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Can Trump Win the Libertarian Vote in 2024?

Liberty Nation on the ground at the party convention.

Former President Donald Trump was in Washington, DC, last night, May 25, making his case to the attendees at the Libertarian Party Convention. In a break from his standard fare of Republican red meat, the presidential hopeful focused more specifically on issues of import to the crowd. But was it enough to move the needle and earn significant support from the notoriously anti-two-party gathering?

Liberty Nation’s Legal Affairs Editor Scott D. Cosenza was at the Washington Hilton event, covering all the breaking news.

Trump and the Libertarian Camp

Mark Angelides: Scott, how was the former president received?

Scott D. Cosenza: Trump’s campaign packed the front and center of the room before Libertarian Party members or delegates could fill the seats. This led to early tension between the groups. Eventually, party Chair Angela McArdle took the stage to ask the assembled MAGA group to vacate the front, which they did. Trump’s group cheered and chanted often, like you would expect at a campaign rally. The libertarians were divided, and a vocal minority tried frequently to shout Trump down.

This made the event a different kind than Trump has likely ever attended. While the former president may get some heckling, those are interlopers, not insiders. At the LP convention, many of those booing Trump were insiders, and even delegates. I would say Trump was generally well-received but with a large minority of skeptics and a much smaller contingent of haters.

Mark: Is it uncommon for a major candidate to attend another party’s convention? And what do you think was Trump’s motivation? Does he have realistic hopes of swaying some support?

Scott: Donald Trump seems to be the only major party presidential nominee to address another party’s convention. Pepsi doesn’t stock its break room with Cokes. He was also the first former president to address the Libertarian convention. Trump was as clear and direct as possible regarding his motivation – he was there for votes. He mentioned or alluded to it several times, and in closing, he said, “You can either nominate us and put us in the position, or give us your vote,” and “We want Libertarian votes because you stand for what we stand for.”

(Photo Credit: Liberty Nation)

(Photo Credit: Liberty Nation)

Trump poked the Libertarians’ dismal performance in presidential races, teasing that they could vote for him or go back to getting 3% in the polls.

Mark: You had an inside line on the potential Ross Ulbricht pardon. What happened?

Scott: Liberty Nation was amongst the first to break the news that during the event, Trump pledged to party leaders that he will commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht if he wins the White House again. Ulbricht created the black-market website Silk Road and was ultimately sentenced to multiple life terms, all for non-violent offenses. In his address, Trump said he would commute Ulbricht’s sentence, which is not as valuable as a pardon but means the prisoner would be released immediately. The information came from a senior figure in the national party who said that McArdle extracted the promise in exchange for giving Trump an invitation to speak. I’m told that Trump’s team initially approached her for an invite. McArdle later invited President Biden, who did not attend.

Trump Makes His Pitch

Mark: What were the highlights of Trump’s address besides promising the release of the creator of Silk Road?

Scott: Trump cited his closeness with libertarians and libertarianism and said, “Well, in the last year, I’ve been indicted by the government on 91 different things, and so If I wasn’t a libertarian before, I sure as hell am a libertarian now.”

Amidst frequent attacks on Joe Biden, there was plenty to appeal to his audience of limited government stalwarts – with an insider’s perspective, too. Trump mentioned some inside baseball Bitcoin terms, showing his knowledge and understanding of cryptocurrencies to this audience of tech-heavy voters. He promised that he would never allow the creation of a central bank digital currency, which many see as a form of cryptocurrency corruption.

Trump said he was “proud to be the first president in 70 years who started no new wars.” For small and big L libertarians, staying out of wars is always among their top national government priorities.

Mark: Do you get the sense he did the job of winning Libertarians’ support for his candidacy?

Scott: Trump has promised explicitly to be a friend to libertarians as president, including appointments to top positions in the administration. He said he was the best hope of defeating Biden, and I think he probably won over quite a few converts even before the commutation announcement. Afterward, the answer was an enthusiastic yes for many.

The room was positively papered with “FREE ROSS” signs held aloft before and during Trump’s speech. LN spoke with several party members and at least two delegates, who claimed they would certainly now vote for Donald Trump to be president in November. I would expect to see that sentiment magnified by those who vote Libertarian but are not active to the point of attending a national nominating convention.

Given that the 2020 Libertarian vote for president in Arizona and Georgia was greater than Biden’s margin of victory, this could turn out to be a consequential moment for Trump’s campaign.

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