Most Republican senators don’t share this nightmarish vision of their country, thank goodness. But they do answer to an activist base that shares a nightmarish vision of President Obama. Rand Paul stipulated that he did not intend his remarks about a Hitler-like president to apply to the present president. But he must have a pretty fair idea of what his core constituency hears when he talks about looming tyranny – and so of course must the Republican senators who joined him at the rostrum.
They saw Rand Paul’s Twitter following jump. Perhaps they sensed a great fundraising bonanza at hand. Where Rand Paul led, other Republicans followed: some out of conviction, some out of opportunism, and some out of fear.
Since 2008, the party has executed a huge about-face on issues of executive power and national security. Yesterday marked an important pivot in that complex maneuver. I worry it won’t be the last.