2024 Election /

‘Nominate Me or Vote for Me’: Trump Taunts, Gives Assurances to Libertarians During LNC Speech

‘Only do that if you wanna win. If you wanna lose … keep getting your three percent every four years’

‘Nominate Me or Vote for Me’: Trump Taunts, Gives Assurances to Libertarians During LNC Speech

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Former President Donald Trump faced his most contentious crowd in recent memory when he addressed the Libertarian Party (LP) in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night.

His arrival at the Libertarian National Convention is an unprecedented move in modern politics.

As Cato Institute President Peter Goettler pointed out in a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, this is the only time in U.S. history that a candidate for president will speak at the convention of a rival party prior to nominating its own candidate.

Amid countless choruses of boos — the loudest of which appeared to emanate from a handful of agitators on the left side of the large but packed ballroom — Trump proceeded undeterred.

After a brief introduction from LP Chair Angela McArdle, Trump emerged slightly from the left side of the stage, where he remained throughout the duration of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” As he stood there, the room was filled with competing calls to “End the Fed” and chants of “U.S.A.” intermingled with boos.

“I am really honored to be invited as the first president in American history to the Libertarian National Convention,” Trump began. “A lot of people ask why I came this weekend [to the] Libertarian Convention. You know, it's an interesting question, isn’t it?”

“Well, in the last year, I've been indicted by the government for 91 different things, so if I wasn't a libertarian before I sure as hell am a libertarian now,” he said.

“Everyone here tonight believes that we must fight for the same fundamental freedoms — freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of the right to own a firearm and freedom over taxation,” he continued.

When he said he received the strongest endorsement from the National Rifle Association, he received a resounding boo from the crowd.

“We want government out of our business, out of our wallets and out of our lives,” he added, to the general support of the audience, which also responded positively to his opposition to waging “endless regime change wars around the globe.”

About a third of the way into his roughly 30-minute speech, Trump appealed directly to the LP to help make a “big difference.”

“Together, we can make America freer than ever before for citizens of all backgrounds and all walks of life,” he said. “We can unleash new hope, optimism and energy. We can release limited government so that the people can have an unlimited future. United, we will be unstoppable. If we unite we are unstoppable.”

He pledged to be “a true friend” to Libertarians in the White House and touted his record for not instigating any new wars.

Trump cited a Friday op-ed from Deroy Murdock proposing that the LP should nominate the former president as their candidate — a suggestion that drew a protracted boo from the crowd.

“Only if you wanna win,” Trump said. “Only if you wanna win. Maybe you don’t wanna win.”

“No, only do that if you wanna win,” he continued. “If you wanna lose, don’t do that. Keep getting your three percent every four years.”

“Now I think you should nominate me or at least vote for me,” Trump added. “What is the purpose of the Libertarian Party getting three percent? What is the reason to take a chance of having this horrible President [Joe Biden] destroy a country, which he will do in far less than four years?”

The former president then pledged to place a Libertarian in his cabinet and appoint party members to senior posts in his administration.

“Or you can keep going the way you have for ... decades and get your three percent,” he said. “You want to make yourself winners, it's time to be winners. You have a lot of common sense.”

“I'm asking for the Libertarian Party's endorsement, or at least lots of your votes — lots and lots of Libertarian votes,” he added.

As Trump proceeded to read long passages from Deroy’s op-ed, several incidents in the crowd resulted in the removal of some audience members.

At one point, a Trump supporter and an anti-Trump Libertarian got into a scuffle that resulted in the latter being removed from the venue.

It appears the same anti-Trump Libertarian also made a motion on Friday to “propose that we go tell Donald Trump to go f--- himself” — a comment that received a smattering of applause during official party business.

At another point, an alleged LP delegate wearing a wig was forcibly removed from the venue by security.

Trump also announced that he would commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht.

"He's already served 11 years, let's get him home," he said amid applause and chants of "Free Ross."

Frequently through the weekend, calls to "Free [WikiLeaks founder Julian] Assange" were met with calls to "Free Ross," as well.

According to the website dedicated to Ross Ulbricht's release:

Ross Ulbricht is a peaceful first-time offender serving a double life sentence plus 40 years without parole for all non-violent charges associated with creating the Silk Road e-commerce website. He was a 26-year-old idealistic libertarian—passionate about free markets and privacy—when he made the site. Ross was not prosecuted for causing harm or bodily injury and no victim was named at trial. This is a sentence that shocks the conscience.

"You stand for what we stand for and don't waste a vote," Trump concluded. "And don't allow the worst president in the history of our country to come back and do the final destruction of America."

Hours before Trump's arrival to the stage, McArdle asked Trump supporters in attendance to "get along" and "come to an understanding and find areas of agreement, even if we don't agree to vote for the same person."

"I would also really appreciate if our delegates could have a seat where they can see the stage because they came thousands of miles to this and it's what was promised," she said. "So, if some of you could share some of your seating with them, it would be great. And then I don't have to come down there ... and like, get in a chair fight. I am the chair of the party but that is like so ugly. I don't want to fight with people or beg and plead."

McArdle continued: "Let's just make room for delegates because those are the people you're trying to persuade right now, right? Like, you're already sold. Our delegates are not sold, and President Trump is here to try to sell them and talk to their concerns. We just want to make sure they're heard."

"So, let's take like five or 10 minutes to try to sort it out so I don't have to have security get involved," she added. "First four rows plus tables. The tables have 'Reserved' signs on them, too."

Reactions to Trump’s appearance at the LNC have varied from support to disdain since the LP’s May 1 announcement.

“For 50 years, we’ve been trying to get our candidates on the main stage with major party POTUS candidates and we’ve finally succeeded in bringing one to our stage,” McArdle stated at the time. “We will do everything in our power to use this incredible opportunity to advance the message of liberty.”

She added that the former president would be given a list of the party’s top ten issues in a bid to make an impact on Trump’s past, and potentially future, policy decisions.

Joshua Smith, who threw his hat into the race to clinch the LP nomination for president, said he was unbothered by Trump’s upcoming appearance during a Friday interview.

“I know it bothers a lot of people,” he told SCNR News. “But for me, look, Trump can reach our 700,000 voters on any mainstream media outlet anytime he wants to. We can't reach at all of his voters. Now we have the opportunity to have eyes on us.”

“And, you know, they get to see our nominating process, they get to see our presidential debate, they get to see all the things that we do as a part and hopefully ... I think it's beneficial for us. It doesn't bother me at all, I think we should invite everybody to the convention,” he added.

Smith, who is a father of seven kids, describes himself as “blue collar working-class.”

“I get up every morning, I put on work boots like a normal human being,” said the Iowa resident. “[I’m] the only presidential candidate in the entire United States of America that went to work yesterday morning before coming to the convention to try and get the [LP presidential] nomination.”

On Friday, Kendal Ludden, a CPA from Charleston, South Carolina, was walking around the International Ballroom with a clipboard trying to get enough signatures from delegates to qualify as a vice-presidential candidate.

When asked about Trump speaking at the convention, he said, “I love it. I'd love to talk to him and be his Vice President, I don't care.”

By contrast, Joshua Reed Eakle, chair and co-founder of the political action committee (PAC) Project Liberal, told SCNR that inviting Trump was “an incredibly bad decision.”

“I think it is unprecedented to invite a opposition candidate into your own party's convention,” he said during an interview at the LNC. “Now you're using party resources, party money, and your party platform to feature the opposition.”

Eakle continued:

I think it's going to characterize the libertarian movement as a authoritarian adjacent movement. I think Trump is objectively an authoritarian in rhetoric, in the way that he's running his campaign and in the way that he governed as president. And so I think it's gonna cause long term brand damage for the Libertarian Party and it's gonna align us with basically an ideology, MAGA, which is a completely out of step with the most very basic principles of libertarianism, like free trade, immigration reform, fiscal responsibility, fighting gun control, you know, in so many different ways.

Eakle is not alone.

Following the announcement, the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, which is known for its radical messagingreferred to Trump as a "far-left gun-grabbing money-printing pro-lockdown socialist."

During closing remarks of the presidential nominee debate, tech entrepreneur Lars Mapstead asked, “Do we reject Donald Trump and everything he stands for?” A sizable portion of the room, which held at least a thousand people, cheered in response.

After comedian and podcaster Dave Smith made remarks during a Saturday luncheon about the state of the LP, an audience member asked him to implore the audience to not be combative with Trump during his speech.

“Just keep in mind, as I've learned over the last few years, telling libertarians what to do doesn't work very well,” Smith replied, comparing the task to “herding rabies infested cats. Like if you even try, they're gonna claw [your] face off.”

He went on to suggest that the audience should avoid heckling and being rude.

“You should appreciate that he's here and that he's talking to us and we should be respectful,” Smith said. “I will say though, I do feel like if he says something that you think is great, you can applaud for that. And I do think if he says something you disagree with you can boo at that. I think there's no problem [with] that.”

He mentioned how on the previous night, the audience behaved in a similarly respectful manner during a debate Smith hosted between entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and potential LP vice-presidential candidate Clint Russell.

“[Ramaswamy] got some moments where the crowd was like, nope, sorry, we're Libertarians around these parts, and we don't agree with you on that. … I thought that was fine,” Smith added.

A May 23 Washington Post op-ed from Peter Goettler, president and chief executive of the Cato Institute, argued that both Trump and the LP are no longer libertarian.

Göttler writes:

In truth, Trump’s appearance this week says as much about the Libertarian Party as it does about him. The party has had its ups and downs and some embarrassing moments throughout its history. But its problems more often arose from amateurism and fractiousness rather than malice, the inevitable effect of being a small third party in a two-party system.

But today’s party leadership has been taken over by a faction that places it well outside the bounds of libertarianism altogether and appears comfortable with right-wing authoritarianism.

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