Nonintervention must be part of a ‘libertarian populist’ agenda

John Glaser | Contributor, Antiwar.com

There are fissures simmering in the conservative movement that reveal hints of a future war for the Republican Party.

One of the rifts generating this discord is a conviction among some of the movement’s younger standard-bearers that the longstanding collusion between big government and big business, each for their mutual benefit in power and lucre, is detrimental to the economy, to liberty, and to the American Dream.

“Libertarian populism,” writes Tim Carney at The Washington Examiner, recognizes that “the game is rigged against the regular guy in America today. And it’s rigged in favor of big business, the politically connected, and the wealthy.”

“If Republicans and conservatives want to reform themselves,” Carney advises, “they need to begin with this fact. Admit it. Understand it. Declare it. Decry it. And start fixing it.”

While the Republican and Democratic parties are profoundly committed to corporate welfare, no politician worth his salt readily announces this in political campaigns. In their rhetoric, the two factions of our one big party decry “special interests” and the excesses of corporatism, only to then employ this corrupt system of patronage themselves.

And that’s why “libertarian populism” is a winning formula. If Republicans adopt strict opposition to bailouts and corporate subsidies on principle, they can put their opponents to shame and win elections because of it.

Unfortunately, this isn’t enough. The Republican Party may indeed be ready to adopt this prescription as a new set of talking points and policies, but the impending clash between the establishment and the more libertarian strain of the right is about more than just economics.

In his two cents on “libertarian populism,” Reason’s Jesse Walker notes the “revolt within the Republican Party over civil liberties and foreign policy, as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and others condemn PATRIOT Act–style encroachments on citizens’ rights, Iraq-style projections of power abroad, and a drone war that threatens to blur the difference.”

This is where libertarianism is really standing out in the Republican Party. This is where the fight needs to happen with resolve.

When the libertarian-leaning Republican from Michigan Justin Amash introduced legislation last week that would have blocked National Security Agency’s “indiscriminate collection” of Americans’ telephone records, it resulted in a dramatic split: 94 Republicans voting for it and 134 against.

The party of George W. Bush, so ferociously opposed to strong civil liberties protections in the first decade of the War on Terror, is increasingly expressing doubts about big brother.

This fight has already reared its head in the 2016 presidential jostling. The bell was rung last week when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a 2016 presidential contender, condemned the current frontrunner for the GOP ticket, the libertarian-leaning Rand Paul, for being willing to criticize Washington’s interventionist foreign policy, executive branch excesses in national security, and rampant civil liberties abuses in the name of fighting terrorism.

“This strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought, “ Christie ominously warned, proceeding to cite the surviving victims of the 9/11 attacks as proof that the GOP should get back in line and support the national security state unquestioningly.

In an interview published this week in the New Republic, chief Republican hawk John McCain condemned Rand Paul as an “isolationist” and even suggested he wouldn’t know who to vote for if it comes down to Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul in 2016.

As Christie and McCain see it, there’s no room in the Republican Party for people who oppose big government when it comes to national security. Christie would rather continue to buddy up to President Obama, while McCain ponders supporting a Democrat in the White House in 2016.

The bipartisan establishment is already leading America into waging dangerous economic warfare on Iran. We’re slipping into another brutal Middle Eastern war in Syria. We’re setting precedents for the White House to wage secret wars without checks, balances, or observance of the Bill of Rights. And a massive, unrestrained domestic spying apparatus is threatening the very foundations upon which this country was founded.

The American people don’t support this. Huge majorities oppose another war in Iran or Syria and polls show strong disapproval of the NSA’s spying capabilities.

Tim Carney and the libertarian populists are right about the way forward. Strongly opposing crony capitalism will not only be helpful to Republicans at the ballot box, it is as libertarian as the First Amendment.

But the fight has to be on multiple fronts. The political opponents of Rand Paul and Justin Amash will approve, however superficially, of anti-bailout talking points. Where the GOP’s new libertarianism will have its real battle is on foreign policy and civil liberties issues.

How about we capitalize on that emerging consensus?

Tags : chris christie john glaser john mccain lindsey graham rand paul
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