Can Trump Win the Libertarian Vote? The Answer Might Be Complicated.

AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura

All indications suggest that the 2024 presidential election will be a close one. With President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump continuing to poll in a statistical dead heat, neither candidate seems to be able to gain a significant lead.

The close polling has revealed that both candidates need all the support they can possibly muster to squeak out a win in November, and both campaigns appear fully aware of this.

President Biden has resorted to courting disaffected supporters of former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley. On the other hand, Trump appears intent on winning over another critical voting bloc: Libertarians. The question is: Can the former president garner enough support among libertarian voters to make a difference in his favor?

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Trump would be addressing the crowd at the Libertarian Party National Convention. Among libertarian voters, it was a controversial move, with many criticizing the party’s leadership for inviting an opponent to the convention where they will choose their presidential and vice presidential nominee. On the other hand, supporters argued that Trump’s presence would garner more media attention.

However, Trump’s motives for attending the event are transparent: He wants to win over libertarians. In a statement, the former president praised libertarians as “some of the most independent and thoughtful thinkers in our Country” and said, “If Libertarians join me and the Republican Party, where we have many Libertarian views, the election won’t even be close.”

So, can Trump successfully court libertarian voters? The answer is both yes and no.

There are areas of agreement between the former president and those espousing libertarian beliefs. His focus on slashing taxes and regulations are music to a libertarian’s ears even if they would prefer more drastic action to take the government out of the economy.

Libertarians concerned about the criminal justice system might also look kindly on Trump championing the First Step Act, a major piece of reform legislation that has already produced some positive results when it comes to lowering recidivism rates among federal prisoners released under the program.

Trump’s stance on free speech could also be appealing, especially in an age when authoritarian progressives are actively censoring conservative and libertarian users on social media. The former president himself, along with his supporters, has been a prime target for the pro-censorship crowd.

The former president’s foreign policy, while not perfect from a libertarian perspective, is far more appealing than his predecessors and the current occupant of the White House. Trump did not start any new wars and has constantly pledged to keep America out of “endless” military entanglements overseas.

However, there are some striking areas of disagreement. While Trump did not start any new wars, he has supported aid to Ukraine, Israel, and other countries. He also failed to halt America’s involvement in the war in Yemen.

Trump’s stance on immigration could also be an issue. While there are plenty of libertarians who do not support open borders, many do back a more lenient approach to immigration.

The former president’s approach to trade wars and tariffs might also turn off libertarians who are avid proponents of free trade.

There is also the issue of drug policy – especially as it pertains to marijuana. While the former president did champion the First Step Act, he hasn’t exactly been an opponent of the War on Drugs. Indeed, he has vowed on numerous occasions to pursue the death penalty for drug dealers, an issue that will almost certainly drive a large swath of Libertarian voters away.

What this all boils down to is this: Trump can win a considerable number of votes from those who are Libertarian-friendly but not die-hard Libertarians. Those who lean toward Libertarian candidates could be persuaded to take a chance on a Republican. Indeed, many of these individuals have likely voted for Republican candidates in the past.

However, those who fully embrace libertarian ideology won’t be able to hold their noses tightly enough to pull the lever for Trump, or any other Republican or Democratic candidate for that matter. The former president likely knows this, which is why he will probably target his messaging at the convention to those who aren’t as gung-ho about libertarianism.

Moreover, the platform he is being given at the convention can be used to appeal to small L libertarians who aren’t necessarily tied to the party. There can be no doubt that, in true Trumpian fashion, he will use this as an opportunity. I can just hear him saying, “I know libertarians very well, and they love me. We have so much in common.”

In the end, Trump has nothing to lose and much to gain by courting libertarians, and if he plays his cards right, he might just win enough of their votes to defeat Biden in November.


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