towards the rear of the Senate chamber, watching with a mix of amusement and boredom as the filibuster continued unabated. George was getting a bit restless, but this was his first filibuster and the veneer of novelty, like a child’s glee at meeting Santa Claus, had yet to wear off for him.

Harry had been around long enough to see many such filibusters, so his mind had begun to wander a bit to the usual bars down the street where he really would have rather been about now. Still, there was always an undeniable appeal to filibusters, like Youtube videos of horrific rally car accidents, that one just couldn’t turn away from.

“So I don’t get it,” said George. He pursed his lips and scratched his chin, stubbly now since he’d shaved it early that morning.

“Don’t get what?” asked Harry.

“The whole filibuster thing. Just, you know, in general. I mean, it’s kind of entertaining. But there’s not a lot really happening, is there?”

There wasn’t. Senators were mostly just milling around, talking amongst themselves. No one was at the podium. It was sort of like they didn’t even need to be here.

“Well, no,” replied Harry. “No, pretty much nothing is happening. What were you expecting?”

“I dunno,” said George. “Something cool, I guess. I ran a pretty hard campaign to get here, you know. Seems like a filibuster should be more exciting. Like in that Jimmy Stewart movie.”

Harry chuckled and reached into his jacket pocket, removing a flask decorated to look like fine cherrywood. He unscrewed the cap and took a long drag, then lowered it, smacking his lips with satisfaction and proffering the vessel over to George.

“Drink some of this whiskey and I promise it’ll get more exciting,” said Harry.

George giggled and happily downed some of the spirit. He had to admit that Harry had a point.

“Okay, but tell me this,” said George. “Does anyone actually do talking filibusters anymore?”

“Oh, fuck no,” said Harry, laughing and taking another drag from his flask. “We stopped doing those in the 80s. Now you just have to threaten to filibuster. Shit, man, talking filibusters would be way more fun. I’d never go back to my home district if we still did that. Strom Thurmond talked for like twenty-four hours straight when he was protesting the Civil Rights Act, that old racist sonofabitch; now that’s a filibuster.”

George nodded his agreement and drank another belt from the flask when Harry passed it back over. A senator at the front of the chamber approached the podium and looked as if he was about to say something, but then thought better of it and stepped down. George sighed with disappointment.

“Okay, well, don’t get me wrong,” said George. “This is hilarious. It’s a great joke that you need sixty senators to agree to even bring a bill to the floor. But why is that even in the Constitution?”

Harry laughed uproariously, and a few senators sitting in front of them turned around to shoot them angry looks.

“You think filibusters are in the fucking Constitution?” said Harry. “No way, man. The Founding Fathers weren’t morons. Senators invented that shit on their own. The House doesn’t even have them. How did you not know that? You’re a Goddamn senator.”

George shrugged.

“Ah, you know. I’m good at other stuff. Like fundraising. I’m really fucking good at fundraising.”

“I’ll drink to that,” said Harry. And he did.

“What are they filibustering again?” asked George.

“Jesus George, do your homework,” said Harry. “They’re filibustering a change to the filibuster rules.”

Harry overturned his flask and frowned when not a drop came out. They’d drank it all. He was feeling sort of buzzed, but only enough to make him want to drink more.

“Well, why don’t we just change the rules? What do these guys have against that?” asked George. “It’s not like the filibuster actually helps out the democratic process in any meaningful way. I feel like we use it more often than not nowadays.”

“Traditioooooooon!” said Harry, spreading his arms and doing his best impersonation of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. “Tradition!”

Harry stood up and started dancing around, singing “Dai dai dai dai!” The guys in front of them looked really pissed now and had started muttering amongst themselves. George waved at them and gave them his best shit-eating grin.

“Hey, wanna duck out of here and go get loaded?” asked Harry.

“Hell yes I do!” replied George. “I thought you’d never ask. It’s not like we’re getting anything done today anyway.”

There were some complex thoughts brewing in the back of George’s mind about the role of senators in government and the responsibility incumbent upon them as representatives of the people entrusted with their consent to govern, but it all seemed pretty boring and he could hear a Tom Collins calling his name from the bar down the street. He and Harry danced and sang their way out of the chamber, confident that nothing would continue to get done in their absence.

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