What A Libertarian Sees In Dean
Over on his new blog, Sandy Smith has an excellent overview of why he, a libertarian, finds himself cautiously leaning towards Howard Dean for President. (He’s not the only one, either.) It’s an interesting read.
The high irony, of course, is that the Democratic Party establishment is apparently not as perceptive a judge of Democratic candidates as Sandy is. Because of Dean’s early and consistent opposition to the war in Iraq, and because he hails from Vermont (“hey, that’s where Ben and Jerry come from!”), the conventional wisdom that congealed around Dean was that he was some kind of born-again, bong-toting lefty, leading a People’s Front against the hated Washington Establishment. Never mind that, if you read his positions on the issues or actually go hear him speak, you find that he’s actually a pretty moderate kind of Democrat, socially liberal but fiscally conservative, or that some of his positions, like his conservative stance on gun control, are notably outside the mainstream of his party; those inconvenient facts don’t fit the storyline, so they don’t get written about much. (Until they can be “discovered” and repackaged as flip-flops: Commissar Dean betraying his loyal comrades.)
The irony comes in because the establishment has swallowed the CW hook, line, and sinker, and are panicked that Dean 2004 will be a replay of McGovern 1972, so they’re frantically looking for a “stop-Dean” candidate. That’s where a lot of the Wes Clark movement comes from; it’s people who think that Dean is too liberal and will lead the Democrats down the path to ruin in the general election. Except, as I noted above — Dean’s not really a flaming liberal. He’s certainly not as liberal as McGovern was in 1972, and certainly not as liberal as he’s been made out to be by the simplistic portrayal of his positions thus far in the campaign.
I think Sandy’s right that there’s room for libertarians in the Dean campaign. The Bush team has done enough to assault individual liberty to make you upset whether you care because you’re a member of the ACLU or the Ayn Rand Institute. There’s a lot in the Dean approach, on the other hand, for libertarians to like. Will they be willing to overlook the party labels when the time comes to pull the lever, though? I suppose we’ll find out!