During his presidential announcement on Twitter, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis solidified crypto’s status as a mainstream political issue: “The current regime clearly has it out for bitcoin,” said DeSantis. “And if it continues for another four years, they’ll probably end up killing it.”
With that, Satoshi’s vision of a decentralized peer-to-peer currency leapt from the white paper onto the debate stage. The moment marked not just crypto’s campaign debut but a potential sea change in American politics.
To understand the implications of this sea change, it is important to understand why crypto became politicized in the first place–and why it is likely to play an even larger role in politics going forward.
Crypto Enters The Culture War
That crypto is becoming a partisan issue should come as no surprise: Crypto is money. Money is power. And power is politics.
Indeed, the real surprise is not that crypto has become political but that it took it so long to happen.
In bitcoin, Satoshi envisioned a currency that would directly challenge the power of governments and central banks. So naturally, many politicians who favor government action and centralized authority are opposed to it.
That’s why many–but importantly, not all–Democrats have taken positions against crypto in the last few months. Leading the charge is the Biden administration.
Earlier this month, the President levied an attack against “wealthy crypto investors” whom he accused of exploiting tax loopholes supported by “MAGA Republicans.” Meanwhile, his top cop at the Securities and Exchange Commission–Chair Gary Gensler–has threatened leading crypto exchanges and protocols with multiple lawsuits. To show their support for Gensler, Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee issued a memo urging their fellow party members to get behind his most hardline positions. As the memo stated, “the SEC has made clear that nearly all crypto assets are securities. End of story.”
Of course, that’s not the end of the story. Among Democrats, there are significant holdouts who are resisting the party line. This includes Representative Ritchie Torres, the youngest Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.
In an interview with Bankless, Torres–who is pro-bitcoin and among the most progressive members of the Democratic Caucus–expressed his belief that crypto can empower workers and creators to liberate themselves from what he sees as the abuses of the legacy financial system.
Torres also pushed back against the idea that Democrats are uniformly against crypto: “My perception is that the divide on crypto is not so much partisan or ideological as it is generational. You will find that younger Democrats like myself and Wiley Nickel, who sits on Financial Services, are much more open to the innovative possibilities of crypto and blockchain.”
It’s also worth noting that Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. strongly supports bitcoin. Kennedy–who has garnered the support of 20 percent of Democratic voters–delivered the keynote address at The Bitcoin Conference in Nashville. There, he described holding bitcoin as an inviolable right and “an exercise in democracy.”
Kennedy has also been a fierce opponent of central bank digital currencies (or CBDCs). In fact, his position on CBDCs is almost indistinguishable from that of Governor DeSantis. Both men have warned that CBDCs pose a considerable threat to privacy and personal freedom. And both men have promised to prevent the Federal Reserve or any other government entity from developing a CBDC as president.
Although members of different parties, Kennedy and DeSantis have a virtual mind-meld when it comes to crypto-related issues. This mind-meld points to an important development in American politics.
The Rise Of Crypto Populism
Take stock of all the above: What issue can bring together a gay Congressman from the Bronx, an environmentalist Democrat from New England, and an anti-woke Republican Governor from Florida?
This uncanny coalition of ideological opposites is evidence that crypto does not split evenly along party lines. Nor is the divide simply generational. Consider that two of the biggest bitcoin boosters in Congress–Representative Tom Emmer and Senator Cynthia Lummis–are 62 and 68 respectively.
So what is going on here? What separates crypto critics from supporters? And what can this tell us about the country’s future?
While many have dismissed bitcoin as an amusing oddity in the current election cycle, it is likely much more than that. As candidates stake their positions on various crypto issues, we could be witnessing the formation of a new fault line in American politics.
The new partisan divide may no longer be Right vs. Left but establishment vs. anti-establishment. Centralization vs. decentralization. State vs. crypto.
After all, it is a pro-democratic impulse–coupled with an inherent distrust of big business and big government–that unites the likes of Torres, Kennedy, and DeSantis on bitcoin, despite their considerable differences on other issues. It’s worth asking then: what might strengthen the bonds of this unlikely fellowship in the future?
It’s not hard to imagine. Simply suppose current societal trends continue. Trust in business and government institutions continues to wane, as does the strength of the dollar.
This would only deepen the divide between those who are for crypto and those who are against it. It would further scramble party lines as politicians who were formerly opposed cohere around a populist agenda. And it would elevate decentralization as a defining political issue of our time.
If the ideological alliance between Torres, Kennedy, and DeSantis tells us anything, it’s that bitcoin makes strange bedfellows. And it’s about to make even more.
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