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So in many senses, Liberty Movement politicians, and the voters supporting their efforts, have helped create the reality that Obama is grudgingly responding to. That is a noteworthy feat on its own. But the real fight, cutting straight to the heart of life-and-death policymaking, is now upon them. And us.
As far as the Wacko Bird contingent has moved the needle on American politics the past three years, and particularly the past six months, they have yet to win a vote that truly matters. Usually, as Paul said, they are on the losing side of 70-30 battles. Already, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) have announced their support for the Syria authorization, leaving House Republican opposition up to a ragbag group of upstarts led by Amash.
Amash, frequently touted as the House's successor to Ron Paul, has been poking his thumb in Boehner's eye ever since last November's election, for which he has been repeatedly slapped down. For now he is ringleading mostly from afar, holding a series of town halls in Michigan on Syria and lobbing the occasional social-media taunt in Boehner's general direction about the persistent unpopularity of a Syrian war.
It is in that latter phenomenon, and not in any kind demonstrated skill at arm-twisting, that Rand Paul and Justin Amash will ultimately win or lose this momentous struggle. Leadership is bound to lead (or do the Washington facsimile thereof, which is to bury the partisan hatchet and support the president's war), but backbenchers have to face disgruntled electorates not just in November 2014 but in possible primary fights before. Will the same limited-government, primary-exploiting activists who brought the Liberty Movement into existence be willing to punish Republican congressmen for favoring unpopular wars? So far there's no hint of any such thing.
As in the TARP vote, that leaves a disorganized group of people's representatives in the uncomfortable position of opposing the establishment while better representing Americans' views. Surely, if they vote no, they will be called "nihilists" and "appeasers" and much worse. Sen. Paul, for one, is confident that public support will protect the anti-interventionists' political fortunes.
"We have 50,000 soldiers at Fort Campbell," he says. "If you were allowed to do a poll of them, and ask 'How many of you guys are ready for your next tour in Syria?' It would be zero."