On March 6, #StandWithRand was the hashtag trending worldwide on Twitter.  On that day, Senator Rand Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky, pulled off a 12 hour and 52 minute filibuster of the nomination of President Obama’s candidate for CIA Director, John Brennan.   While some have called Senator Paul’s filibuster a waste of time, many others believe it may have been a watershed moment for the Republican Party and American politics as a whole.

The filibuster a tactic used in the Senate to prevent (or in this case, to delay) a vote on a particular piece of legislation or senatorial duty such as confirming presidential appointees.  Simply put, a senator or a group of senators get up and talk until they can’t talk anymore.  The only way to end a filibuster is by invoking cloture with a 3/5 majority vote (60 Senators.) Most filibusters, such as Strom Thurmond’s record-setting 24 hour and 18 minute filibuster of the 1957 Civil Rights Bill, are filled with time-filling gimmicks such as the reading of long documents.  However, Senator Paul’s filibuster was a real dialogue that captured the attention of the nation, brought to light key constitutional issues, and declared war against the Washington establishment.

So what in the world did John Brennan do to warrant an almost 13 hour debate on his nomination?  The answer is nothing, and the filibuster had very little to do with Brennan at all. The issue at hand was the Obama administration’s drone program.  The drone program started by President Bush and expanded by President Obama has been an effective tactic in hunting down al-Qaeda’s top leaders, but has caused a great amount of controversy. The killing of U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen on September 30, 2011 brought forth a series of important questions that no one seemed to be able to answer. If an American citizen can be killed on foreign soil without a trial if they are simply deemed a terrorist, what exactly are the criteria for determining who is a terrorist?  Will these drone attacks make their way to America?  Could they be used against an American citizen on American soil without due process?

Brennan repeatedly dodged questions about the drone program during his February 7 hearing and left many liberty-minded Americans outraged. To the rescue came Senator Rand Paul, who demanded an answer from the Obama administration on these questions.  Senator Paul began his filibuster of the nomination at 11:47 A.M. on March 6. He demanded that either the Senate pass a resolution saying that it is the opinion of the Senate that drone strikes in America would be unconstitutional or Attorney General Eric Holder issue an official response to the question. Rand would get neither until the next day, when Holder responded to the question with a simple “no.”

Here is perhaps the most memorable quote from Senator Paul’s filibuster:

“I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

Senator Paul, who was later joined by Senators such as Mike Lee (R-UT,) Marco Rubio (R-FL,) Ron Wyden (D-OR,) and Ted Cruz (R-TX,) held the floor for nearly 13 hours.  A memorable moment during the filibuster occurred during its later hours, when Senator Cruz read from Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech.  This speech lifted Reagan from a washed-up Hollywood movie star to a rising star in the Republican Party. I think it is fair to ask if this filibuster was Rand Paul’s “A Time for Choosing” moment.

As a libertarian, Rand has certainly beaten the odds in becoming a rising star in the party. The relationship between libertarians and the powerful Republican establishment has been hostile over the years, cumulating in the GOP throwing out many of Ron Paul’s delegates at the 2012 Republican National Convention and refusing to officially put the congressman’s name up for nomination. Ron’s son Rand hasn’t backed down from his principles, but he has carefully crafted his message to appeal to the party’s base, powerful conservative talk radio personalities, and various television pundits.  With many of his father’s former “enemies” on his side, Rand will have a fantastic shot at winning the Republican nomination in 2016.  With the exception of perhaps Marco Rubio, no one in the party today has come even close to generating as much buzz as Senator Paul has since the election.

In December, I wrote about the GOP’s growing “libertarian problem” and how the party should welcome libertarians with open arms and build a coalition.  I also wrote that the party must find the next Ronald Reagan, as I believe success in presidential elections has much more to do with “who is the better candidate” than ideology. Could a coalition of liberty-minded conservatives and libertarians win over the Republican Party? Could Rand play the part of Reagan and win over democrats and independents who rarely vote Republican?  Are we headed for an ideological revolution in the GOP and eventually in America?  Only time will answer these questions, but it is clear that Senator Paul can’t and won’t be ignored like his father was.

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