Registered Libertarian Brady Joslin laughs when asked if he ever expected to vote for a Democrat, then exclaims, "Hell, no!" So how did he come to launch a Web site with the double-take-inducing name "Libertarians for Dean"?
Joslin says he was motivated to create a forum for libertarians interested in the presidential candidacy of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean by frustration with Republicans, for whom many libertarians vote in close elections because of the GOP's stance on economic issues. Despite this traditional affinity, the libertarian search for alternatives to President George W. Bush comes as no surprise to John Samples, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Representative Government, who says that Bush "is a disaster across the board from a libertarian perspective. Non-defense spending is up amazingly, and most libertarians are not happy about the PATRIOT Act. Libertarians got promised Social Security privatization, and what they got was the Iraq adventure. Dean would be the natural place for them to turn."
A Democrat whose signature issue is socialized health care may not seem like the "natural place" for libertarians, but Dean himself sees things differently. In a September Weekly Standard article, Club for Growth President Stephen Moore recalled a meeting at which Dean told a group of libertarians that they should "really like my views because I'm economically conservative and socially laissez-faire. Believe me, I'm no big-government liberal. I believe in balanced budgets, markets, and deregulation." And Joslin, like many free marketeers, is counting on a Republican Congress to check Dean's more interventionist ideas on issues such as health care.
Dean webmaster Matthew Gross, who links to Joslin's site from the candidate's own weblog, views the phenomenon as perfectly natural at a time when traditional categories of left and right are growing increasingly unstable. "I'd be more surprised if there weren't a Libertarians for Dean site," says Gross, who notes that the governor's support seems especially strong among those who've grown disaffected with the political process.