Mike Lee knows a thing or two about the Constitution. Utah’s junior senator is the son of Rex E. Lee, the founding dean of the law school at Brigham Young University and Ronald Reagan’s first solicitor general. Lee recounts attending his father’s oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court, which he characterizes as a somewhat more decorous version of dinner table conversations in the Lee household. The younger Lee went on to graduate from the law school his father helped found, to clerk for Justice Samuel Alito when the latter was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (later joining Alito again as a clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court), and to specialize in federal appellate court litigation at an elite law firm.
Yuval Levin provided commentary last week on Utah Senator Mike Lee’s recent speech “What Conservatives are For,” where Lee provocatively argued that the problem with much of the Republican Party’s rhetoric is its insistence that Obamacare, among other welfare state policies, strikes at our individualism and independence. Of course, the most dramatic example of this was Romney’s famous takers’ speech and the crude materialistic anthropology it relied upon. Lee’s speech matters, I think, for the reason that he is viewed as part of a rising group of national political figures like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, among others, who seem willing to rethink standard rhetoric of liberty, limited government, free markets, rule of law and actually pour it into new wine-skins.