If libertarians have a political problem, populists have a policy one. Their critiques of free market fundamentalism have yet to give way to a workable program of their own. They don’t control Twitter but neither will they often run the FCC. There have been some more innovative proposals, but Trumpism so far resembles conventional Republican policies plus higher tariffs and lower immigration rates—and even that is largely aspirational.
These domestic policy concerns could lead to bigger foreign policy ones. Trump could either ratify his party’s break with the neocons or court still greater disasters. But some of his intraparty foils, like former Representative Mark Sanford before Amash, are more supportive of the president’s stated goal of a smaller military footprint in the Middle East than anyone on his team. And now the GOP establishment has trained its sights on Massie.
In these volatile political times, no one can predict the future. There was far less reason to think the Republican Party could change when Ron Paul first sought its presidential nomination than when Amash left it. It’s easy to see a big-spending Democratic administration and congressional majorities ushering in another “libertarian moment,” as in 1994 or the 2010s, making Trumpism as ephemeral as Bush. Or in a country where, according to one survey, only 4 percent marry economic conservatism to social liberalism, populist nationalism could prove the GOP’s last best hope.
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