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Will Donald Trump capture the Bitcoin vote?

"I'm 6'5", 220 and there's two of me." Credit: Tyler Winklevoss/X

June 24, 2024 - 7:30pm

Forbes reported yesterday that “Crypto is braced for a huge Biden flip” ahead of Thursday’s presidential debate, as Democrats fret over Donald Trump’s growing support from the industry. This comes days after Trump’s “small but vocal group” of supporters in finance and Silicon Valley just grew by two Winklevii and $2 million in Bitcoin — though part of this was then refunded in line with electoral law.

Earlier this month, Politico reported that Trump trekked to San Francisco to “court a small but vocal group of sympathetic tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who, following the likes of Elon Musk, are embracing Trump’s bombastic but business-friendly platforms in rebuke of President Joe Biden and Democrats’ policies”.

On his agenda in the Bay Area was a “$300,000-per-person fundraiser, hosted at billionaire venture capitalist David Sacks’s Pacific Heights mansion”. Reflecting on the event, Sacks said: “Maybe it creates a preference cascade and it becomes acceptable to acknowledge the truth. Which is that a lot of people support Trump.”

Fast forward less than a month and the twin kings of crypto have joined the bandwagon. Tyler Winklevoss published a 1,400-word X post late last week coming out as a Trump supporter. His twin brother Cameron jumped on the bandwagon 15 minutes later, writing that he too would be voting for Trump in November. Both donated $1 million in Bitcoin to Trump’s campaign, citing the candidate’s position on cryptocurrencies in their endorsements. “Here’s the TL;DR,” wrote Cameron. “President Trump is: Pro-Bitcoin Pro-Crypto Pro-Business.”

Tyler and Cameron, known best for their feud with Mark Zuckerberg over the creation of Facebook, now work respectively as the CEO and president of Gemini, an embattled crypto exchange. Early adapters of digital currency, the Winklevoss brothers have been targeted by a common enemy of Trump’s: New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Their endorsements rolled in shortly before Trump’s appearance on the All-In podcast dropped, bringing him face to face with venture capitalists Sacks and Chamath Palihapitiya, who co-hosted the aforementioned fundraiser just three weeks ago. Media round-ups of similar endorsements include Shaun Maguire of Sequoia Capital and Jacob Helberg of Palantir. (Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel declined to fund Trump this cycle. His Zero to One co-author Blake Masters is running for Congress as a pro-Trump Republican in Arizona.)

On top of all this, “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli is now claiming he created the DJT crypto token with Trump’s son Barron, though evidence of the latter’s involvement is unsurprisingly limited. Nathan Leamer, a centre-right analyst at the Digital First Project, told me the endorsements “make sense” because Trump is “engaging with those who are transforming our world”.

The crypto-to-Trump pipeline is straightforward enough. For the moment, at least, Biden’s administration is not friendly to the industry — and Trump is eagerly exploiting that break. The same could be said of business in general, given Trump’s deregulatory agenda which even managed to attract a smattering of high-net-worth supporters in 2016 and 2020. Like Sacks, Palihapitiya and the Winklevosses, many of those supporters have donation records not unlike Trump himself, split between the Republicans and Democrats.

What’s different now is the shamelessness of the enthusiasm for Trump — an unthinkable development in the tense days after January 6, when even staunch conservatives were nervously backing away from MAGA. It’s a trend only possible amid the present “vibe shift”, in which self-serious tattling has lost its currency with publicists and billionaires and average Joes alike. The permission structure is changing.

While crypto and foreign policy have visibly driven more public (and perhaps private) excitement for Trump, their motivations are clearly broader. In his endorsement post on X, Tyler Winklevoss argued the Biden administration “has been dismantling our economic way of life and the system that made America the greatest country in the world”. A “huge Biden flip” along the lines of what Forbes reported on yesterday might not be enough.

There’s really no easy way to quantify the energy around Trump in finance and tech. Even if it’s translating to small gains for the Republican candidate, from black Americans to younger voters, those gains threaten to open the floodgates to a “preference cascade”, to borrow a phrase from Sacks.

As American business seemed briefly to be captured by the cultural Left — see the GOP’s bitter break with the Chamber of Commerce as proof — the likelier outcome now resembles something different and more familiar. Like other corners of America, Silicon Valley, once the fiefdom of Barack Obama, is now polarised.


Emily Jashinsky is UnHerd‘s Washington D.C. Correspondent.

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UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
27 days ago

Orange pill good but orange man might still be bad. I do think we need to face the fact that bitcoin has serious momentum now as rebellious force against fiat capitalism ( money printing by governments and corporations). Its only really a culural force now but the economic momentum is also powerful as the currency grows in liquidity. Its effectively a savings network and technology.

Martin M
Martin M
27 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Bitcoin is still a scam though. I think “rebellious force against fiat capitalism” rather misstates things. I think “magic beans devised by crooks to make themselves rich” is nearer the mark.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
26 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Why is it a scam? What is a scam is the way they keep debasing money so the average worker cant buy a house imo

Martin M
Martin M
26 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You think “Fiat currency” is the reason the average worker can’t buy a house? I don’t know what country you live in, but in my part of the world, the reasons are 1) Terrible housing policy on the part of successive governments, and 2) Bad economic times brought on by money squandered on stupid COVID policies.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
25 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Well lets imagine you had 1 million dollers/euros or pounds. You can buy 4 houses at 250k each accrueing value at about 10% per annum or leave in the bank or get gov bonds and get 3-5% . Or even better you can leverage up conservatively at 5:1 and get 20 houses acrueing 10% for a loan of 3-5%. Then you can rent them out also to pay the mortgage. These days the government will subsidise rent also so there is a floor there. Thats why housing in so expebsive. Its monetised to use a technical term. It serves as a store of wealth. In my estate 1/4 houses are empty in the midst of a severe housing crises. If we had a hard currency, this wouldnt happen or at least to the sane extent

Aidan O
Aidan O
25 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I think you are confusing Bitcoin with one or more of the tens of thousands of crypto tokens that ride on its tails. Most of those are scams. Bitcoin is most certainly not a scam.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
26 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

“as the currency grows in liquidity”? The liquidity of a bitcoin relies entirely upon a supply of savers surrendering their savings to the holders of Bitcoins who want to sell. What do they get? A number. It might be one of a limited supply of such numbers but it is just a number with no intrinsic value. When it goes out of fashion the new holders will not find a ready supply of new savers to buy their number. Without them there will be no liquidity. To make it tangible they could print out their number and frame it. What they cannot do is get the money they paid back. It is not sitting in a fund and no one has promised to pay them anything. Caveat emptor.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
26 days ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Well as I said, its a network of savers. If they all abondon ship than you are quite correct. But the you could say the same is true if for example sovereign bonds or tesla stock. The difference is that supply of bitcoin is strictly automated so no human greed can interfere with isduance. Actually if everyone withdraws savings from a bank also the same problem ( although modern.money so debased they usually get a bail out which undermines buying power of all savers). But as the liquidity ( stored value) grows this becomes less likely although I agree that it is not impossible. Certainly there will be big draw downs to come but as long as luquidity keeps growing in the long term, network becomes more resilent. Btw bondholders are going to be destroyed as btc goes up. You want to print off your government bonds to make them more tangible also ?

Peter B
Peter B
27 days ago

The author thinks there’s a significant “bitcoin vote” ? Really ? Even if there are some votes around this, are these really going to be the ones that count in the swing states ?
I certainly wouldn’t want to be endorsed by a load of crypto shysters. Or be impressed by anyone who was.
Silicon Valley has always been polarised. It had plenty of Republican support 20 years ago.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
27 days ago

In other words, a few more wealthy elites are coming around to the notion that globalism has lost, decisively, and are doing what pragmatic and productive elites are apt to do, that is try to divine which way the winds are blowing and positioning themselves to take advantage. They’ve seen enough to change sides in order to protect their own interests. It’s no coincidence that the first defectors are what might be called new money elites. New money is always less ideological than entrenched old money. Given that Trump is somehow still slightly ahead in a close political contest even after all the efforts of the mainstream press and the other side to destroy him, and even after Jan 6th, these people are drawing the obvious conclusion; the establishment greatly underrated the power and depth of anti-establishment feelings and misjudged badly the political mood of the country. The elites who have reached this conclusion are moving their chips to the other side of the table. As the author says, this doesn’t mean much in the here and now and likely won’t have a significant effect on the election, but it’s definitely a sign worth noting. Put simply, the ship of globalism is sinking and there go the first of the rats.

J Bryant
J Bryant
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Great comment, Steve.
I still don’t think it will be enough to get Trump elected, though. The vast majority of the Establishment are still against him and they will stop at nothing to block him.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
27 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I’m not sure it even matters at this point. The political window has moved in a way that can’t be undone. The military industrial complex has gotten fully on board the economic nationalism bandwagon to protect American military technology superiority. As a result, Biden’s economic policy has resembled Trump’s more than Obama’s. The process of establishing the new normal is well under way and it’s bigger than either party or candidate and will last longer than just the next four years. Elite defections are a visible sign of that process. I anticipate more of them in the future.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
27 days ago

Hell yes. Jamie, Larry and their ETF buddies have been warming to the idea.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
26 days ago

The title makes too much of bit-coin. Right now the issue is the election; there’s still months to go and anything could happen. Anything that seems to give voters “permission” to vote for Trump, in the privacy of the voting booth, could turn the results. (I’m on the fence myself; it’s getting kind of uncomfortable.)
And just like Trump, many, if not most, Americans are very impressed with what the super-rich say and do.

Aidan O
Aidan O
25 days ago

There seems to have been a vibe shift in the last 9 months or so. Support for ESG and DEI has crumbled, the SEC have lost multiple legal cases, and the Overton window is shifting back to where it belongs —where it’s ok again for centrists to openly criticize these insane attitudes and policies, and to loudly declare that they will be voting for candidates that will attempt to reverse the rot.

The Democrats should be very worried about November. I think it’s going to be a landslide unless something major happens.