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Introduction: Robin Koerner is an influential political journalist who coined the term "Blue Republican." He also runs WatchingAmerica.com, a volunteer force some 400 strong that finds and translates news and views about the USA from all over the world. This interview was conducted prior to the announcement that Congressman and Presidential Candidate Ron Paul (whom Koerner backs) would not further contest various states in the Republican primary. However, Ron Paul has not given any indication he is actually dropping out of the race and Koerner’s statements below thus stand as stated (unless Ron Paul issues further clarifications) without need of further clarification.
Daily Bell: Give us some background on yourself.
Robin Koerner: I am in my mid-30s and born in south of England. I studied physics and philosophy at Peterhouse, Cambridge University and have traveled quite extensively. I’m now a permanent resident of the USA (living in Seattle), with the intention of becoming a citizen. I am also the founder and publisher of Watching America.com and probably best known in the USA today for coining the expression "Blue Republican" to refer to those former non-Republicans of more liberal sensibility who are switching to the Republican party specifically to support Ron Paul.
Daily Bell: When did you decide to get involved as an alternative media political commentator?
Robin Koerner: I have been writing on and off for a few years, after I founded www.WatchingAmerica.com, but was not very motivated because I didn’t feel that my writing was making much of a difference… Then about a year ago I was invited to write on the Huffington Post and I thought that I should give writing a serious go to see if I could do any good. In particular, I thought HuffPo offered a great opportunity to provide an alternative account of US politics to liberals. I soon found that many thousands of people were following and sharing my articles. Feeling I was indeed making a useful contribution to the American political scene, I committed myself more firmly to writing, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have enjoyed significant success.
Daily Bell: Why did you develop the Blue Republican nomenclature specifically?
Robin Koerner: The reasons are in the article that set it off, called "If You Love Peace, Become a Blue Republican (Just for a Year)."
Daily Bell: Is it a feasible idea?
Robin Koerner: Yes. The free market of ideas decided within a few days that "Blue Republican" had legs. (The article was shared over 11,000 times within a couple of days on Facebook alone.) It seems that thousands of Americans have gotten the sense that Left and Right are equally responsible for the mess we’re in and that the Democrats are not standing up for true liberal values (civil rights, peace over war, against crony-corporatism).
They also feel that Obama has been Bush-plus in most of these areas, so there is great disappointment among some Democrats and Independents. I articulated that perception and gave it a name. And I provided a suggestion as to how to be true to liberal principles in the USA today – by supporting Ron Paul.
The "Blue Republican" label gives a political identity to those who have never identified Republican but will put principle over party to support Paul. "Blue Republican" is almost at the status of a meme now, as a term used by various political media. That is the ultimate indicator of its feasibility. Special thanks to Zak Carter for helping us get media attention and to Israel Anderson for being the first to person to contact me (on the day my Blue Republican article came out) to identify that I probably had a political movement on my hands and for helping to make that so on Day 1!
Daily Bell: More about what you think of Ron Paul …
Robin Koerner: So much to say. So many of my articles on HuffPo and elsewhere cover this. Specifically, please see these articles (all of which can be found in my blog entries at Huffingtonpost.com/robin-koerner):
- Ron Paul Can Win
- "Blue Republicans": An Idea Whose Time Has Come
- If You Love Peace, Become a "Blue Republican" (Just for a Year)
- Ron Paul, Conservative Champion of Liberalism
- Ron Paul and the Love Revolution of 2012
- A Legal Immigrant’s Take on Illegal Immigration
- "First Do No Harm": Constitutional and Conservative
Daily Bell: Is Paul a consistent civil libertarian?
Robin Koerner: There are some purist libertarians who might disagree on fine points but I would say that Paul is as consistent a civil libertarian as any active politician in either the USA or the UK, the country of my birth. So to all intents and purposes, yes he is.
Daily Bell: What do you think of Rand Paul, his son?
Robin Koerner: I like him a lot. He is perhaps more of a polished politician than his dad. More importantly, he has all the right views and principles of his father, as far as I can tell. I think many people have been delighted by his sometimes stand-alone vocal and active opposition to some of the most anti-civil-rights and anti-constitutional laws that Congress has tried to foist on us since his election as Kentucky senator. I hope Rand’s star rises high and fast.
Daily Bell: Will Paul win the election?
Robin Koerner: Who knows? If he does, it will be because of the paradigm shift that is underway in the USA. (See "Ron Paul Can Win" and Paradigm Lost: Why the rEVOLution Has Not Been Televised.) The more the GOP reacts with panic to Ron Paul’s success, the more likely it looks. We’re not at an even chance yet but his chances are increasing daily because of the zeitgeist of the country and the accumulated impact of the work of his supporters.
The people who support Ron Paul are beyond a political movement now. They are more like a cultural phenomenon. If Paul wins the Republican nomination, he will almost certainly win the presidential election. If he gets that nomination, it will be because some non-linear change or unpredicted event that changes the political calculus that shows Romney for what he is, on the one hand, and Paul for what he is, on the other – in other words, it will be because of some creative chaos – and that is always very possible.
Daily Bell: Is there a Democratic Republican dialectic? Are the Dems generally better than the Republicans?
Robin Koerner: The most important thing to know is that the Dems and Repubs are the same where it matters (civil rights, war and peace, crony-corporatism, selling out to special interests).
The interests of the two mainstream parties and their politicians mostly intersect, so I often refer often to the "Republicrats." It so happens that the momentum to get the country’s political thinking out of the Republicrat box is inspired by a Republican, so for that reason alone, I say the Republicans are better right now than the Democrats. More generally, the pro-liberty movements is definitely reshaping the Republican party now from the inside. That movement has not begun in the Democratic party BUT I have recently been contacted by the campaign for a gentleman who is running for Congress as a Democrat, who also believes that we need a new, post-partisan paradigm that emphasizes many of the issues that we’re emphasizing as Blue Republicans, and that Ron Paul emphasizes.
I may well endorse him "officially." There is every possibility that Dems who wish to stay inside the Democratic Party will wake up to the message of Ron Paul – especially when they see that so many people who espouse liberal values are being lost to the liberty movement – which is currently associated with the Republican Party.
Daily Bell: Why was Bush elected to second term?
Robin Koerner: Short question with long and complicated answer. Suffice to say that Senator Kerry did not sufficiently inspire the country to transcend the fear that was driving (and absolutely continues to drive) American politics. We are living in a decade of the politics of fear. Bush had a strong hold of the old-style neocon, religious right base. Americans hadn’t sufficiently tired of the wars and didn’t understand the negative (i.e., dangerous) consequences of the Bush neocon foreign policy. (Many still don’t but a large number have now started to do so.)
Daily Bell: How would you characterize his reign?
Robin Koerner: "Reign"?! My gut tells me he was well meaning. But I think he was misguided. He contributed massively to turning a confident and admired nation into a scared and disliked one. We shall be paying for it for a long time unless we do something dramatic (like vote for Ron Paul in huge numbers).
Daily Bell: Has Obama brought any hope and change? If not, why not?
Robin Koerner: He has brought us the extension of the Patriot Act. He has brought us the National Defense Authorization Act. Obamacare was a huge opportunity missed, in my opinion, exposing the continued fettering of the government by large corporate interests… and I have huge issues with the constitutionality of it. (Of course, the Patriot Act and the NDAA are completely at odds with the Bill of Rights.) So while we can point to some things he deserves credit for, there’s been no change in the areas in which I most hoped we would see change.
Daily Bell: Was he steered the wrong way?
Robin Koerner: Steered by whom? His advisors? He is responsible for picking them.
Daily Bell: Is he a genuinely good man?
Robin Koerner: I cannot say he is a bad man. And I can’t say he is a better man than any other. But I’ve no reason to believe he is deliberately trying to do harm. I am always very wary of trying to pass moral judgment on those who say or do things one disagrees with.
I suspect he is doing the best he can given his view of the world, and I think his view is deeply flawed – especially in the fact that he doesn’t understand the Blue Republican message that traditionally progressive means have been shown in many cases to be hopeless at delivering on their stated goals and liberal intentions.
Daily Bell: Is he American born and raised?
Robin Koerner: I’m not much interested in the birther debate. I’ll extend him the same courtesy I extend to anyone else I don’t know and take him at his word in the absence of conclusive evidence.
Daily Bell: Why has he blocked access to all or almost all of his personal records?
Robin Koerner: I don’t know enough about that to comment.
Daily Bell: Whom does Obama really work for?
Robin Koerner: What do you mean by "who" and "work for"? The US government writes his paycheck. Are you asking about his motivations? If so, see my earlier answer.
Daily Bell: Does he work for the military-industrial complex?
Robin Koerner: Again, what do you mean by "work for"? I don’t think Military Industrial Inc. is paying him in brown envelopes but I think that our system is now such that it would take a huge and very concerted change from the top to alter things so that large-scale government action and policy no longer favored that complex. Govt and MIC interests are so intertwined, and in many respects, overwhelming.
Daily Bell: Is there a power elite that wants to take over the world?
Robin Koerner: Depending on how you define it, there is a power elite that to a large extent already runs the world… But they don’t run it so effectively that we couldn’t stop them. If they run it, it is because we let them. Most of us let them because we are too busy "getting on with our lives" actually to understand how things really work.
Daily Bell: Why is America in so many wars?
Robin Koerner: To a man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. America’s hammer is its military. There is also a dangerous self-righteousness in American foreign policy that operates between arrogance and naivete, i.e., American decisions to go to war are based on an assumption that the policy-makers know more of what they need to know than they in fact do … and on the idea that because their intentions are good, the methods they use cannot be bad. Moreover, as per your earlier questions, it appears that special interests associated with the MIC have an incentive (and the political and economic means) to nudge policy in a certain direction.
Daily Bell: Is there ever a good war?
Robin Koerner: Yes.
Daily Bell: Are politics salvageable in the US?
Robin Koerner: Yes. I’m working on it. If I believed all was lost, I wouldn’t do what I am doing. There seems to me to be more hope for salvage in the USA than in Europe.
Daily Bell: What is necessary to save US politics?
Robin Koerner: My articles all address this question in one way or another. Fundamentally, though, we need to start seeing what Dems and Repubs have both done – what they tacitly agree on. We must no longer be distracted by what they traditionally disagree about, i.e., we must have the paradigm shift to understand that "Left and Right" do not cover all political space, and that they are not fundamentally "oppositional." (In other words, the terms "left" and "right" are themselves misleading.)
I would like to see the American nation give more of the "How dare you?" attitude to their political masters. We have begun to see some of that sentiment with the tea party and OWS. Now Americans need to do their own research to find out what is being done to them in terms of reduced civil liberties and a system that redistributes destructively (at least as much upward as downward).
There truly is a liberty-oriented spirit in the USA that does not exist in Europe. We need it to continue to strengthen. Then we need America (both people who identify "liberal" and those who identify "conservative") to recognize that the Constitution is sublime – and then demand that it is followed. That may mean taking to the streets, etc. The currently burgeoning liberty movement will, of course, be critical. It needs to stay energetic, focused and passionate, and must take care to remember that it is impossible simultaneously to antagonize and persuade: It needs to focus on winning supporters – not just arguments.
Daily Bell: Is government necessary? Are laws necessary? What kind?
Robin Koerner: I am not a purist in politics. Politics is a rather pragmatic undertaking for me. All I know is that constitutional government would be infinitely better than what we have now. I want us to go back to that conception of government provided by the Founders.
I’m interested in that practical change. These two questions are more philosophical to me and I don’t have a position on them. (For one thing, I’ve not done all the reading I would need to do even to be confident in an answer). But I don’t feel I need to answer them. I’m not trying to be the poster child for anarchists! I’m pointing out that we need the country to change direction drastically and immediately.
Daily Bell: Should government pay for poor people?
Robin Koerner: My answer is here: "America’s Not Faring Well on Welfare."
All the data show that the delivery of welfare by the central government has failed by its own stated goals, and is having massively damaging unintended consequences that ultimately harm those it is meant to help. Please see the article. This is not the same thing as saying there is no place for structured means of helping the poor in our society. It is to say that a) we should treat the disease (crony-corporatism, the capture of politics by special interests, a government monopolistic fiat monetary system) and not just the symptoms (poverty etc.) and b) there are a myriad other ways of manifesting compassion for the poor in our society other than federal government-driven, and it is time to bring the innovativeness and genius that resides in our nation to start working on them. A good place to start is with the Tenth Amendment and the laboratories of the 50 states.
Daily Bell: Do we need to change the US money system?
Robin Koerner: Yes…
Daily Bell: Should the US get rid of the Federal Reserve?
Robin Koerner: Ultimately, the Fed-based system has to be uprooted. It ensures a systematic transfer of wealth/value and power to a tiny segment of our society, and ensures that no economic limitations are imposed on our government and its spending. It also provides an avenue for the making of huge political decisions that the citizens – and even in some cases their representatives – cannot see. Moreover, I believe in the rule of Law, and that Law includes the Constitution, and I just don’t see how our monetary system altogether (Fed monopoly over fiat, etc.) is constitutional. I realize that it’s not a simple matter to eliminate the Fed overnight in a world in which other nations have central banks and monopoly control of fiat money. Other things (other than simple abolition) would have to be done to reap the benefits of a non-central-bank-planned monetary system. Ron Paul seems to recognize this.
Daily Bell: Is it necessary to have a standing army in the US?
Robin Koerner: I’ve not given much thought to that, so I’ll say "I don’t know" for now…
Daily Bell: Are the powers that be in some sense getting ready for a kind of martial law if they cannot sustain the present system?
Robin Koerner: It is looking more like that every day. The idea that the government is the servant of the people has clearly gone from government. Government is scared. Like every other institution, it will do what it needs to do to protect its own existence. It has the monopoly of force and it would almost be surprising if it did not gear up to use that force when threatened.
Daily Bell: Why did Homeland Security order 400 million hollow-point bullets?
Robin Koerner: I don’t know, but it doesn’t look good, does it? In the absence of any other information, it seems like they’re expecting something and they’re preparing for it. Perhaps there is to be an event in the near future that will cause significant societal unrest/chaos. If so, one’s first guess has to be that it will be an economic event … or perhaps the revelation of something that will reflect badly on our masters that is currently unknown but can’t be kept secret indefinitely. Perhaps they’re signing up to something internationally that the American people are going to resist. These are all speculations, of course. Perhaps someone in Homeland Security just owns a ton of shares in a company that makes the bullets!
Daily Bell: Can Ron Paul become the GOP candidate for president?
Robin Koerner: This is really the same question as "Can Ron Paul become president?", because if he gets the GOP nomination, he is almost certain to win. The reason it could happen is that unprecedented things are happening in the GOP because of the passion, clarity and (most importantly) directedness of action that is in the liberty movement.
The ultimate consequences of the creative chaos that is happening in the Republican party cannot be predicted. In particular, if the party establishment behaves in a way that is clearly dishonest and seeks to disenfranchise Ron Paul’s supporters (and we are seeing multiple indications of this), we will attract sympathy and credibility and then all bets are off – in our favor. Basically, is a Ron Paul win likely today? No. Is it possible? Yes – very possible … because the changes that are occurring in, and coming to, the GOP (and the country) are highly "non-linear".
Daily Bell: Will Mitt Romney be the candidate?
Robin Koerner: Not if Ron Paul is! I am so convinced about the danger of extrapolating events linearly and simplistically that I absolutely do not believe that Romney has it in the bag.
Daily Bell: What is necessary to make Ron Paul the candidate?
Robin Koerner: Continued relentless work by his supporters, and (most likely) an unpredictable turn of events that will probably involve the GOP’s doing something stupid to try to retard the rise of Paul and then getting found out. Since Romney is completely (and rightly) identified with the mainstream of the GOP and the party hacks, any such error by the party could do Romney enough damage that Paul becomes clearly the most credible candidate. This is absolutely possible (and getting more so by the day).
Moreover, absent all these things, even now the delegate math is changing. Ron’s delegate count is building – and it may reach a point that suffices to make it so clear that the required depth and breadth of support for Romney in the GOP (let alone the country) are not there that the party, out of sheer self-interest, changes its mind about him, opening the way for anyone else. In that case, Ron Paul will, of course, be the overwhelming favorite.
Also, Paul’s supporters are simply not going to just fall in line behind Romney. It is clear to me that the GOP stands more of a chance of victory with Paul than with Romney, and with a little gestalt switch, that could become clear to the party as well. It is possible that the brute fact that a Romney candidacy would result in the loss of the most energetic and passionate chunk of his party (the liberty movement around Ron Paul), and that he can’t pull in the Independent vote like Ron Paul, who wins that segment against Obama overwhelmingly, causes the party actually to do the math and so support Ron Paul out of sheer pragmatism. (See my article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robin-koerner/how-ron-paul-can-win-on-a_b_1098770.html).
They can’t see this now, but when they see the faces of all those hundreds of delegates in the convention hall in Tampa whom they know will be gone if they insist on their anointed candidate, who would bet their life that they wouldn’t have a tinge of doubt?
Basically, Ron Paul can win the nomination precisely because no one knows, in the face of all the unusual variables in the process this time, what is possible. Our lack of ability to predict the future is in our favor. Again, I don’t expect Ron Paul’s victory, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Daily Bell: Is the Internet important?
Robin Koerner: Hugely. Without it, we would not be talking about Ron Paul in the way that we are here.
Daily Bell: Is the Internet the hope for the future of independent people or is it another facility that will soon be controlled?
Robin Koerner: Probably both. On the one hand, it empowers independent citizens, but on the other, huge, current economic interests are threatened by it, making attempts to control it all the more likely severe. We are already seeing that with bills like CISPA, etc.
Daily Bell: Where do you go from here?
Robin Koerner: Blue Republican will be pushing the post-partisan, pro-liberty, pro-Constitution philosophy that I am currently articulatingwell beyond 2012, regardless of what happens in the election. I have found that the USA is hungry for a new non-Left, non-Right account of American politics.
I will continue to provide it in a way that makes clear to those in the middle and on the left why liberty and the Constitution are their best friends in the achievement of their principles of "economic and social justice." I will be pointing out that liberal ends have not been well served by traditionally Liberal means – and certainly not by statist means – and I will be offering suggestions about what we should do about that. I guess, generally, this all comes under the rubric of opening the American political mind.
You may also see the "Blue Republican" brand attached to products and even candidates. I would be very happy to find candidates of any political stripe that we can get behind.
Daily Bell: Any other comments you want to make?
Robin Koerner: We’ve covered a good amount here already.
Daily Bell: Any books or websites you want to recommend?
All my articles are at huffingtonpost.com/robin-koerner.
As for books and websites, my current list of each would run to the many dozens, so I necessarily feel I’m misdirecting if I only mention a few. That said…
The first thing everyone needs to read is the Constitution!
Finally, since I think political progress in the USA depends on people’s opening their own minds … and realizing how little they – and everyone else – really know. To that end, go have some fun with the likes of Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness and similar. Most of all, make sure that you don’t only read stuff by people you already know you agree with!
Daily Bell: Thanks and good luck.
Robin Koerner: Thank you.
Anthony Wile is an author, columnist, media commentator and entrepreneur focused on developing projects that promote the general advancement of free-market thinking concepts. He is the chief editor of the popular free-market oriented news site, TheDailyBell.com. Mr. Wile is the Executive Director of The Foundation for the Advancement of Free-Market Thinking — a non-profit Liechtenstein-based foundation. His most popular book, High Alert, is now in its third edition and available in several languages. Other notable books written by Mr. Wile include The Liberation of Flockhead (2002) and The Value of Gold (2002).