I figured that Senator Rand Paul's filibuster would be a tour de force of libertarianism, constitutional principles, and U.S. history. Who would have thought it would create such a rare sense of trans-partisan political unity?
Rand Paul has somehow, with one marathon filibuster, has accomplished something in a few hours what President Obama failed to do in four years: brought together Republicans, Democrats, the media, and ordinary people all over the world as #StandWithRand trended at #1 not only in the U.S., but globally on Twitter.
Ron Johnson, Tim Scott, Mitch McConnell, Ron Wyden, Dick Durbin, and many other U.S. senators have come together in support of Senator Paul over this lengthy filibuster and in the past several hours the Senate seems to be functioning as the collegial, deliberative body it is supposed to be in theory. Little grandstanding, pontificating, or showmanship was to be seen from the usually self-indulgent political class. Instead it was a legitimate, thoughtful, and intelligent debate between men who agree, at least tepidly on one thing: Rand Paul is on to something.
Whether that something is the questionable nature of extrajudicial attacks on American soil, as many of them seem to agree, or the fact that he has struck a nerve with the public and rallied media entities as disparate as Huffington Post and Drudge Report, non-profits as different as Code Pink and Heritage Foundation, and pundits as different as Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck behind him on the issue of executive authority and separation of powers, is anyone’s guess.
Through it all Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who compose Rand's senatorial triumvirate of libertarianism, have remained loyally by Rand's side, periodically relieving him from his speaking duties. Senator Marco Rubio, perhaps supportive of the issue, perhaps sniffing out another opportunity to look presidential, also lent a great deal of time on the podium in what was a thoughtful and serious constitutional discussion.
Somehow, this doesn't feel like the D.C. we're all used to. As Ron Johnson pointed out, this filibuster is both a symptom of senatorial dysfunction and, perhaps accidentally, has become a symbol of how it is supposed to function. Principle took the floor and refused to yield for thirteen hours, creating a rare moment of at least cautious agreement in a deeply divided chamber, political community, and culture.
As Senator Paul considers what may happen in 2016, he can be comforted by an enormous moral victory, won without manipulation or cunning, for basic constitutional principles that people seem to have forgotten are actually important. Simultaneously, of course, he created a serious PR problem for the White House as more people realize that Nobel Laureate Obama is not the civil libertarian he promised to be in 2008.
When he stepped away from the podium after nearly 13 hours of talking to uproarious applause in the chamber, Rand proved that old adage: One man with courage makes a majority.