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Rand Paul Showed the Way

Posted: March 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm   /   by

We have written quite a few of what we call quo vadimus “where are we going” articles recently, and we have called your attention to the work of others on the subject. For many, it continues to be THE question at hand. Where is the Conservative movement going? What will it take to return the GOP to victory? Will the right unite? Will conservatives and libertarians be able to work together?

If you have your ear to the ground among the base of the conservative movement (in social networks, at tea party meetings, etc.), you know that this subject is, for some, being taken even further. Some in the base are asking if it is time to abandon the GOP altogether. Others are a step further down the road—they have given up entirely on America’s future and have taken to “prepping” for the worst.

No matter where one is on that continuum, a feeling of despair is palpable across the right. And yet . . . yesterday, the gloom lifted.

Rand Paul’s filibuster changed the tone. This was not the collegial filibuster we’ve come to know and ignore, this was a real Mr. Smith Goes to Washington filibuster, and the response in the movement was instantaneous and amazing. People in social networks are talking about their despair melting away, and being replaced by energy and enthusiasm. And all Paul had to do, aided by a few colleagues, was talk for a long time.

In other words, all he had to do was FIGHT.

That’s what the base wants. Yes, there are a few who hold the illusion that in spite of only holding 1/3 of elected government, the GOP can actually move an agenda forward, but most realize that can’t actually happen. But the GOP can dig in their heels, draw a line in the sand, and say, “No further.” That’s what the base wants.


When you’re getting punched in the face repeatedly . . .

And why shouldn’t they? It has become obvious that Obama has no intention of trying to help the country, and that his only goal is to destroy the Republican Party. Obama will allow bad things to happen—he will even engineer bad things to happen—and then use his megaphone, aided by a compliant media, to blame the GOP for it all. This isn’t normal, run of the mill politics. This isn’t a matter of putting on the big-boy pants and playing in the big leagues. This is scorched earth, bare knuckles warfare. Obama will burn America to the ground if that’s what it takes to achieve his objective. He is on a mission: Destroy the GOP. Gain complete power. Finalize the fundamental transformation of America. If you are in the way of that plan, you are just an egg to be broken. And the GOP is the biggest thing standing in his way.

So why does it so often seem as though the GOP is still conducting its affairs as if their opponent is somehow reasonable, or that he actually cares about what happens to America. Newsflash: America as it is currently constituted is repellent to Obama. It is filled with people clinging to their guns and their Bibles. It has a Constitution that actually has the audacity to limit central authority. It has a founding ethos that recognizes individual natural rights. In spite of the gains statism has made over the last 100 years, the American yearning for liberty, and our revulsion for collectivism and oppression, continue to pump through our life’s blood. Obama hates all of that, and he has no problem seeing that America suffer if it will help him gain the power he needs to transform America into something he actually likes.

The GOP still appears to be playing by the old set of rules, and the base is wondering why. Why play as if making decent policy is the goal here? It isn’t. Why play as if somehow, if we get the right amount of cooperation, Obama will agree to legislation that makes things better? He won’t. In the broadest sense, Obama has the GOP tied to a chair and he is punching them repeatedly, and that’s all he plans to do. The conservative base is watching this and wondering when the GOP is going to smash the chair, throw off the ropes, and hit back. Yesterday, Rand Paul did that.


Who cares what the base think?

So why should the GOP care what the base of the movement is thinking? The answer is simple: winning. Most of the national elections in the last decade were not win-the-middle elections, they were base-turnout elections. This was certainly true in 2002, 2004, 2010, and 2012. In 2008, it’s true that Obama won indies, but McCain’s base turnout was also quite weak. Romney’s turnout in 2012 was even weaker (by three million voters), if you can believe that.

The facts are plain. You might not win even if you get a good base turnout, but if you don’t get a good base turnout, you will definitely lose. It doesn’t matter how many indies you pick up, if you don’t hold you base and the other side does, you’re done for. And it appears that 2010 was the only time we got a strong base turnout since 2004.

Indies are going to go where indies are going to go. Independent voters are like the long strands of kelp that grow off the California coast. When the tide is going one way, that’s how they lean. The tide changes, and so do they. I am not saying that political parties can ignore independents. But there’s only so much they can do, and they certainly cannot reverse the flow of the tides. But the degree to which the base is energized—that is something that the party has a lot more ability to control. And recent elections have indicated that base-turnout is where it’s at.


Things can be turned around quickly

A grim mood pervades the right. More people are talking about “divorcing” the GOP than I have ever heard. In spite of all of that, the road away from this bad place isn’t as long as it might seem. By throwing down the rule book and making a real stand, Rand Paul began walking down that road. If enough of his colleagues follow him, the entire character of the debate will change. Despair, anger, and talk of divorce will melt away and the base will be energized again.

Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and others had the good sense to join him. On the House side, representatives like Arizona’s Paul Gosar made it clear that they too #StandwithRand. These Republicans are blazing a trail that may just lead out of the dark woods and into the sunlit uplands of a new tomorrow. Will their colleagues follow?



See also . . .

Spend a little time mourning . . .

Can social conservatives and the GOP break up but stay friends?

Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook

Managing Editor at Western Free Press
Christopher Cook is a writer, editor, and political commentator. He is the president of Castleraine, Inc., a consulting firm providing a diverse array of services to corporate, public policy, and not-for-profit clients.

Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including (now a part of Western Free Press) and He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to
Christopher Cook


  1. Shelly Burgoyne says:

    Great comprehensive piece. We don’t have to be one or the other, but we are going to have to balance our Party, we are going to have to include some Libertarian thought; and in doing so, we will steer away from the social issues, that may be important in our own lives, but have little place in Gov, and are, lets face it, the reason we lost. Liberty.

    1. @Shelly Burgoyne I agree that we need more libertarian thought. In fact, I believe that that is inevitable. Politics are a lagging indicator—-the people move and then politics follows. The GOP WILL become more libertarian. The conservative movement has become significantly so over the last five years
      However, I do have an important caveat. We need to abandon any notion of involving the state in social issues, but we cannot abandon social issues themselves. Exit polls showed Romney winning on every issue, but getting CRUSHED on “cares about people like me.” (This piece by Arthur Brooks is ESSENTIAL reading: Like it or not, people vote on emotions. They don’t care about numbers or facts, or anything that the GOP is really good at. They care about who sounds nice and seems nice. So Brooks is right that the GOP needs to change its rhetoric, but I believe there’s more. The whole movement of the right needs to take some new stands on social issues. I will be writing about this more this afternoon and in the future, but bottom line: We need to create movements towards private solutions for social issues. A MASSIVE movement to scale up private charity at the same time that we spin down the welfare state. A MASSIVE shift in focus away from the legality of abortion and onto helping people with adoption. This is not just about “holding” the social conservative vote. This is about the entire electorate. I am a libertarian, but one thing that libertarians need to wrap their minds around—–the American people want compassion and caring. Libertarianism sounds even more austere than conservatism! In reality, libertarianism would surely produce greater results for more people, including the poor, but that is not how it sounds and that is not how it’s gonna sound any time soon. If libertarianism doesn’t take a stand and say—really loud—that we aren’t just for private solutions, we are for private solutions THAT WILL REALLY REALLY HELP PEOPLE  more than government solutions will, then we’ll never be the majority of anything. The caring HAS TO BE EMPHASISED and a major focus. That’s just how the electorate is.

      1. Shelly Burgoyne says:

        @WesternFreePress  @Shelly Burgoyne  I agree that it is time for the  Libertarian Party, and Libertarians in general to go mainstream, they must communicate to the country their positions and compassion for the poor etc.  I also think they end to hoard their philosophy and can come across as “too cool for school”.  But I am mixed on the social issue thing, I do however think that you are totally right about the electorate, and truth be told, I know little about the nuts and bolts of an election.  Nixing social issues altogether seems like it wont fly through a primary process…sigh.

        1. @Shelly Burgoyne Agreed re: small-l libertarianism. Not agreed re: the Libertarian Party. Third parties never work; the Pauls understand this, which is why they’re trying to change the GOP from within.

        2. @Shelly Burgoyne And, vis-a-vis social issues, remember, as far as much of the electorate is concerned, government “compassion” (welfare, etc.) is also a social issue. Libertarianism and conservatism have to have answers for that. The answers have to be consonant with our philosophy, of course, but we need answers.

  2. RichardGrayson says:

    As a liberal Democrat, I’m excited by Rand Paul’s filibuster, and so are mafny of my friends who worked against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  You seem to completely miss the *content* of his speech.  It was directly aimed at the failed Cheney-Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld “unitary executive branch” war-at-any-price hawkish policy of the previous Republican administration (largely followed by Obama).  That is why the leftist Code Pink applauded Rand Paul.  That is why the hawkish McCain and Graham attacked him.

    1. @RichardGrayson That aspect is not lost on us, and there is a discussion taking place right now in the conservative movement on that very split. In the end, the movement will come to a stable position on the question. It will probably involve an uneasy consensus for a large, strong military, but one that engages in fewer overseas actions. I see a slowly growing move in favor of avoiding actions where the prospects of results that are clearly beneficial to U.S. national security are dubious, and where the prospect for durable stability is elusive. The  movement of the right, writ large (IOW conservatives, libertarians, GOP), is in flux on this issue right now, and Paul represents a bridge position to one of the factions. Consensus will come after debate and consternation.

Rand Paul Showed the Way