Stand With Rand takes old-style filibuster viral

Rand Paul's heroic stand for liberty may show our troubled nation the path to political redemption. Photo: Dave Nalle

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 6, 2013 ― Rand Paul’s decision earlier today to challenge the Obama administration with a traditional stand-up filibuster was a brilliant piece of showmanship designed to draw attention to the issue of administration support for extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, including by the use of drones within US borders.

Ostensibly, the filibuster is against the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA, but the real purpose is to demand accountability from an administration which has described outright murder of US citizens without a trial or any shred of due process of law as “legal, ethical and wise.” 

Paul is demanding an answer to a simple question, from Brennan, from Attorney General Eric Holder and from the President: “Do you believe that the president has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil? What about the use of lethal force against a non-U.S. person on U.S. soil?”

Today, despite new Senate rules which allow paper filibusters, Paul and his allies in the Senate have committed to standing up and holding the floor, speaking non-stop for as long as is necessary to get a response to this vital question from the administration. We have not seen a filibuster like this in years, and many have forgotten the element of drama which it adds to the process.

Even now with the filibuster less than 12 hours old, we have seen eloquent speeches from Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Widen (D-OR) and others who have spoken at length about the importance of the Constitution, due process, the rule of law and the fundamental rights to which all our citizens are entitled.

Unlike a paper filibuster, this effort has propelled Senator Paul and his cry for respect for the rights of American citizens into a position of unprecedented media prominence. He is on all the news channels, on the front pages of all the newspapers and dominating social media. Even many who oppose him politically find themselves forced to respect his commitment to the cause of individual liberty and fundamental rights.

The response on social media has been particularly strong. The Twitter hashtag #standwithrand has been trending above all other topics of discussion for hours, generating several tweets a second at its height. What’s more, the second spot has been occupied most of that time by #filibuster. Individual commentators like Corie Whalen (@coriewhalen) who have been giving live coverage of the filibuster have had their Twitter accounts temporarily shut down for generating too much traffic.

During his time at the microphone this evening, Senator Ted Cruz made the key point that standing up in support of this filibuster is standing up for liberty for all Americans, observing “This is how our system is supposed to work. We should be standing for liberty regardless of party affiliation.”

Cruz and Paul and others involved in this effort have been endorsed by the Republican Liberty Caucus, which has been running the slogan “Stand Up for Liberty” as a banner on its Facebook page since the controversy over drones began months ago. They are now urging members to call their Senators and express support for the filibuster effort.

In an ironic contrast to the efforts of these pro-liberty Senators, twelve Republican leaders in the Senate spent the evening at a dinner with President Obama. While there is much good to be said for bipartisanship, the timing of this meeting could not highlight the divisions within the Republican party more clearly. The Senators meeting with the president include some of those most consistently willing to sacrifice the liberty of the people for the illusion of security, supporting every draconian enhancement of the security state from the NDAA to CISPA to the Patriot Act.

Bipartisanship gets things done, but when the two parties agree on taking away the rights of citizens, including demanding the authority to kill them with a remote drone strike, bipartisanship begins to look a lot more like treason. As the people wake up to the heroism of Rand Paul, they should also remember the treachery of Senators like John McCain, Tom Coburn, Lindsey Graham, Saxby Chambliss and Kelly Ayotte who chose to dine with a tyrant rather than stand up for liberty with Senator Paul.

To his credit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has increasingly been separated from other party leaders on issues like this, chose to join Senator Paul on the floor a little after 10pm to show his support. That may just be because he fears that the Kentucky voters who put Paul in office might put him out of office if he doesn’t stand with Paul at a key moment like this.

The drama promises to continue all night and you can follow it all on C-SPAN, ideally with live commentary from Twitter if you follow #standwithrand. You may be surprised to see who is showing their support. It goes beyond the usual internet activists to include Congressmen, Senators and notable opinion leaders on both sides of the political divide. And remember, the record for a filibuster is 24 hours and 18 minutes, held by the late Sen. Strom Thurmond.

When the defense of liberty becomes the focus of bipartisanship then our troubled nation may be on the road to redemption.

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Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle has been writing political analysis since the 1980s for newspapers, magazines and now online journals. He is currently Execitive Director of the Center for Foreign Policy Priorities, is on the board of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, and served four years as National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

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