Ben Domenech | Three Challenges to Libertarian Populism

My essay at RealClearPolitics yesterday sparked several responses. But 2,000 words is  insufficient when it comes to outlining a dynamic shift in the political  construct, and there will be more to come on this topic, but I wanted to take a  critical eye to my own proposal and identifying the internal tensions which  could prevent it from taking hold. Here are three challenges I think libertarian  populism is grappling with, and will face before the next presidential election  and perhaps during it.

First, on Foreign Policy: There is a natural tension between the true  libertarians and the populists on foreign policy, moreso than national security.  Both are concerned about civil liberties and government spying programs and reject the Bush global freedom agenda as overly interventionist (there is no  appetite for such things within the base outside of the foreign policy  establishment in DC, and the offices of McCain, Graham, Ayotte, and Bill  Kristol). But there is a natural Jacksonian lean to the populists, and always  has been – Don’t Tread On Me is more than a slogan to them. They have fewer  qualms about Gitmo, waterboarding, and wet work generally. Their concern about  drones is mostly limited to whether the president is killing Americans, not the  degree to which he is killing terrorists. Both strands are non-interventionist,  but one is concerned about Bradley Manning, and the other is curious why he is  still alive. While Paul, Lee, and others in Congress have made their foreign  policy leanings known, one question which remains to be seen is how the  libertarian populists who haven’t spoken much about foreign policy – Jindal,  Walker, perhaps Cuccinelli – engage on this subject matter, and the reactions  they inspire.

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