At 11:47 a.m. yes­terday, Sen. Rand Paul began talking about the uncon­sti­tu­tion­ality of drone strikes. Twelve hours later, as we write, he hasn’t stopped speaking to the majestic Senate chamber. Decorous but insistent, Paul has managed to make the senate fil­i­buster, some­thing that usually looks pathetic, seem inspiring instead.

The Senate rules are complex, but this one is simple: keep talking. The rules allow debate on a bill or nom­i­nation to con­tinue until 60 Sen­ators force it to cloture. The fil­i­buster has an illus­trious history in the Senate, with Sen. Strom Thurmond holding the record for the longest speech, clocking in at 24 hours and 18 minutes. Attempting to prevent the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, Thurmond read the Dec­la­ration of Inde­pen­dence, the Con­sti­tution, and other founding doc­u­ments aloud. The runner-up, Sen. Alfonse D’Amato in 1992, ran out of stuff pretty quickly and then recited the Wash­ington, D.C., phone book. Our republic at its finest, of course.

Paul set out today to fil­i­buster John Brennan’s nom­i­nation to CIA director, but he’s not con­cerned with the man’s spe­cific cre­den­tials. Rather, he intended to bring con­sti­tu­tionally dubious drone strikes to the fore­front of the national con­ver­sation. And while we would have enjoyed him reading some­thing ridiculous (we tweeted an early draft of Timmis’ thesis at him, but as of press time he hasn’t read it), he focused like a laser on the topic at hand. He has ref­er­enced prominent intel­lec­tuals such as Hayek, Mon­tesquieu, and Patrick Henry.

Some among us with lin­gering neo-con­ser­v­ative twitches don’t agree com­pletely with Paul’s position on drones. But we admire his real­ization that some­times the role of the minority party is to “stand athwart history yelling ‘stop,’” as National Review founder William F. Buckley said once of con­ser­v­a­tives.

He’s been standing since the fil­i­buster began. Some Sen­ators have come to the floor to pretend to ask ques­tions of Paul so his voice could rest, but oth­erwise he’s been scarfing candy to keep ener­gized.

Today the famously stagnant Senate accom­plished more than its usual quorum calls and short speeches; it stood for an idea and refused to relent. We hope to see more such seri­ousness from Wash­ington, D.C., and soon.