In 2016 US Election, Bitcoin and Blockchain Were Blips on Campaign Radar

CoinDesk recounts its attempts to engage with major political candidates ahead of the 2016 US election.

AccessTimeIconNov 8, 2016 at 3:55 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:36 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconNov 8, 2016 at 3:55 p.m. UTCUpdated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:36 p.m. UTC
AccessTimeIconNov 8, 2016 at 3:55 p.m. UTCUpdated Sep 11, 2021 at 12:36 p.m. UTC

As the US election ramped up last summer, the CoinDesk editorial team began to wonder: Given the mistrust in banks and financial firms, would bitcoin and blockchain become an election issue?

The answer, it turned out, was a resounding no, as neither major party candidate weighed in substantively on the issue.

CoinDesk spent much of the past year and a half attempting to engage with the campaigns of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump to no avail. Phone calls to their respective headquarters in Brooklyn and Manhattan went unanswered.

We saw Clinton's campaign pay lip service to the tech in a broad policy statement, only to learn months later that her senior campaign officials saw the digital currency as "too Libertarian" to accept. In one case, spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined comment by email – a degree of responsiveness the Clinton campaign would fail to achieve.

We thought we might get lucky. In the end, to quote Donald Trump, we were wrong. Nor did the campaigns of early hopefuls like Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders engage with us either (though there was a promising start in the latter case).

Ultimately, none of the major candidates would go on the record with any publication about the tech or the sweeping changes it promises to bring to industries and consumers.

Yet, this isn’t to say the election didn’t have its moments.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul spoke openly about bitcoin, as did Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, both of whom accepted donations in the digital currency. (We also asked the campaign for Green Party candidate Jill Stein what they thought, but our calls went unreturned).

Minor progress

Still, in the midst of it all, we saw Congress push for broad action on the tech (in as legally nonbinding a way as possible). One proposal even sought to potentially rethink how we manage health care for veterans using blockchain.

We also saw the start of a process at the top US elections watchdog to perhaps reclassify what a bitcoin donation is exactly. Along the way, some would speculate that particular winners might push bitcoin markets this way or that.

So, there was movement, albeit in a piecemeal fashion.

One could even argue that the stage was set for 2020 to be the presidential election year that bitcoin and blockchain become a campaign issue or even gets asked about in a presidential debate (our attempts to get a bitcoin question into the Democratic Party and GOP debates in New Hampshire were unsuccessful).

With Congressional action on the tech likely to happen over the next four years, there might soon be change. Here’s hoping.

Image Credit: JStone /

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