Libertarian Party

Libertarians Booed Donald Trump Because He Isn't Libertarian

Let there be no confusion: The Libertarian Party overwhelmingly rejects Trump.


Former President Donald Trump addressed the Libertarian National Convention on Saturday to make an explicit appeal to libertarian voters. It did not go over well. The crowd booed Trump for the duration of the speech. There were some MAGA supporters in the room who had come in just for the speech and were not otherwise involved with the convention; when they started chanting "we want Trump," they were drowned out by more familiar libertarian cheers, such as "end the Fed."

For all of the concern that the optics of Trump's convention appearance might confuse voters nationwide, give the appearance that Libertarians are in cahoots with Trump, or erase the considerable distinctions between the Republican Party and the Libertarian Party, Trump's icy reception should actually make it even more obvious than he has not earned the support of libertarians. Indeed, at a time when the former president is making inroads with all sorts of voters and delivering speeches all over the country, people who prize individual liberty booed him louder and more consistently than any other voting bloc.

What Trump had hoped to get out of such an appearance is unclear. According to Reason's Brian Doherty, the campaign first reached out to request a speaking slot. Libertarian Party Chair Angela McArdle then invited all three major presidential candidates—Trump, President Joe Biden, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—to speak, with her stated reasoning being that this would draw attention to the nominating convention. "This is an incredible opportunity for us to bring someone who grabs the spotlight and put them on our stage," she told The Washington Post.

RFK Jr. and Trump accepted; Biden declined. RFK Jr.'s remarks were much better received than Trump's—in fact, the Democrat-turned-independent received standing ovations when he promised to pardon Edward Snowden and drop the charges against Julian Assange. He also emphasized areas of commonality with libertarians: the importance of the Bill of Rights, and the frightening authoritarianism of the government's COVID-19 response under both Trump and Biden.

Trump did elicit some cheers toward the end of his speech, when he promised to appoint a libertarian to his Cabinet and free Ross Ulbricht. But the crowd did not buy his line that he was a libertarian, nor did they accept they he should be their nominee or receive their votes. After many minutes of sustained booing, Trump started growing hostile toward the crowd, suggesting that maybe Libertarians don't want to win after all.

"What is the purpose of the Libertarian Party getting 3 percent?" asked Trump. "What is the reason to take a chance of having this horrible president [Biden] destroy our country?"

Many libertarians support the Libertarian Party precisely because they do not trust ether Biden or Trump to avoid destroying the country; in fact, some of the most anti-libertarian policies have advanced under both Republican and Democratic administrations, from runaway federal spending to government surveillance to public health tyranny.

The Libertarian Party's refusal to co-sign Trump's coronation infuriated at least one of the former president's most ardent backers. Sen. Mike Lee (R–Ut.), who attended the convention and spoke on Trump's behalf, engaged in blatant Orwellianism, blaming "paid agitators" for heckling Trump—a baseless accusation—and wrongly claiming that actual conventiongoers were all-in for MAGA. On the other hand, Sen. J.D. Vance (R–Oh.) said he was proud of Trump for having the courage to enter "hostile territory" and make his case, correctly noting that Biden increasingly ducks even mildly unfriendly settings.

It's true that unlike Biden, Trump bothered to show up. But as the booing made clear, merely collecting a participant ribbon isn't remotely sufficient to earn the trust of most libertarians.