Trump tells Libertarians to nominate him, and mocks them when they boo

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Libertarian Party's national convention in Washington, D.C, U.S., May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

WASHINGTON — Early in his speech at the Libertarian Party’s national convention on Saturday, Donald Trump told the party’s delegates bluntly that they should nominate him as its candidate for president. He was vigorously booed.

When the jeers died down, Trump, visibly frustrated with the rowdy reception he had received ever since taking the stage, dug in and went a step further, seeming to insult the very group that had invited him.


“Only do that if you want to win,” he said of nominating him. “If you want to lose, don’t do that. Keep getting your 3% every four years.”

The boos began anew, only louder.

Trump’s speech was without modern precedent: the presumptive nominee of a major political party giving a prime-time address at another party’s convention.

But as Trump tried to urge Libertarians to unite behind him in a shared effort to defeat President Joe Biden, he was greeted with a hostility absent from the friendly crowds at his rallies, which overshadowed his appeals to their common cause.

Trump’s speech was delivered to an audience that included supporters wearing red MAGA hats, as well as Libertarians who were resentful of his presence at the convention where they will select their own presidential nominee.

Throughout his remarks, the room’s warring factions tried to drown each other out, a dynamic that immediately emerged when Trump was called to the stage.

Practically every time Trump was booed, his supporters responded by chanting, “We want Trump.” If those in MAGA hats cheered on a policy pronouncement, many of those opposed to Trump’s presence booed or shouted insults.

Often, the cycle ended only when someone began chanting, “End the Fed,” a unifying policy plank that everyone in attendance seemed to agree on.

Trump appeared irked by the chaotic atmosphere. He seemed to rush through his speech, appearing to stick to prepared remarks and avoiding the digressions or banter that often characterize his rallies.

Still, the reception was not entirely negative, with Trump able to find shared ground with the Libertarian Party on a number of issues. Central to the Libertarian Party platform is a belief in limited government and unfettered individual liberties. Libertarians tend to lean to the right on fiscal issues, opposing taxes, far-reaching regulatory agencies and government spending on defense.

As he often does, Trump railed against government bureaucracy and regulation, remarks that were largely well-received. He promised that, if elected, he would put Libertarians in his Cabinet and in senior positions, a vow that elicited some of the night’s loudest cheers.

Trump also promised to commute the life sentence of Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the black-market website Silk Road, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2015. His release has been a major demand of Libertarians, and many of those in attendance waved “Free Ross” signs.

But by and large, any moments of concord were eclipsed by raucous dissent. After speaking for 35 minutes, Trump offered a closing note: “You can either nominate us and put us in the position, or give us your votes.” Another chorus of boos provided the night’s final moment.

Well before his speech, the Libertarian Party’s decision to invite Trump to its convention prompted acute outrage among some members, who said it undermined the party’s integrity and gave a platform to a candidate who is, in many ways, utterly at odds with their beliefs.

D’Anne Welch, a delegate from Texas, said she was stunned that Trump, a Republican, was given time to speak that effectively delayed the party’s decision on its nominee, adding that she opposed his efforts to secure the party’s support. “He’s going to make himself sound Libertarian,” Welch said. “But he’s the ultimate authoritarian.”

Trump’s efforts to engage with the Libertarian Party date back months. Richard Grenell, a former acting director of national intelligence, has been key in trying to build Trump’s support among some Libertarian activists and donors.

After the speech, Grenell suggested in a post on social media that he had arranged Trump’s attendance at the convention, and he blasted liberal critics of his appearance. “Donald Trump doesn’t fear dissenting views,” he wrote. “Only your team does.”

The disagreements over Trump’s invitation were evident throughout the convention. During votes on official party proceedings Friday, one attendee shouted, “I would like to propose that we go tell Donald Trump” to get lost, using an expletive. A vulgar chant incorporating Trump’s name broke out. On Saturday, hours before his speech, a number of Libertarian delegates — who had paid to attend the convention — arrived in the ballroom to find that Trump supporters had taken reserved seats in the front of the room.

“I don’t want to fight with people or beg and plead,” Angela McArdle, the party’s chair, told the Trump supporters. “Let’s just make room for the delegates, because those are the people you’re trying to persuade.”

After the speech, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a Republican with libertarian leanings who was in attendance, said Trump’s speech was a success regardless of whether he received the party’s nomination. “The speech was a home run,” he said, “because there are Libertarians all over the country watching this.”

Both Democrats and Republicans have argued at times that third-party candidates hurt their chances in the last two presidential elections. The Libertarian candidate in 2020, Jo Jorgensen, won 1.2% of the national vote. In Arizona, she won more than 50,000 votes. Trump lost that state to Biden by just over 10,000 votes.

Some Libertarian leaders and delegates resented the notion that Trump or Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate who spoke to the convention Friday, might court their vote, calling those invitations a play for news media attention.

And then there was the incident that exemplified the tension surrounding Trump’s presence: the mystery of the sticker.

The campaign for one of the party’s presidential candidates, Lars Mapstead, said it spent $20,000 on ads to place around the lobby of the Washington Hilton, where the convention is taking place, including a large floor decal that read: “Let’s Deny Trump &Biden Victory on Election Night.”

Mapstead has been a vocal critic of Trump, particularly his role in increasing the national debt. In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, he said: “We reject everything about him.”

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