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Boos and cheers as Trump addresses a rowdy, skeptical crowd of Libertarians

Audible boos clashed with impassioned cheers at the Libertarian National Convention in Washington DC on Saturday as former President Donald Trump took the stage before what was certainly the most skeptical if not outright hostile crowd of his bid for the White House this year.

Donald Trump was jeered multiple times within the first few minutes of his speech to a rowdy crowd of roughly a thousand people Saturday evening at the Washington Hilton, where just a few weeks ago his 2024 election opponent Joe Biden spoke at the White House Correspondent’s Association’s (WHCA) annual dinner.

The angry yells from the audience were so constant at parts that it was difficult to tell whether the crowd were booing the incumbent president or the speaker in front of them. At other points, it was plainly obvious: a chant of “we want Trump!” was roundly drowned out by an angry response.

Another round of boos came as Mr Trump declared that he had put everything “on the line” to defend freedom. Boos, both times when Mr Trump suggested that he was a Libertarian through virtue of his criminal trials, prosecuted by the Department of Justice. More boos when the former president suggested, twice, that the Libertarian Party proper should nominate him.

But nothing, nothing compared to the furious jeers that erupted as Donald Trump turned to outright taunting his audience.

“The Libertarian Party should nominate Trump for president,” he declared in third-person. More boos.

“Maybe you don’t want to win. Only do that if you want to win,” Mr Trump quipped over the jeers. “If you want to lose, don’t do that. Keep getting three per cent every four years.”

Party officials had both directly and subtly tried to avert this spectacle. Angela McArdle, newly re-elected chair of the Libertarian Party, told reporters in a gaggle earlier in the day that delegates had been instructed to remain civil. A day earlier, a member of her party had made a sexist remark about her support for the former president’s attendance at the convention during the open forum session.

Dave Smith, a comedian and featured speaker, also urged attendees to give the former president a fair shot. Attempting to goad his allies to take that route, he insinuated that only “woke” leftists would shout down a speaker with whom they disagreed.

Evidently, that was not the case. Donald Trump’s speech ended in a final massive wave of boos as he urged the party’s members to nominate him on their convention’s final day, or simply vote for him in November if that were not the case.

Ms McArdle and like-minded Libertarians had clearly viewed Saturday evening’s speech by the former president as a historic opportunity for their organization. It was certainly an unprecedented event: no current or former president in the modern era has addressed a nominating convention for a party other than the Democrats or Republicans. But it was unclear after Mr Trump’s speech whether that moment would occur again any time soon, given the sour response from the room.

The party chair had even introduced Mr Trump personally and urged delegates in a last-minute plea to remain welcoming. Ahead of the remarks, she had worked to placate unhappy delegates who had found priority seating for the Trump speech snatched up by a large contingent of the president’s fans, who were also in attendance — Ms McArdle herself grabbed the mic and kindly but firmly asked the Trump campaign’s invited guests and ticketed supporters to make room for party delegates.

Donald Trump speaks to the 2024 Libertarian Party convention in Washington DC
Donald Trump speaks to the 2024 Libertarian Party convention in Washington DC (AFP via Getty Images)

But there was palpable anger in the crowd just before the speech began. The Independent witnessed an angry back-and-forth between a Libertarian delegate and another speech attendee over a seat that nearly escalated into a full shouting match. On social media, the grumblings continued as disgruntled Trump supporters, furious at being re-seated, took out their anger on the convention and the party itself. Among the Republicans in the room trying to pick a fight with the Libertarians were members of the Maga-obsessed Washington DC chapter of the Young Republicans — a group whose far-right beeline can possibly be best exemplified by the DC chapter’s continued support for disgraced ex-congressman George Santos following his bipartisan booting from the House of Representatives.

The ex-president spoke for less than an hour before thanking the crowd, which had turned largely hostile by the end of his performance. The few bright spots from a Republican’s perspective could have been the moments when Mr Trump pledged to commute the sentence of drug market Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, whom attendees bore signs to support, as well as when he led the crowd in a chant of “end the Fed!”, referring to the Federal Reserve.

But from a strategist’s perspective, it was hard to see the former president picking up any new supporters after Saturday’s speech. The contingent of conservative-curious Libertarians, of which there has always been many, is likely to turn out for the ex-presiden this year. But among the party’s true believers, there were few inroads apparent after tonight.

Mr Trump will need all the third-party voters he can win back to his side in November as he goes up against Joe Biden for a second time. The ex-president resoundingly lost in 2020, sparking a wave of denial that culminated in the attack on the Capitol on January 6. In 2024, the polls are closer, with Mr Biden trailing in a number of surveys of key swing states he previously took, including Georgia and Wisconsin. But Mr Trump is awaiting a possible conviction in his Manhattan criminal fraud trial, as well as trials on other allegations of criminal activity including his efforts to stop Joe Biden from taking power.

The Biden campaign and Democratic Party combined are taking a co similar approach as they too fear the influence of third-party candidates, in their case including not only Robert F Kenendy Jr but others like Dr Jill Stein of the Green Party and Dr Cornel West.




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