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Announcement :: Education : Politics
we need your help to save the filibuster!
15 May 2005
This letter explains our plans to start filibusters on campuses all
over the country; it details the ease with which this can be done; it lists the things we can do to get you media attention. Please read it with an enthusiastic sense of possibility.
This letter explains our plans to start filibusters on campuses all
over the country; it details the ease with which this can be done; it
lists the things we can do to get you media attention. Please read it
with an enthusiastic sense of possibility.

As you likely know, Senator Frist has promised to bring two of the
controversial judicial nominees to the floor on Wednesday. He expects
the Senators uncomfortable with these nominees to begin a filibuster,
at which point he plans to implement the nuclear option. When I began
working with the other students on my campus, I did so because I
thought that it was important to protect the Senate institution of the
filibuster. I don't believe I understood then, however, how important
it really is. After three weeks, it has sunk in, and I realize it on
an emotional level: the nuclear option would devastate our political
system, in institutional and cultural terms. It would fatally
compromise the ideological independence of the judiciary, the branch
of government most crucial to shelter from ideological pressures; it
would be nothing less than a constitutional coup. It would also likely
destroy beyond the possibility of repair the ability of members of
both parties to work together. Partisanship is divisive now; imagine
the consequences if the nuclear option is implemented.

But you understand the urgency of the situation. The question I am
writing to help you answer is: What can you do to disable the nuclear
option? In fact, a lot. The Princeton students, and the students from
other campuses who have filibustered, have managed to alter public
discourse on the filibuster. We managed this not by the arguments we
made per se, but by making ourselves into a symbol of concerned and
disinterested citizens, idealistic and enthusiastic students, the
generation who will have to deal with the consequences, etc. You know
the story about students. The mock filibuster is a simple and eloquent
visual symbol. And, having created that symbol, we got people to pay
attention to it. This affects national perception of the filibuster
controversy. The loud articulation of student support for the
institution, coming from a body of citizens entirely uninvolved in
professional politics, is a counterfoil, a contrast to those Senators,
who want to implement the nuclear option. The contrast creates in
itself the perception that those Senators are acting in radical and
unprincipled self-interest; a corollary is that it paints the
senators, who want to protect the filibuster, as simple defenders of
American government. We have done some real and substantial work
already setting the debate in these terms. But we can do more; we can
really control the way this country talks about the filibuster.

Our plan is to start filibusters on as many campuses as possible. Each
filibuster should start, at the latest, on Tuesday morning. It should
continue through to Wednesday, at least until noon; but we should be
prepared to go to 5 pm. The goal is to be filibustering when the
Republican leadership opens the debate on the controversial nominees.
Imagine what the story will be on Wednesday morning, the day of the
debate, if 50, 100 schools all across the country have risen up in
parallel protest. This will be huge, and the thing is, we can do it –
we can do it easily. All it takes is 50 to 100 individual decisions to

Some of you are still in session. Others (like us) are in exam period.
Others have finished for the year. It will be easiest for the first
group but – and I want to stress this – eminently doable for the
others. The first and only thing you have to understand about starting
a filibuster is that it's really easy.

∑ You don't need to worry about logistics, about planning in advance.
You don't need a microphone or a podium. All you need is a student
ready to read or speak for an hour, a student to follow her, and a
student to follow her, etc..
∑ It is easy to find the small number you need to start it. You will
find that the event generates its own momentum very quickly. You will
have students eager to sign up and participate. (Okay, you will need
someone, not speaking, at the site with a sign-up sheet.) That's all
you need to do. If you plan to go from Tuesday morning at, say, 10:00
to Wednesday, noon, you only have to get 26 students. We have been
assigning half-hour slots because the demand to participate is so
high; we were generally booked 60 or so hours in advance.
∑ Choose a well-traveled place on campus, so that people know what you
are doing.
∑ Allow people to read or say whatever they would like. Don't worry about that.

That's all. If you want a more elaborate event, you can look at some
tips at You can also get
information about the history of and issues surrounding the Senate
filibuster. But you really don't have to go there. Just do the above.

The effectiveness of this strategy doesn't lie in the quality, as it
were, of each particular filibuster event – I don't even know what
'quality' would mean in this context. It lies in the simple fact of
students having a filibuster. That fact speaks for itself and, if each
of you start a filibuster, it will speak very loudly indeed.

Once you have decided to start a filibuster, we can help you with the
rest. We have received significant media attention and, in so doing,
have established significant contacts. We can make sure that people
across the country know about your particular filibuster.


∑ our website is the most visited site in the world for people who
want to know about the filibuster. We will announce your filibuster on
it and post a statement from you about your reasons for holding it.
That statement will be posted alongside statements from constitutional
luminaries like Larry Tribe of Harvard Law.
∑ Though it is not necessary, you are welcome to start your own
website and start or (easier) borrow a blog to discuss the event and
the issues. We will link to both on our website.
∑ We will help you craft a press release to be sent out on Monday
announcing your event.
∑ We will use our own very extensive list of media contacts to issue
the release and we have already developed the credibility that will
make sure people listen. We have also been working with Harry Reid's
office in Washington, as well as some political action groups. I plan
to ask them to use their contact list to release the information as
∑ We can advise you on how best to contact local media and get
attention from political blogs. These were the two seeds of our
publicity success.
∑ We can provide you with talking-points papers to speak with media
and strategy memos on the way to represent yourself most effectively.
(You will never again be impressed – if you ever have been – by
talking heads on TV.)
∑ We can put you in touch with local political action groups, who can
help you organize your event and get you in touch with media.

It's easy and it will be effective. Simple as that.

Once you have decided to start a filibuster, get in contact with us by
email. We've set up a dedicated account for you: pctbust (at)
Please email us at that account, putting your state's abbreviation in
the title. Email should include a simple announcement of your
intention to start a filibuster, and when; three names, each with a
cell phone number so we can talk strategy in person; the url of any
website you start or blog on which you are documenting the event.

You are welcome to stop reading here, because you know all that you
need to know. But there are a few other supplementary pieces of advice
that I have to give.

∑ In organizing your filibuster, get in touch with other progressive
groups on campus – College Democrats, Abortion-rights groups,
Environmental groups, etc. The network thus created would be able to
sustain a filibuster for 5 days even without other students signing
∑ Recruit faculty to speak. The media love this. The media covering
the filibuster at Princeton got much more excited by a Nobel-prize
winning physicist (doing nothing more than reading, kind of
monotonously, from a physics textbook) than all of the Congressmen who
came to speak. This, in fact, prompted our first jump to a new level
in press coverage. Faculty speakers also engage students on campus.
Faculty can say something substantial in their own words or read from
whatever text they choose.
∑ Set up a stand to the side of your filibuster where students can
call Senators who have not declared how they intend to vote on the
nuclear option. Use the text and numbers I provide at the bottom of
this email.
∑ Prepare a short statement that participants can read at the
beginning or end of their turn, explaining why you are filibustering.
You can use ours:

We are here today filibustering in support of the filibuster. Senate
Majority Leader Bill Frist—the Frist whose family funded the building
behind me—is pressing what he calls the "nuclear option," a rule
change that would ban filibusters of judicial nominations. Throughout
U.S. history, the Senate filibuster has served as an important element
of the checks and balances system, preventing a partisan majority from
ruling through tyranny while promoting bipartisan compromise and
moderation. We are here because we are dismayed at the plan to
dismantle one of the only protections for the minority party, weaken
the Senate's constitutionally recognized duties of advice and consent,
and rubber-stamp the President's far-right nominees for the federal
courts. The courts belong to all Americans, not just the party in
power. And federal judges are appointed to their positions for life,
which means that unlike the President, who will leave office in four
years, the judges appointed today will have an impact on YOU for the
next forty years. So…say YES to the Frist filibuster, and NO to Sen.
Frist's attack on the filibuster.

So that's it. I'm sorry its not more complicated, more of an effort. I
promise you, however, that it is personally satisfying and politically
effective nonetheless.

I want to say, in conclusion, that the people who started the
filibuster at Princeton hoped that they could go for one half of one
day. We didn't expect it to go on for more than two weeks; we didn't
expect to be on the front page of But in hindsight, we
see how all that happened and we realize how simple it all was.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Jason Vagliano

Who to Call
It doesn't serve the cause to call random Senators. Here are the
people who need to be contacted.
∑ Susan Collins (ME) - (202) 224-2523
∑ Judd Gregg (NH) - (202) 224-3324
∑ Chuck Hagel (NE) - (202) 224-4224
∑ Dick Lugar (IN) - (202) 224-4814
∑ Lisa Murkowski (AK) - (202) 224-6665
∑ Pat Roberts (KS) - (202) 224-4774
∑ Olympia Snowe (ME) - (202) 224-5344
∑ Arlen Specter (PA) - (202) 224-6665
∑ John Sununu (NH) - (202) 224-2841
∑ John Warner (VA) - (202) 224-2023
What to Say
The script is very short. When you call a Senator's office, there's no
time to be bombastic or verbose. You should be brief, simple, and
"Hello. I'm a citizen concerned about the Republican leadership's
attempt to change Senate rules, and I would like to urge Senator [name
here] to oppose the 'nuclear option' to eliminate the right to
filibuster judicial nominations. I believe in fair judges, and checks
and balances. Thank you very much."

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Is that a new class avilable next semester?
17 May 2005
" This letter explains our plans to start filibusters on campuses all
over the country; it details the ease with which this can be done; it
lists the things we can do to get you media attention. Please read it
with an enthusiastic sense of possibility."

MEDIA ATTENTION? What happened to studying, learning, and passing your college courses? How is filibustering going to furthur your careers when you you graduate? The colleges have become a festering ground for protest activity instead of institutions of learning. Why would you promote such activity?