And what that means for the GOP going forward
The other day I mentioned
a new generation of conservatives and libertarians represented by Walker, Cruz, Rand Paul, Rubio, and their cohorts with almost unprecedented ability to hold a mass audience while explaining persuasively what they stand for and why.
As I wrote those words I was picturing Rand Paul filibustering an Obama nominee over the administration’s refusal to clarify its drone policy.
Poll shows huge support for Rand Paul’s filibuster stance on drone attacks
When Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) filibustered for nearly 13 hours two weeks ago, he had the American people on his side.
A new Gallup poll shows a huge majority of Americans — 79 percent — supported Paul’s position that drone strikes should not be used on American soil against Americans suspected of terrorism. Just 13 percent say it would be okay.
Americans also don’t support drone strikes against any suspected terrorist on American soil (25 percent support, 66 percent oppose) or against U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism abroad (41 percent support, 52 percent support).
In fact, the only circumstance under which Americans support drone strikes is when they are used on foreign soil against non-U.S. citizens. Under that scenario, there is clear support, with 65 percent in favor and 28 percent opposed.
Paul’s position, of course, is now the position of the Obama administration as well, with Attorney General Eric Holder having issued a letter clarifying that the United States would not use drone strikes against noncombatant American citizens suspected of terrorism on American soil.
Paul filibustered the nomination of now-CIA Director John Brennan in order to get the White House to issue such a clarification.
I was also thinking Ted Cruz’s staged filibuster (an agreement between Cruz and Majority Leader Reid). Commentary Magazine’s Jonathan Tobin is clearly no Cruz fan:
I disagreed vehemently with the senator’s efforts to create a standoff that could shut down the government in order to defund ObamaCare. But his marathon speechifying was neither foolish nor did it hurt Republicans the way a shutdown would. Instead, it did exactly what the hashtag created by his followers to celebrate the event wished for: It made Washington listen to complaints about ObamaCare.
Cruz is the kind of politician for whom style often becomes substance. He is an equal opportunity bull in a China shop that has dissed GOP Senate elders as well as Democrats ever since he arrived on Capitol Hill. Though he is clearly as smart if not a lot smarter than most of his colleagues, his obnoxious personality is tough for most of them to take. The same goes for the media and even sections of the public. If I have doubts about him really being presidential timber it is not so much that I disagree with some of his stands but because I don’t believe anyone who comes across as a mean guy, as Cruz undoubtedly has to much of the public, could ever be elected president.
But even he saw something important in the “filibuster” (emphasis mine):
But this is a moment when credit must be given where credit is due. His filibuster was a model of reasoned argument in which he labored mightily to call attention to the fact that the American people are unhappy about the way a Democratic Congress forced ObamaCare down their throats. They are rightly worried about the way it will affect their own health care as well as the potentially devastating impact it will have on the economy as jobs are killed and costs rise. Call it what you like and acknowledge that like Rand Paul’s far less substantial argument about drone attacks in his filibuster earlier this year, his motivation had a lot to do with his desire to run for president in 2016.
But there is something grand about a filibuster and Cruz’s stand deserves the same applause that the media was willing to give to Paul as well as Davis.
As was the case with Paul—whose arguments I disagreed with—Cruz showed there is still space in our public square for principled and high minded debate on the issues. In an era in which sound bytes dominate and in which even most politicians generally shun traditional oratory with the gift for gab, filibusters are a unique opportunity for the participants to riff on big issues and do more than merely give cable news the catch phrases they are asking for. Filibusters give the Senate the kind of glamour that was once associated with it in bygone eras and even if we are well rid of some of the traditions of the past they raise the level of discourse in a way that should be applauded.
And then there is John Podhoretz, who—before he turns again to trash the bull-in-a-china-shop Texan—writes nine paragraphs in praise of Cruz:
Ted Cruz has proved himself the David Blaine of US politics. The freshman Republican senator’s 21-hour pseudo-filibuster was an immensely stylish endurance stunt — a feat made all the more impressive by the rhetorical fluency that did not flag, the clarity of argument that was present in the first hour and the 21st and the unflappable demeanor.
Unlike Blaine, Cruz seemed none the worse for wear at the end. Remember: He didn’t sit; he didn’t go to the bathroom; the only relief he got was the occasional “question” that went on for a few minutes to give his throat a break.
In the last hour, even as he said he grew “weary” as his time arguing against ObamaCare was coming to a close, he found himself in a debate with the able and smart Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin on the Congress’s generous health-care plan.
Durbin complained that Cruz wanted to deny health care to the uninsured; did he not, Durbin asked, enjoy the benefits of the generous congressional health-care package himself?
Cruz said he wouldn’t answer Durbin until Durbin first replied to three questions Cruz had posed. Durbin, with an “a-ha” gesture, responded by saying it was clear Cruz was simply refusing to answer his embarrassing question.
He’d walked into Cruz’s trap. For then Cruz said, no, Senator, I’m eligible for the congressional plan — but I’m not enrolled in it.<
Durbin thought he had Cruz cornered by bringing up his reliance on the absurdly generous health package for Congress. But since Cruz doesn’t rely on it, Durbin humiliated himself in what was supposed to be his gotcha moment.
Despite his marathon of speaking and standing and arguing, after nearly a day on his feet, Cruz — there is no other term for it — squashed Durbin like a bug.
All in all, the Cruz performance was great political theater, and Cruz was astoundingly impressive both in demeanor and in the cogency and saliency of his arguments against ObamaCare. If there’d been any question before Tuesday about what a formidable presence he’s going to be in Washington and in the Republican party going forward, it has been laid to rest.
But then, awakened from the magic moment, John reverts to form, remembering how much he disapproves of Ted Cruz:
But what all that demonstrates is how triumphant Ted Cruz’s superstar performance was … for Ted Cruz. What did it do otherwise?
Well…John…he got even you to spend more than a few minutes watching and listening. You forgot for a moment—didn’t you?—how distasteful Cruz’s tactics and personality are to you.
Such is the power of a world class debater. He may not have turned the polls around in the way Rand Paul did, but he made even his political enemies stop and confront the issues.
And he impressed, if only for a moment, the not-easily-impressed John Podhoretz.
And that’s not nothing.
Then there was the appearance that really impressed me, though I don’t remember it gaining much attention. It was when he went on Meet the Press for a one-on-one with David Gregory:
For a surprising number of my friends, Cruz is the problem, not the solution. And the idea of him being the future of anything other than electoral comeuppance gives them vapors.
But here he is on Meet the Press, going toe to toe with David Gregory.
I really enjoy Gregory in this one, because there’s no pretence—at least not very long—of “Your critics say…” You can tell as their discussion goes on that these are two intelligent, savvy, guys arguing their best arguments from conviction and integrity.
Playing well on the other guy’s turf
I don’t think either of them wins.
But for Cruz—and for people who believe as Cruz does—a tie on the other guy’s turf is a win.
Because with the Fear of Their Own Shadow Caucus that hardly ever happens.
Take a look at it yourself:
Rand Paul again
A little over a week ago, Rand Paul went to Berkeley. Here is Politico‘s take:
Republican Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday took his case for civil liberties to one of the most liberal enclaves in the country — and lived, politically, to tell the tale.
The Kentucky senator drew a largely friendly reception at the University of California-Berkeley as he skewered the intelligence community, argued his party must “evolve, adapt or die” and left the door open for a 2016 presidential run.
The article continued with Paul’s proposal to set up a select committee to reform the intelligence community. Then comes the key graf (emphasis mine):
But while blasting the intelligence community, the libertarian-leaning senator also sought common ground with young people as he pitched them on the importance of strong privacy safeguards.
And it worked. I’ll let the Christian Science Monitor take over:
Rand Paul got a standing ovation after his address at a crowded Berkeley auditorium. His camp hopes that as an issue for young people, Paul’s NSA-bashing will top GOP opposition to gay marriage.
Will Rand Paul be able to attract a substantial number of new young voters to the Republican Party? It’s become increasingly clear that may be one of his main political goals as the libertarian-leaning Kentucky senator looks towards a potential 2016 presidential run.
In his latest attempt at youth outreach, Senator Paul traveled to the famously liberal University of California at Berkeley on Wednesday to deliver a scathing speech warning of the dangers of unchecked National Security Agency surveillance.
“I’m not here to tell you what to be,” Paul told a crowded Berkeley auditorium. “But I am here to tell you … that your rights, especially your right to privacy, [are] under assault.”
Invoking one of the talismans of the digital age, Paul told the audience that if they own a cell phone, they are under surveillance, as the NSA collects metadata such as time and number called on all US cellular communications.
“I believe that what you do on your cell phone is none of their damn business,” said Paul, repeating an applause line he’s used in previous speeches.
Will he get their vote?
A new report by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way highlights the political complexity of a generation raised to believe they were utterly unique. When it comes to politics, they do it their way. Which could make the cohort that turned out en masse for President Obama unpredictable as voters.
Third Way focused on how Millennials’ experience as the first generation raised in an information-on-demand culture has shaped them. They are not “adaptors.” They have only known a world full of endless choices, not a life where you make do with what is available.
Third Way reported, “Living in an à la carte world with unlimited options, Millennials don’t feel they have to choose between two limited choices.” For their elders, it was Coke or Pepsi. But Millennials create their perfectly flavored soft drink with a Soda Stream. They design their own shoes on the Internet. They buy just the songs they like.
This creates expectations for politics. Millennials are “less likely to be satisfied with two static choices, and more apt to be swayed to change their tune,” says the report. They “are much more likely to switch the party they support from election to election — even amongst those who claim to ‘lean’ towards one party or another.”
But to me, that’s not the point.
The point is political evangelism. An inexorable tide: regular, persistent, patient conversation. Finding common ground.
And then enlarging it.
Not just during election season.
Here’s how I said it before (Talking them out of Marrying the Wrong Person):
We can’t wait until just days before an election to win hearts and minds.
Honestly? I think it’s too late, once an election is underway, to do the kind of teaching that is required if the right candidates with the right solutions—more than that, the right principles and priorities—are going to prevail.
And really. How many of us like to be talked out of the choices we’ve already made?
It’s hugely frustrating to run into people—especially young people like this guy—who, a) Don’t know how much they already agree with our candidate, and b) How much they disagree with the candidate they plan to vote for.
We need a better way.
And we need it now.
We can’t wait until campaign season to start teaching.
Matt Lewis had a lot to say about Marco Rubio’s appearance at Uber headquarters in Washington, DC yesterday:
The company’s travails provide a case study for someone like Rubio who is looking to persuade tech-savvy young people — who tend to be politically progressive — that free markets encourage innovation, while onerous regulation can stifle it. Rubio says that he was teaching a course at Florida International University recently, when he used Uber as an example that “connects the dots between policy and real life.”
So much of conservative economics is abstract that it’s helpful to have an example that hits home with students who are fans of the service (or might even be interested in starting their own app in a garage some day). “First we explain the real life impact innovation has on our lives,” Rubio said, “and then we give an example of how big government stifles innovation.”
According to Rubio, most people believe “we need big government to protect the little guy,” but the case of Uber demonstrates to young people how “big government — more often than not — is an impediment to the guy who is striving.”
Rubio also cites this as an example of how some businesses use government regulations to destroy competition. “Imagine if Blackberry had been able to use regulations to keep down smart phones,” he averred. “Imagine if Blockbuster had been allowed to use regulations to keep down Netflix.”
Another great example of political evangelism from somebody who knows how to teach rather than simply exclaim over and over—and never be heard.
It doesn’t hurt Rubio’s cause that he’s not just smart. He’s also young:
I had to laugh at this, because if I were a politician I’d be talking about Mozart and Chopin.
A couple months ago
I talked about “idealist ideologues” who
view conservatism as a movement of convictions and ideals that needs more adherents. So they go as warrior-teachers into the marketplace of ideas. They take stands. They publish papers. They count votes. They name names. They recruit. They raise money. They make themselves the targets of leftist vitriol. They want to reverse the growth of government. Their fear is focused on what will happen if we reach a tipping point where freedom and opportunity are lost forever.
These are the guys I was thinking of.
These are the guys who are the future of both the conservative and Republican brands.
They know how to teach, “in season and out of season.”
Sometimes they agree with each other. When they do, they stand together.
Sometimes they don’t agree. And then they debate.
Most of all, they’re not afraid of engaging with people who aren’t already on board with their agenda.
Would that the establishment learn from them rather than deploy their resources to defeat them.