Why, for Some, Crypto Is the Defining Political Issue of Our Times

It’d be foolish for people to vote against their own interests.

AccessTimeIconMay 13, 2024 at 8:27 p.m. UTC
Updated May 13, 2024 at 8:30 p.m. UTC
10 Years of Decentralizing the Future
May 29-31, 2024 - Austin, TexasThe biggest and most established global event for everything crypto, blockchain and Web3.Register Now

With all due respect to Molly Jane Zuckerman and Jeff Albus, the co-authors of a recent Blockworks column discounting the idea of voting for pro-crypto politicians in the upcoming election in the U.S., voting your conscience is a good thing. Despite the headline (“Only a fool would vote on crypto alone”), the piece was fairly measured – but it certainly struck a nerve.

Note: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CoinDesk, Inc. or its owners and affiliates. This is an excerpt from The Node newsletter, a daily roundup of the most pivotal crypto news on CoinDesk and beyond. You can subscribe to get the full newsletter here.

“Voting for a candidate you would not otherwise support, simply because they favor the deregulation of a sector in which you hold a profit motive, is a compromise that you should not make,” editors Zuckerman and Albus wrote. They certainly aren’t the first to express this sentiment. Fortune editor Jeff John Roberts has argued that crypto’s increasing alignment with Trump supporters like Sen. Tom Emmer is a bad deal.

While all these folks are right to some extent that political support for crypto is often more about peoples’ bags rather than a moral crusade, it is undeniable that crypto is an increasingly relevant political issue. And for some, it is the defining issue of our times. Crypto isn’t just an investment opportunity, it’s a movement, a philosophy and a way of life – and there are true believers.

Zuckerman and Albus’ issue is nominally about crypto becoming a “single-issue vote,” whether cast in favor of Democrat or Republican candidates – but in reality, the whole conversation they tapped into is really about whether to vote for Trump. For some crypto supporters, the issue is existential; another four years of Biden means more wanton regulation by enforcement, more gridlock preventing actual crypto legislation and more anti-crypto rhetoric coming from the highest political office.

During President Biden’s reign, U.S. legislators and regulators have become increasingly hostile to crypto, and their actions are undeniably having an outsized impact on the direction of an entire global industry. Just last week, for instance, re-staking platform EigenLayer, called one of the most important blockchain innovations since the launch of Ethereum a decade ago, was heavily criticized for designing a highly restrictive airdrop. But, under the current regulatory regime, it was essentially EigenLayer’s only move unless it wanted to invite a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit.

It is true that crypto has bipartisan support, however it is clear (and frankly has been for years) that crypto gets more love from Republicans. Politico reports that a critical vote – “the first time a full chamber of Congress has taken up a big crypto policy bill” – is essentially dead on arrival with a Democrat controlled House and Senate. Meanwhile, the most vocal supporters of crypto in office today are Republicans, figures like Sens. Emmer and Cynthia Lummis.

So can you really blame people like Ryan Selkis, Mike Dudas or Mark Cuban for thinking if they want decent crypto policy in the U.S., the industry has to align itself with Republicans?

Critics might be right in saying that former President Donald Trump, who gave a ringing endorsement of crypto at a Mar-a-Lago dinner last week, only recently took a shine to crypto because he’s made millions selling NFTs or because it’s another way for him to paint President Biden as out of touch. But these moments count. At a time when the entire U.S. crypto industry feels like it’s under assault by the government, it is likely a welcome feeling knowing someone with as much influence as Trump is willing to speak out in support.

I understand that many people think crypto’s vote being cast for Trump is like drinking from a poisoned chalice. After all, when in office, Trump’s cabinet tried (and failed) to push through emergency rules that would have banned “self-hosted wallets,” i.e. exactly what makes crypto a viable technology in the first place. There is no guarantee that if reelected Trump would actually be any more favorable to crypto than Biden is currently; and it seems highly unlikely that either candidate fully understands or appreciates why crypto is technologically potent.

I understand that, ideally, voters should care more about things like abortion, environmental and immigration policy than crypto. (Most probably do.) I understand Zuckerman and Albus’ distaste for Trump, his sexual assault charges, alleged fraud and election denialism. I understand why, optically, crypto casting itself as conservative is a dubious proposition, an expedient way to get 40+% of the population to turn their minds against it, as Laura Shin astutely pointed out.

But I also understand why figures like Selkis are championing crypto into a political cause. Actually, they are simply noticing that crypto already was a partisan issue and acting in accordance. It’s common to hear that because blockchains strive to be “credibly neutral” that the industry itself is apolitical, but that simply isn't true. Crypto is a check on the government; it is and always has been a political project. As I wrote in 2021:

“If Bitcoin solved the climate crisis, it would be through successful, freer markets – not progressive planning. If Bitcoin expands access to basic financial services, it could never solve economic inequality – you cannot redistribute early Bitcoiners’ massive holdings without destroying the system’s technologically protected property rights. If Bitcoin prevents war by diminishing the power of the state, it will also dismantle the progressive welfare state.”

To be clear: I’m not arguing for anyone to vote in any particular way. Frankly, I agree that ideally crypto wouldn’t be an election issue. I wish it weren’t politicized. But crypto exists in the context of all other issues, and is currently being affected by politics. And it’s perfectly natural that people who think about and use crypto everyday would elevate it as the most important issue – especially considering that it’s not only a philosophy but an investment.

It is unclear why anyone would suggest people vote against their interests. For some, crypto is a microcosm of all else that’s important – because in the end, it’s all about letting people determine for themselves what to value.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Daniel Kuhn

Daniel Kuhn is a deputy managing editor for Consensus Magazine. He owns minor amounts of BTC and ETH.

Learn more about Consensus 2024, CoinDesk's longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.