Did Senator Paul’s Filibuster Change the GOP Overnight?
March 9, 2013 - 10:45 am
One should always be cautious about proclaiming “turning points” and that an event has led to fundamental change, especially when it comes to politics and political parties.
But I sort of agree with this Business Insider article about the effect on the GOP of Rand Paul’s filibuster:
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has emerged from his 13-hour filibuster as a national political leader, having unexpectedly unified divergent wings of the Republican Party on the issue of civil liberties.
For libertarians, Paul’s filibuster — and the groundswell of support for it across the conservative spectrum — was a crowning moment, signaling their reintegration into the mainstream Republican Party, which has largely dismissed, and even mocked, libertarian notions about civil liberties in the decade since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“This was a very big deal. In 36 hours, the Republican Party has completely changed,” said Brian Doherty, a senior editor at Reason magazine who has been covering the Paul movement for two decades.
“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.”
Paul’s 13-hour stand on civil liberties also solidified his standing among the more purist fans of his father, Ron Paul, who have long been skeptical of the younger Paul’s dedication to the Movement.
Paul is a very ambitious man whose pronounced libertarianism would cause many in the GOP to be wary of his presidential aspirations. But he is a lion when it comes to fiscal matters and has begun to articulate a coherent conservative/libertarian hybrid philosophy that, from this distance, appears to embrace the best of both.
His isolationism is jarring, but even some conservatives are looking at a retrenchment of sorts following the Iraq/Afghanistan debacles. How far is Paul willing to move toward the mainstream of the Republican party on foreign policy in order to become a leading candidate for president? It will be interesting to see.
Antiwar.com founder and libertarian Justin Raimondo actually cried during Paul’s performance:
I started writing this as Rand Paul entered the 9th hour of his historic filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director, but I had to stop. As I listened and watched, real tears clouded my vision, raining down on the keyboard – tears of pure joy.
Quite an emotional reaction, and it took me by surprise: what, I wondered, is wrong with me? But perhaps my somewhat overwrought response wasn’t so inexplicable. After all, for years we’ve been subjected to a relentless assault on our civil liberties, with the War Party running roughshod over what weak dissents have surfaced – and now, finally, a clear voice of reason has emerged, to answer their war cries with a resounding “No!” Rand Paul, it turns out, truly is his father‘s son.
The “War Party” as Raimondo calls it, feels justified in rejecting civil liberties absolutism due to the fact that an enemy exists that could cause grievous harm to American citizens on our soil — as they proved on September 11, 2001. To dismiss this threat so cavalierly — and so blindly as Ron Paul did as presidential candidate — is foolhardy.
But in recent years on the right, a re-examination of the exercise of executive power during the Bush years has led to some retrospection about conservative support for the Patriot Act. It is doubtful that conservatives will ever see things Mr. Paul’s way on issues like FISA warrants and other Bush-era executive actions taken for national security reasons. But Rand Paul’s challenge still resonated with many on the right who have had their eyes opened by the president’s claim — since withdrawn — about being able to kill American citizens without due process. Might this lead to a further examination by conservatives of other civil liberties issues? An effective leader can pull his followers where he wants to go and it may be that Paul’s filibuster will begin a debate among Republicans about the expansion of executive power during the Bush/Obama years and the threat this holds for our fundamental liberties.
There is still plenty of rancor among conservative factions. But Paul’s rallying of the troops has indeed, electrified many. Whether that actually “changes” the Republican party will be up to history to decide.
Did the filibuster change the GOP? It may only look that way because it has been so long since Republicans had something they could agree on.