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.