What could a Rand Paul filibuster over Syria really achieve?

Posted by Austin Petersen on 04 Sep 2013 / 5 Comments

Do you Stand with Rand? Or does Rand stand with us?

by Keith Farrell

Who could forget Kentucky Senator Rand Paulís iconic filibuster over domestic drone use in the United States? The junior Senatorís 13 hour protest in favor of due process and transparent governance did not end drone use, nor was it intended to. What it did do was raise public awareness of the issue and exposed a deep rift over civil liberties in the GOP. It also sky rocketed Rand Paulís popularity, helping to make him one of the most widely known politicians in America. Randís heroic defense of American liberties whilst sneaking bites of candy made big waves on social media (birthing the now famed hash tag/rally cry #standwithrand) and cemented his position as front running 2016 presidential contender.

Now with the war drums being beaten pounding by both sides of the aisles over Syria, another Rand filibuster appears in the works. While Rand cannot single-handedly prevent military action in Syria, a filibuster would put additional focus and attention on both the administration and members of Congress. One need only remember the embarrassment on the left resulting from Randís last filibuster to infer that Democrats fear such an action. Remember partisan groups like Code Pink and various other left-wing figureheads came out to support Randís stand and chided Democrats for being on the wrong side of the debate. Even Democrat cheerleaders like Jon Stewart of The Daily Show applauded Paulís actions. Democrats have long enjoyed posturing that they are anti-war and pro-civil rights. In both the drone and Syria debates they have found themselves on the opposite side. Many are not comfortable with this and another filibuster drawing national attention to their partyís positions could make them reconsider their support.

ďStand With Rand Filibuster HighlightsĒ

Republican leadership has just as much to fear from another filibuster. While Rand was conducting his 13 hour stand for due process, arguing that the president cannot kill Americans without charge or trial, John McCain and the party ilk were having dinner with President Obama. It was only when Randís stand became a media story and went viral online that establish yes-men like Marco Rubio hurried to the Hill to partake and get their picture taken during the historic moment. The contrast these events drew were stark: party leadership was cutting steak with Obama while the libertarian wing of the party fought to prevent the shredding of one of our most fundamental libertiesóthe right to due process. The average American clearly saw the divide within the GOP: the neocons, the ďold guard,Ē the relics of the Bush-era on one side, the libertarians, constitutionalists and ďyoung bucksĒ on the other. As the GOP civil war moved from perspective to actuality, disinfected democrats watched curiously as a voice arouse from a party they had long ago wrote off which seemed to speak for them. He spoke of liberty, due process, checks and balances, transparency and the Constitution.

The paradigm is shifting, as the Obama-Graham-McCain war selling trifecta has demonstrated. Neoconservatives and interventionist liberals have much shared ground. Rand Paul and his popularity are hastening this shift. Another filibuster will undoubtedly draw more attention towards the already unpopular idea of intervening in Syria and draw more attention to a fractured GOP. With so many democrats losing faith in their party and a record number of voters remaining unaffiliated, the imminent death of the current political paradigm is upon us. What will emerge from its ashes is likely going to be a lot like Matt Drudge pronounced on Twitter yesterday. The democrats and republicans have both proven themselves to be poor representatives of the peopleís will. Each party seems indistinguishable from the other on matters of war and civil liberties. What is taking shape is not a partisan battle, but an ideological battle between libertarians and authoritarians.

Randís next stand will have to be calculated. He cannot honestly expect to prevent military action alone, nor can he hold up the Senate forever. He will need to couch his rhetoric in a way that allows him to stand his ground but will also allow for an achievable victory. Perhaps demanding the president promise to abide by the voteĖ thus retaining some semblance of Congressional authority even if the vote goes the presidentís way, is in some way a tangible victory. Senator Paul can and should use a filibuster to draw public attention to this matter, but he must be careful not to get himself into a fight he cannot win. Congress has never refused a presidentís request to authorize force and they will not likely start now. Rand knows this and if he does mount an attack it will likely be with the objective of obtaining some concession from this administration regarding Congressional authority.