Did Rand Paul Change the Republican Party for the Better in 36 Hours?


Grace Wyler at Business Insider, who has been great on the Ron Paul/Rand Paul/libertarians in the GOP beat for a long time, reports on what Rand Paul might have done to change the GOP for the libertarian better with his filibuster. The story quotes me a bit. 


For libertarians, Paul's filibuster — and the groundswell of support for it across the conservative spectrum —was a crowning moment, signaling their reintegration into the mainstream Republican Party…

"This was a very big deal. In 36 hours, the Republican Party has completely changed," said Brian Doherty, a senior editor at Reason magazine who has been covering the Paul movement for two decades.

"You literally saw the shift happen over the course of the day," Doherty said. "It started with Rand Paul, and then it was just [Sens.] Mike Lee and Ted Cruz. And then you had people like Marco Rubio and Saxby Chambliss joining in. And by the end of it, [Republican Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell was on the floor saying he was going to block [CIA Director John] Brennan's confirmation, and [RNC Chairman] Reince Priebus was tweeting that Senators should go join Rand Paul."

"Who knows, maybe in two years, the filibuster won't seem like a big deal," he added. "But today, it feels like everything has changed. Today, it feels like the Republican Party is different." 

Doherty conceded that, for some conservatives, the embrace of Paul's civil liberties argument may be chalked up to antagonism toward the Obama administration. But, he added, "if that's what it takes to get Rush Limbaugh to say that he agrees with Rand Paul, that he's open to these ideas, I'll take it." 

Wyler quotes me accurately, as far as I remember, and captures a moment of great excitement that, like many moments of great excitement, may fade. We need to see how or if Paul's constitutional libertarianism keeps up respect and momentum in the next weeks, months, and years.

I'll be returning with a bit more perspective behind us next week here at Reason with more thoughts on what the filibuster and reaction to the filibuster might mean for libertarian ideas about civil liberties and foreign policy in the Republican Party–and the nation.

Wyler tells of how the pugnacious antiwar libertarian, and huge fan of Ron Paul, Justin Raimondo had his mistrust of Rand turned around over the course of the filibuster. I blogged last month about how Raimondo and others from the antiwar right and libertarian movements were angry at Rand Paul for helping filibuster Chuch Hagel's nomination for defense secretary, though Paul did end up voting for him.

Wyler gets some Paul staffers on the record about Paul's goals with the filibuster:

According to Paul aides and confidantes, the goal of his filibuster was always to introduce ideas about civil liberties back into the Republican discourse.

"Rand has always said that he wanted to be a leader on the message of the Republican Party, and that means talking about old ideas that were part of the party's original message, and introducing new ideas that might help the party broaden its appeal to groups that may have been left out of the conversation," Doug Stafford, Paul's Senate chief of staff, told Business Insider

"Rand is one of the only people who can speak to libertarians, social conservatives, as well as your average mainstream Republican voter." 

Jesse Benton, the controversial former Ron Paul campaign leader and now Mitch McConnell staffer, told Wyler that McConnell joined Paul because "he was legitimately emotionally moved by it."

Wyler interviewed me last May about my book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

I wrote around a month ago for the New York Times on the growing importance of Rand Paul and likeminded colleagues in the GOP, and didn't know how right that would seem, so soon.