I still tend to think the legitimization of Rand Paul as a right-wing folk hero has implications that extend beyond the narrow hypothetical where he chose to plant his filibuster flag. That’s because, as I’ve argued before, the relative sterility of the foreign policy conversation on the right doesn’t reflect a deep conservative uniformity on national security questions; rather, it mostly reflects the fact that the potential standard-bearers for a less interventionist worldview have been relatively easy for hawks to delegitimize as cranks, Israel-haters, RINOs, etc. And so the fact that a lot of the support for Paul from his fellow Republicans is opportunistic and confined to a narrow policy hypothetical matters less than the fact that the support exists at all — that a politician who has consistently advocated a more militarily-restrained foreign policy is suddenly being supported, elevated, and extolled at the expense of his more interventionist critics within the party.
None of this means that the entire party is about to tilt dramatically toward realism. But legitimizing, as Real Conservatives (TM), politicians who advocate restraint is a necessary precondition to broader policy change.