Since I wrote my open letter to State Rep. Sam Moore, I’ve been called a “statist” and “patsy” as well as being accused of doing the bidding of the Georgia GOP establishment. Those of you who’ve gotten to know me since I began writing at Peach Pundit in 2006 will no doubt find some humor in the silly comments from those who are a little more than upset with me for speaking out.
As I wrote yesterday, in order to have a discussion about liberty-based ideas, we have to make an arguments for them. Dropping a piece of legislation in the hopper and crying “liberty” isn’t going to convince 178 other legislators to suddenly say, “Yes! Liberty!!!” I wish that were the case, but it’s not the world in which we live. The system isn’t going to change overnight, especially when a couple of legislators keep giving the establishment excuses to marginalize us, no matter how unfair that may be.
For those who are truly interested in moving the ball forward, step-by-step, you need only look at two liberty-minded Republicans who have helped change the conversation, not just inside the GOP, but also the national discussion.
Take Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for example. On March 6, 2013, the Kentucky Republican stood from his desk in the Senate chamber for 13 hours to filibuster the appointment of John Brennan to serve as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The issue that Paul chose to raise was President Obama’s drones policy, which, some surmised, could include drone strikes against American citizens inside the United States, the prospect of which defied the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.
At the time, Paul was on the “wrong” side of public opinion, especially in the Republican Party, which, unfortunately, had been dominated by hawkish politicians who are totally fine with the prospect of perpetual war.
“[A]s the presidential race was taking shape, The Washington Post’s pollster asked voters whether they favored the use of drones to kill terrorists or terror suspects if they were ‘American citizens living in other countries,’” wrote Dave Weigel at Slate a few weeks after Paul’s filibuster. “The net rating at the time was positive: 65 percent for, 26 percent against.”
But Paul and the other senators who participated in the filibuster changed the narrative and started a national discussion, one that couldn’t be ignored or marginalized. He wasn’t bombastic, nor did he scream “statist” during the filibuster. He simply presented a reasoned, measured case for a protected civil liberty. Americans heard it, and they responded.
“[A]fter a month of Rand Paul-driven discussion of drone warfare, Gallup asks basically the same question: Should the U.S. ‘use drones to launch airstrikes in other countries against U.S. citizens living abroad who are suspected terrorists?’ The new numbers: 41 percent for, 52 percent against,” noted Weigel. “The lede of the poll is even kinder to Paul, finding as high as 79 percent opposition to targeted killing in the United States. But that’s a new question. On the old question, we’ve seen a real queasy swing of public opinion.”
Another example is Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). Shortly after the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs became public knowledge, the Michigan Republican, a stalwart civil libertarian, began making the case that the NSA had undermined Fourth Amendment protections, essentially using general warrants to obtain phone metadata of Americans, including those not suspected of terrorist activity or affiliations.
The administration and supporters of the NSA programs claimed that the intelligence agency had the power to obtain metadata (the haystack to find the needle, if you will) through Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the 2001 anti-terrorism measure. In reality, this provision of the law was intended to be limited to actual investigations into terrorist activity, but the Bush administration interpreted it a different way, and the Obama administration simply took the next step.
But the actions of a courageous whistleblower exposed the what the NSA was doing. Amash, then, began pushing for legislation to end the program, or, at the very least, limit its reach within the clear text of Section 215. He made the arguments and worked with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for a vote on an amendment that would restore congressional intent. Keep in mind that the PATRIOT Act, including Section 215, had been cleared without much opposition in the past. Section 215, for example, was renewed in 2011. There was some brief procedural drama in the House, but renewal provisions passed by 275 to 144 vote.
Though the Amash amendment was defeated, the 205-217 margin was remarkably close. What’s more, several members who voted against have stated publicly, as more disclosures about the program have been reported, that they wished they supported the amendment.
These are crucial examples that those in Georgia’s liberty movement should follow if they want to exact change in the Peach State, you just have to be willing to follow them, and it can be done without betraying or compromising on core beliefs and principles.
Everytime the ball moves forward on the field puts us closer to the endzone, no matter how small the gains may be. Unfortunately, some believe that we can throw “Hail Marys” from our own 1-yard line and win the game. It doesn’t work that way, folks, and that “strategy” hurts the rest of the team.