Even hawkish Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary magazine wrote after Sen. Rand Paul’s thirteen-hour anti-drone filibuster yesterday: “Whether you like him or not, there’s no escaping the conclusion that he is a Republican star of the first magnitude who will be a first-tier contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.” For Commentary, that’s pretty magnanimous coming so soon after Paul’s (half-hearted) vote to confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.
(Please hear shorter pro and con comments about drones – for surveillance, warfare, and other purposes – this coming Monday, March 11, at 8pm when I host another Dionysium, at Muchmore’s, 2 Havemeyer St. in Williamsburg.)
I don’t know if it’ll change or clarify policy on drone use, but yesterday’s filibuster probably made it more likely that we’ll see presidential campaign stickers in 2016 using the slogan that sprang up on Twitter in support of Paul: STAND WITH RAND.
If Paul were opposing constitutionally-ambiguous uses of drones merely out of pacifism or a left-wing aversion to American interests, he likely wouldn’t have attracted the support of several fellow Republican senators and an enthusiastic Twitter following. He wants clear limits on government power because government is force – dangerous across the board, whether it’s stumbling its way through military matters, the economy, or ostensibly-legal pot dispensaries (whereas he’s made it very clear he doesn’t doubt the U.S.’s right to respond to a real imminent attack, whether from al Qaeda or North Korea).
He says he’s not technically a libertarian, but now would be a great moment for libertarians, conservatives, and left-liberals who share his concerns about the Constitution and legal procedure to come together – and think of him as one focal point in a broader struggle, even if it’s inappropriate to think of any politician as a “leader.”
Long story short, there have been big debates within libertarianism about whether libertarians should lean left or right in search of allies, but maybe we don’t need to lean at all anymore. There may now be a space where we can simply stand (one that happens to be within the Republican Party, whether by philosophical necessity or mere happenstance).
If the precise circumstances of Paul’s increased prominence have the side effect of inconveniencing a CIA nominee, well, the CIA is an apt arm of government to inconvenience if one wants to make a statement about ambiguous, unaccountable government powers – even if to many of us, some of its functions seem less manifestly-absurd than those of, say, the Department of Commerce.
Of course, there will still be the residual action/reaction sparring of left and right. One online commenter noted that some Huffington Post fans were finding themselves liking drones more because of Paul’s filibuster – even fantasizing about using drones against right-wing militias. But it likely matters more in the long run that Paul was praised by Jon Stewart – or that an ardent Hollywood liberal like John Cusack tweeted wondering where the Democrats were who should be supporting Paul on this issue, and how Obama had gone from progressive to warlord.
These aren’t my usual gauges of success – but they are interesting gauges of Paul’s potential crossover appeal, and the potential appeal of a more-libertarian, more consistently anti-force Republican Party. Philosophically imperfect as that route may be, at the moment it certainly appears to be the path forward for us all.
But in other bridge-building news: tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and I probably owe feminists a blog entry about that (and again: see you on Monday, I hope).