In the modern political era, the party not controlling the White House gives an official "response" to the President's State of the Union address. This year, FL Sen. Marco Rubio will present the "official" GOP response to Obama's speech. In an unprecedented move, however, KY Sen. Rand Paul will deliver a 2nd GOP response tonight. Rand's speech has been called the "Tea Party" response. This is neither fair nor accurate, but it underscores the broad coalition needed to maintain liberty in the wake of Obama's policies.
Both Sens. Rubio and Rand draw strong support from Tea Party and grass roots activists. This is not a case of an "establishment" response and a "conservative" response. Rand's speech, however, is a recognition that to solve our challenges, we have to rise above the traditional partisan talking points.
Indeed, a preview of Sen. Rand's speech makes clear that both parties have failed:
Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses. It is time for a new bipartisan consensus. It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.
This is a speech for the American public, rather than partisan activists. It is not meant to rally the base voters of a party, but the silent majority of Americans who are anxious about the direction of the country and have disagreements with both parties.
Rand even plans to call out his own colleagues:
If Congress refuses to obey its own rules, if Congress refuses to pass a budget, if Congress refuses to read the bills, then I say: Sweep the place clean. Limit their terms and send them home!
None of this should distract from Sen. Rubio's response. His is an important voice in the future of the GOP. But, the GOP alone may not be enough to solve our economic and fiscal problems. Conservatives need to reach beyond GOP voters to build a winning coalition.
Sen. Rand's speech is a step in that direction. The old adage says, "Go big or go home." Rand, and Rubio, look to be going big.
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