[M]y total break with the Right came with the Stevenson movement of 1960….I was not politically active in the drive for the Stevenson nomination, but a strange concatenation of events was to thrust me into a prominent role among Stevensonians in New York. After Kennedy was able to scotch the Stevenson drive for the nomination at the Democratic convention, I saw a tiny ad in the New York Post for a Stevenson Pledge movement: an attempt by particularly embittered Stevensonians to try to force Kennedy to pledge that he would make Adlai Secretary of State. On going to the meeting, which included the eventually famous campaign manager Dave Garth, I suddenly found myself a leader in a new political organization: the League of Stevensonian Democrats (LSD), headed by the charismatic John R. Kuesell, who was soon to become prominent in the Reform Democratic movement in New York….
An amusing incident symbolized my political shift from Right to Left, while continuing to advance libertarianism. Wearing my extreme right-wing hat, I published a letter in the Wall Street Journal urging genuine conservatives not to vote for Richard Nixon, so as to allow conservatives to regain control of the Republican Party. When Kuesell saw the letter, he reasonably concluded that I was some sort of right-wing spy in the LSD, and was set to expel me from the organization. Coming in to see him, I was prepared to give him an hour lecture on libertarianism, on my hegira from right to left, and so on. As it happened, I was only able to get a few words out of my mouth. "You see," I began, "I'm a…'libertarian'." Kuesell, always quick on the mark, immediately cut in. "Say no more," he said, "I'm a libertarian, too." He immediately showed me a pamphlet he had written in high school, Quo Warranto?, challenging government on their right to interfere with people's lives and property. Since the word and concept of libertarian were scarcely household words, especially in that era, I was utterly astonished. From then on, Kuesell and I worked in happy tandem in the LSD until it withered away after the start of the Kennedy administration. This experience confirmed my view that left-wing Democracy rather than right-wing Republicanism was now the natural field for libertarian allies.
A libertarian cabal within the Adlai Stevenson movement: Now there's a grouplet you won't find in the standard political histories.
Kennedy and his successor, of course, proved even more interventionist than Eisenhower, not just in the domestic sphere but abroad. Rothbard's days among the Democrats didn't last long, and within a few years he was moving further leftward, to Students for a Democratic Society, Ramparts, and other New Left institutions.
Four decades later, a nanny-state hawk dominates the Democratic race, to the establishment's delight and the radical left's dismay. If she holds her ground, I won't be surprised if some of today's liberaltarians end up retracing Rothbard's march to the left.