“. . .I will not sit quietly and let him shred the Constitution.”
— Senator Rand Paul, referring to President Barack Obama
The American people were blessed with a real–and all-too-rare–political treat on Wednesday when Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky took the floor of the U. S. Senate in a filibuster that lasted almost 13 hours. What was otherwise a dull, uneventful Wednesday turned into a riveting reminder of why the United States has the best government in the world (forgive my bias, foreign friends). We listened to articulate, well-reasoned, and well-mannered speeches from rising conservative stars, many of which were extemporaneous. And it was all so simple: Senator Paul merely wanted answers from the Obama administration about the use of armed drones on U.S. soil.
I must confess that day-to-day politics are not my thing. I find it all very draining and frustrating. I have strongly held opinions and beliefs, and I try to follow the major headlines and events, but I am by no means a political scholar or even a particularly keen mind on social, fiscal, or national security matters or the workings of the U. S. government.
In short, I’m an average American stay-at-home-mom who’s just trying to vote her conscience, support the right ideas and causes, and raise her kids to be critical thinkers, especially on matters of great importance.
Big events, however, tend to find me riveted to the screen. If anyone had told me I’d be glued to CSPAN2 for hours yesterday, I would have snorted coffee through my nose. But I was–and moreover, I was glued to Twitter at the same time as I watched the hashtag #StandWithRand trend worldwide. Even Mr. P, the Reluctant Tweeter, kept refreshing his Twitter stream on his iPad. We could not tear ourselves away.
Today, the euphoria has died off to some extent, but the resolve has, if anything, strengthened. And in the post-event reflective period, I put some thought into why I was willing to #StandWithRand and why it really matters.
It matters because someone stood up to the president. Even if I had not agreed with Paul in principle on this issue, it was high time that someone stood up to the arrogant, self-absorbed, and power-drunk Obama administration on something. Paul did. He challenged the president’s views on his executive privileges and reminded him that he is, in fact, bound to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. He is not allowed to simply pick and choose when he follows it according to convenience and whims.
It matters because it gave conservatives a rallying point–one that most of us can get behind. Another senator filibustering on some kind of social or spending issue might not have received the same kind of attention. The beauty of Paul’s issue with the administration was its reasonableness (just answer the question, Mr. President, and then we can move on) and its simplicity (can’t we agree that we will all uphold and defend the Constitution?). Rather than a polarizing issue within the conservative world, it was an issue that almost any conservative–and even some liberals, such as Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and the organization Code Pink–could get behind. The rallying cry of #StandWithRand gave everyone concerned about limiting executive privilege an opportunity to find each other, to band together, to realize there is much we have in common. We can disagree on some issues and still band together to limit the federal government and put rights back in the hands of the states and individuals.
It matters because it ferreted out the hypocrites and hangers-on. While it is admirable that some conservative senators finally showed up on the senate floor to show support for Senator Paul, one has to wonder what took them so damn long. And today, as we hear Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain say that Paul’s filibuster was “ridiculous” and not helpful to the American people, we are reminded of why the old guard of the conservative movement in American just doesn’t get it. I held my nose and voted for McCain for president in 2008, but only because he was better than the alternative. Now, today, seeing his treatment of Senator Paul, I don’t think I could ever vote for him again. I may not agree with Paul on everything, but I simply cannot abide a Republican senator who would treat his fellow this way on something so basic as defending and upholding the constitution.
It matters because it reminds us that these men–all of these men–are just citizens like we are. I have news for President Obama. He is not royalty. He is not president for life. He is the current president–that is all. He is a citizen (I hope), and as such, he is not above the constitution or the law. Senator Paul, with the considerable help of Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Mike Lee, reminded him of that in no uncertain terms. Mr. President, Mr. Attorney General, Senators, Congressmen, I have news for all of you: YOU ARE ONE OF US. You have authority only because We The People have granted it to you. We can take it back–peacefully, through an election, or by force, if necessary. Our rights are not given to us by you. Our rights are ours because we are human, because they are certain and inalienable. We cede some limited power to you for the greater and common good, but that’s it. We can take it back if you “get too big for your britches,” as my grandmother used to say.
It matters because it inspired my entire family. By the end of the evening, all four of our children were watching CSPAN2. They had an excellent, real-time education on the U. S. Constitution, the system of checks and balances built into our system of government, and the difference one principled man can make. And they got to hear the St. Crispian’s Day speech from Henry V. History books are one thing; living history is irreplaceable.
It matters because today, I can write this blog post without fear. The thing that President Obama doesn’t seem to get is that while it may, in some bizarre and rare circumstance, be justifiable to target a non-combative U. S. citizen on U. S. soil, that does not make it constitutional. The risk is that by opening the door to targeting any U.S. citizen, we open the door to targeting all U. S. citizens for any reason. The non-combatant U. S. citizen with ties to Muslim terrorists in the Middle East may be the example today, but who will the next “enemy of the state” be? Senator Paul? A Fox News host? Any blogger who dares defy the Obama administration? I am not accusing the president of targeting people who disagree with him. A Republican president could just as easily decide that he doesn’t like any number of liberal journalists, columnists, politicians, etc. Without the safety afforded every U. S. citizen through the constitution, debate is silenced and tyranny will reign.
As I said, I am not a particularly political person, and finer minds than mine can give far better analyses of yesterday’s events. But I am in the trenches, so to speak. And Senator Paul, this is what your principled act meant to one average, middle class, Evangelical, stay-at-home mom. I am, and will continue to be, proud to #StandWithRand.