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Robin Koerner Headshot

The Liberty Movement, the New Middle, and the End of the Beginning

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Last week, Ron Paul sent an email to supporters that indicated that he doesn't expect to have enough delegates to win the GOP nomination. Subsequently, Rand Paul has endorsed Mitt Romney.

Today, some of Ron Paul's supporters are hurting, frustrated, demoralized.

Ron Paul's rEVOLutionaries may not have yet won the war, but they have won so many political battles in recent times that their chances in the war are looking better than many of them would have dared to imagine even a year ago

Paul's supporters have taken over the top positions and platform of the GOP in state after state. Even where they have not, the new blood in the party is overwhelmingly liberty-orientated. Most new political activists join the fight on their side while nearly all of those who are leaving the field are fighting for the old guard. The enthusiasm of the under-thirty-fives and at the universities is extraordinary. Most of Paul's pet issues are now mainstream. Registration with both main parties has been falling -- except for the recent turn-around in GOP registration caused by people becoming Republican to support Ron Paul. Most importantly, Americans who are fighting for liberty are no longer wet behind the ears: they know what to expect -- being thrown out of party meetings, having the cops called on them, even violence. Next time, they can prepare. Moreover, they know who they are, and that they are the most numerous bunch of rabid activists the country has right now -- and probably for as long as they choose to remain so.

In a rather excellent video, Israel Anderson of Ron Paul Flix recently exhorted the Liberty movement to keep its eyes on the prize -- which was always bigger than the presidency: it is the country. Anderson rightly points out that a myriad elected offices nationwide are unfilled or filled in uncontested elections. Liberty rEVOLutionaries should be standing for every single one of them, as Israel says, from sheriff to dog-catcher. Relative to everything the movement has brought to bear on the presidential campaign, this is low-hanging fruit: easy to do with a huge upside.

Meanwhile, Paul's supporters go to the convention in Tampa with a moral mandate to do whatever it takes to publicize what has been done to them by the G.O.P.owers that be. While disqualification of Romney as the beneficiary of outright wrongdoing is unlikely, Paul's delegates -- which may well number 500 -- could still choose to vote their consciences at the convention (rather than following the supposed "binding rules," which may not be legal anyway). After all, the Party cannot credibly ask anyone to follow a rule book that it already tore up to ensure their man would win. This is by way of saying that if the success of the campaign is measured by the effect it has on the country, the best may yet be to come.

But what should the Liberty movement do the day after the convention if Paul loses? The correct answer is, "exactly what it was doing the day before the convention": Paul has said consistently that it's not about him, the man, but about the message he carries. It's not about his campaign, but about the country he loves. Apart from everything else, then, we do a disservice not only to Liberty, but also to the man, if we let the end of his campaign translate into a dip in our efforts to spread the message until it has infected our entire political system.

One of the best outcomes of Ron Paul 2012 is the discovery that the Liberty movement is large enough, energetic enough and talented enough to do whatever still needs to be done. A few may feel differently right now, but that's just because they've taken a sucker punch in the form of an unexpected setback, and they're reeling. But that kind of shock arises not from the impossibility of the task, but from the inaccuracy of expectations. The correct response is to adjust one's expectations -- not one's efforts.

After Tampa, many in the Liberty movement may be exhausted. They should take a breather -- spend more time with families and less time posting videos -- but just for a few days or weeks. Then, we must all come back to the fight stronger. Lives literally depend on it. Activists who are not sure what to do with their passion and energy when there's no presidential campaign on which to bring them to bear, should look again to Paul's words: he has always said that those who love the Constitution and liberty should do whatever they are interested in and go wherever their passion lies. Such people are needed in every nook and cranny of society, after all.

But what about the small matter of the presidential election in November? (If it's Obama vs. Romney, it really will be a small matter.)

I recently polled the Blue Republicans (former Democrats and Independents who've become Republican specifically to support Ron Paul) on whom they'd vote for if Paul isn't nominated. The nearly one thousand responses yielded the following results: 80 percent will write-in Ron Paul in some way or another. Twenty percent would vote Gary Johnson. Those who would choose their version of "the lesser of two evils" -- Obama or Romney, according to taste -- don't even reach 1% combined.

Thank God for that.

My opinion is worth no more than the next man's, but I am sure that a vote for Romney or Obama is a vote to give up everything that has been built in the liberty movement. It is to forget that we are playing the long game. It is to throw away an extraordinary opportunity to prove to the country that the new middle of American politics -- the new swing vote -- is a Constitutionalist liberty-loving block. In fact, it's not really "in the middle" at all -- but entirely off the Left-Right axis. To write in Paul (and, in states where a write-in is a technological impossibility, perhaps a vote for Johnson), puts the political class on notice that the best way to win over the non-partisan vote from here on out is to follow the Constitution and do nothing more to abuse our inalienable rights.

This is actually a very exciting possibility: Precisely because Romney and Obama are in all ways that matter one and the same, the refusal of the Liberty movement to play ball on Nov. 6th could have a more immediate and deeper impact on the next four years of American politics than a vote between two Republicrat nominees.

How so? If the Liberty movement holds firm, it will now dominate the "new middle" of American politics: in a two-party Democracy, the median voter is the one that must be won over to secure a majority. His influence on policy is therefore disproportionate. By refusing to vote for someone whose politics are antithetical to their principles, Paul's supporters exploit the weakness of this country's political duopoly against that very duopoly -- by forcing their principles to be accommodated by anyone or any party that must secure that middle to win a majority. The point is that the Liberty movement is not yet a majority of the GOP. But it is likely already a majority of politically active Independents. That is power.

But we can only be the tail that wags the dog if we reduce the percentage of votes gained by both the Republican and the Democratic presidential candidates to significantly lower than any Republicrat presidential candidate has seen in decades. There are easily enough in the Liberty movement to do so -- as long as we remember that in the pursuit of our goals, a vote for the Republicrats is a wasted vote.

Much to the chagrin of some of my purist libertarian friends, I have occasionally quoted Churchill on the dynamics of a nationwide fight against tyranny. Forgive me if I do so again.

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."