The reaction to Sen. Rand Paul’s 13 hour filibuster on Wednesday elicited positive reactions from across the political spectrum. Many noted that Paul’s example carried revolutionary implications, for libertarianism, conservatism, transpartisanism, the Republican Party and American politics at large.
Let’s start with the libertarians. Brian Doherty, Senior Editor at Reason told Business Insider:
“This was a very big deal. In 36 hours, the Republican Party has completely changed. You literally saw the shift happen over the course of the day,” Doherty said. “It started with Rand Paul, and then it was just [Sens.] Mike Lee and Ted Cruz. And then you had people like Marco Rubio and Saxby Chambliss joining in. And by the end of it, [Republican Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell was on the floor saying he was going to block [CIA Director John] Brennan’s confirmation, and [RNC Chairman] Reince Priebus was tweeting that Senators should go join Rand Paul.”
“Who knows, maybe in two years, the filibuster won’t seem like a big deal,” he added. “But today, it feels like everything has changed. Today, it feels like the Republican Party is different.”
Doherty conceded that, for some conservatives, the embrace of Paul’s civil liberties argument may be chalked up to antagonism toward the Obama administration. But, he added, “if that’s what it takes to get Rush Limbaugh to say that he agrees with Rand Paul, that he’s open to these ideas, I’ll take it.”
Libertarian Justin Raimondo declared that “the libertarian moment had arrived–thanks to Rand Paul,” writing at Antiwar.com:
Part of what made this a signal event was that this was no pro forma type filibuster of the modern school, in which the Senator merely has to make known his or her intention to filibuster, but not actually get up there and speak. This was the real thing, and it was substantive. The Senate actually debated an important policy matter in the old style, with references to Shakespeare, and rhetorical flourishes the like of which we haven’t seen in many years. It was, in short, a paleo moment – and, politically, it was the Libertarian Moment, i.e. that moment in which a substantial body of Americans was rooting for a champion of liberty against the puffed-up conceit and criminal depredations of an overweening federal government.
What was significant about the presence of so many Republicans rushing to the Senate floor to get in on the action was that they felt compelled to do so. The wind is blowing in the direction of libertarianism – and not just on the economic front, but in the foreign policy and civil liberties realm as well.
What we are seeing is a seismic shift in the two parties’ approach to civil liberties, with the Democrats now freed to exude their inherent authoritarianism and the Republican grassroots in fear of a federal government headed up by a former “community organizer.”
The Daily Caller’s James Antle agreed with Raimondo that the GOP and Democrats had “changed places on executive power.” The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney said that “Paul made a conservative case for limiting war powers:”
Paul spent hours yesterday setting the case against extrajudicial drone killings in various conservative contexts. He made pro-life arguments. He made Edmund Burke-sounding arguments. He mostly made constitutional arguments. He drew the lines from conservative principles to his more libertarian foreign policy conclusions.
Neoconservative Jennifer Rubin wrote at The Washington Post that Sen. Paul was exposing the hypocrisy of both left and right:
In an actual filibuster (what the Republicans surely should have done in Hagel’s case), Rand Paul has focused attention on his substantive complaints about the administration (some of which I share and others I don’t), and moreover, he’s exposed the rank hypocrisy that has infected the left and the right, but most egregiously the mainstream media.
And so it’s come to this: Rand Paul talking all by himself on the Senate floor. On one level, it shows the power of a single senator to make a difference. On the other hand, it is a very sad statement on the intellectual collapse of both the right and the left — and most especially of the media, whose first impulse in this administration is to circle the wagons around the White House.
Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times said that Sen. Paul was elevating the libertarian wing of the GOP and ticking off the neocons:
“You are starting to see a bit of a split between the libertarian-leaning lawmakers and essentially what you see as defense hawks,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “We are a war-weary nation. While the GOP is still seen as the national defense party, what you are seeing is a rising trend of libertarianism.
The back-and-forth highlighted a debate within the Republican Party that pits the old guard — whose fingerprints are all over the nation’s military efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya — against some of the Republican Party’s rising stars, several of whom rode into Congress as part of the backlash against growth of government and federal spending that started under President George W. Bush and continued on Mr. Obama’s watch.
“There was definitely a trend there among the newer members,” said Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican. “Those who have been elected to the Senate, or the election before that, we tend to have this viewpoint in common. The view that we need to look out for individual liberties of Americans we ought not just take it for granted that our government is going to behave responsibility and respect both the privacy and the lives of Americans.”
Rush Limbaugh said the neocons were becoming “paranoid” they were so scared of the “rise of Rand Paul:”
They, I think, are worried that Rand Paul might be skillful enough to move the Republican mainstream away from the McCain, Kristol, neoconservatism view of the world… The neocons are paranoid. The neocons are paranoid because Rand Paul comes from his father’s gene pool.
Here’s the substance of this. There is a fear among McCain, Lindsey Graham, and others who favor an interventionist foreign policy. Think of the neocons. Think of going into Iraq and not just securing Iraq, but building a democracy. Nation building, if you will…
Rand Paul made a connection with the American people. These other people do not. He made a connection. Therefore, he has the ability to influence and motivate people. I’m telling you what their fears are. They thought that Ron Paul was absolute nutcase, wacko. That’s why they’re calling Rand Paul a wacko, ’cause that’s what they thought of Ron Paul… They are afraid that’s who Rand Paul is, and they’re afraid that what Rand Paul was doing with this filibuster was not just speaking out against the use of drones on American citizens on American soil. They’re afraid that Rand Paul is actually setting the stage for building up public support to stop the interventionist usage of American military might and foreign policy all over the world.
Perhaps the neocons had a reason to fear Rand Paul–CNN’s Mo Elleithee said Sen. Paul was the “New Leader of the GOP:”
At least for the time being, tea party darling Sen. Rand Paul is the effective leader of the Republican Party. And that’s a pretty big deal.
Paul is the only guy who appears able at this point to step into the GOP leadership void. There are two reasons why.
First, Paul has proven that he has the ability to punch his message through in a way that no one else in the Republican Party can. He’s clear. Whether or not you agree with him (and I rarely do), you know where he stands. He articulates his message more clearly than most people in Washington. He’s principled. He’s more ideologically consistent than many people in Washington (though admittedly, that’s not the highest of bars these days). He’s willing to take on leaders of both parties to make a point…
Paul’s also proven to be a master of both old and new media. Just look at this week. He had the entire traditional political press corps and mainstream media focused on him like a laser beam by utilizing one of the most old school tools available to a senator — the filibuster. Yet he made it feel new.
The second reason why Paul has become the party’s most effective messenger is that everyone across the entire ideological spectrum — from John McCain, Rubio and The Wall Street Journal to Majority Leader Harry Reid and Attorney General Eric Holder — is responding to him. Rand Paul has people listening and responding to him. He’s dictating the conversation. And when you look at the ineptitude of the rest of the Republican message machine, it’s pretty clear that he is one of the few people in his party that know how to do that.
He has the potential to shape the GOP field in a way that few others can at this point. In short, for now, it’s Rand Paul’s party. And it seems like so many other Republicans are simply trying to figure out how to live in it.
Mediate’s Noah Rothman said that “Rand Paul Shatters Democratic Monopoly On Romance And Captures The Hearts Of The Young Voter:”
Paul chipped away at the Democratic Party’s monopoly on romance yesterday. His actions broke through traditional firewalls that keep politics out of the homes of the nation’s marginally interested voters. He showed that the struggle for personal freedom is an idealistic pursuit. For a moment, the pervasive cynicism that has hardened voting patterns over the last two decades melted away. The political class will miss it, but the apolitical citizenry who could care less for what a consultant or a pundit says or thinks will not. The shift that Paul’s actions have ushered in will not remain imperceptible for long.
These examples are but a sampling of what many writers and pontificators are calling a revolutionary moment in our politics. I believe there is much truth in each of these observations.
I’ve always thought the primary mission of the liberty movement was to take our ideas mainstream. There is no question that Sen. Paul’s filibuster this week and the reaction to it was a significant step in doing so.
We should not fool ourselves. Sen. Paul’s glorious moment did not change the world overnight. But it did show everyone that with principle and heart, the world really can be changed.
At root, politics is about building coalitions to create majorities large enough to implement policy. This week Sen. Rand demonstrated that he, and what he represents, has the ability to do this more than most in the Republican Party and arguably more than anyone in either party.
And he’s doing it with our ideas. In fact, liberty ideas are integral to his ability to pull any of this off.
Some neoconservatives will continue to call Sen. Paul ‘wacko.” Most conservatives will likely continue to call him a hero. So will most libertarians and more than a few progressives might give him his due.
From my perspective, it can simply be said that we are winning. Big time.
But perhaps Sen. Paul, who says his filibuster was “just the beginning,” should have the last word:
The outpouring of support for my filibuster has been overwhelming and heartening. My office has fielded thousands of calls. Millions have followed this debate on TV, Twitter and Facebook…
I believe the support I received this past week shows that Americans are looking for someone to really stand up and fight for them. And I’m prepared to do just that.