Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s old fashioned, talking filibuster was a come out of
left right field instantly popular media and social media happening. In 13 hours he “branded” himself sufficienty different from the GOP pack so that it’s clear if he wants it he’ll be a 2016 GOP Presidential primary contender. A sampling of Tweets, Facebook posts, and blog and news stories found that even those who didn’t quite agree with Paul (such as Jon Stewart) found his filibuster intriguing. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. This was an old-fashioned talking filbuster a la Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He chose to use it at a time when GOPers had been battling filibuster reform that would REQUIRE going back to this older form of filibuster. And its efficacy in terms of imagery and getting media attention is likely to mean we’ll see more of it — and Senators who insist on doing filibusters with just a vote and not getting up may be asked by the media and constituents: “How come?”
2. Paul seemed truly sincere and passionate — putting aside his arguments that at times spun extreme case scenarios that raised eyebrows from his non-fans and the ire of Arizona Senator John McCain (who has now been blasted by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.)
3. Although some could (and did) argue with his content, his arguments were about policy and not the same old tired political polemics many Republican politicians and bloggers use which seem to be warmed over talk radio or Fox News cable show rants and talking points. He wasn’t throwing in things in this appearance about birth certificates, or trite slogans or catchphrases used by conservative broadcasters or new or old media writers.
4. Paul made arguments once upon a time many Democrats might have made give or add a few words. Democrats quickly scrambled to try to explain their absence. Was this a case of Democrats staying mum because a conservative was saying what many of them have said in one form or another about the danger of not tightly controlling drone use?
5. He’s the son of libertarian icon Rep. Ron Paul and many have wonder if he would or could pick up his Dad’s torch. The answer now seems clear, from a libertarian standpoint, no matter how other Republicans or Democrats may perceive it.
6. The media love a new story and partisans will quickly join what seems to be something new that is generating positive buzz and media attention. The media jumped on this story immediately and it picked up steam on social media. When Senate GOPers saw how it had captured the imagination of many, Senate Republicans ran to Paul faster than passengers stranded for days on the cruise ship Triumph ran to bathrooms and showers when they hit land.
7. Someone doing something “new,” even though it was really old. The new: the talking filibuster (old), seemingly meaning what he says versus reciting attack lines or vomiting up conservative media lines (refreshing and it has worked for New Jersey’s Chris Christie). By TALKING he wasn’t just OBSTRUCTING but arguing his case and stepping up to take whatever consequences may stem from it (good or bad).
8. It was a good, cheap story to cover for the media. Just cut in to him talking on camera, bring in some talking heads. Ongoing for nearly 13 hours.
9. It gave libertarians someone who could conceivably go further and over time wield far more influence than their last icon — Ron Paul.
I suspect from a political standpoint one of the strongest impacts will be the revival of the talking filibuster and pressure on those who want to just vote on a filibuster and not get up and talk to start to explain their positions.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.