Opinion: What the Libertarians are warning us all about Trump

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show.” Follow him on Threads. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

Donald Trump is accustomed to adoring fans packing his rallies. These MAGA faithful — including some supporters who travel hundreds of miles to attend repeated rallies — are only too eager to laugh at his jokes and applaud his bombastic rhetoric. That’s why Trump being loudly and repeatedly jeered and heckled throughout his speech at the Libertarian Party’s national convention in Washington, DC on Saturday had to be jarring for him.

Dean Obeidallah - CNN
Dean Obeidallah - CNN

And while Trump did attract some cheers when he nakedly pandered to the crowd, such when he promised to appoint a Libertarian to his cabinet if he wins, the headlines across the nation told the story of Trump getting repeatedly heckled unlike anything we’ve seen before in this campaign.

Trump had lobbied for an invitation to the event, hoping to convince some of the attendees to support his presidential bid in November’s election. The New York Times reported that the former president “appeared irked by the chaotic atmosphere,” which led him to seemingly rush through his speech.

In fact, things got so rough for Trump that when he received a chorus of boos after urging the attendees to make him their 2024 presidential nominee that — like a comedian bombing who lashes out at the audience — he mocked the Libertarian Party, saying that they could either choose to nominate him or “keep getting your 3% every four years.”

It might have been even worse for Trump if the Secret Service hadn’t reportedly confiscated the rubber chickens that squawked loudly when squeezed, that had been distributed to attendees by a PAC supporting Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (Of course, this raises the question of why the taxpayer funded Secret Service was being used to silence people who wanted to show their disapproval for Trump’s political speech.)

To put it bluntly, the  booing of Trump is what patriotism sounds like. Those people were loudly warning Americans about who Trump is and the danger he poses to our republic.

There were various reasons cited by those attending the Libertarian Party convention for why they adamantly opposed Trump, such as his running up huge federal deficits when he was in the White House. But what jumped out to me was that so many people cited Trump’s threat to our very way of life.

One delegate to the convention told the Times ahead of the address that Trump tries “to make himself sound Libertarian … but he’s the ultimate authoritarian.” Some attendees yelled during the speech that, “Donald Trump is a threat to democracy!” While another person held up a sign that read, “No wannabe dictators!” before being dragged away by security.

Days before the speech, Peter Goettler, president and chief executive of the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, penned an op-ed for The Washington Post explaining why so many libertarians oppose Trump. Libertarians’ core beliefs, he noted, include “individual freedom, equality under the law, pluralism, toleration, free speech, freedom of religion, government by consent of the governed, the rule of law” and “limited constitutional government.”

Trump, Goettler continued, does not subscribe to those views. He went on to list a litany of issues Trump has embraced that are anathema to Libertarians, including “increasing the national debt by $8.4 trillion” during his presidency.

He also cited the threat Trump poses to our freedoms, noting that if he wins the White House he plans to ”crack down on political enemies” — suggesting he plans to expand government power to silence critics and opponents.

Goettler then powerfully explained that while both Democratic and Republican presidents were not “above using extralegal means to accomplish policy objectives,” Trump was far more dangerous with “the supreme example being the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, a tragic event that celebrated a total disregard for the peaceful transfer of power and constitutional order.” He added, “Libertarians know that the Constitution and the rule of law are essential elements in keeping government power constrained.”

You don’t need to be a member of the Libertarian Party to understand that if Trump had been successful in his efforts to remain in power despite losing the 2020 election, our democratic republic as we know it would have ended. Elections would no longer matter if Trump or any candidate — without credible evidence and after losing all judicial appeals — could declare that he or she could remain in office simply by alleging there was widespread fraud. That is why he has been charged with numerous felonies in both the federal courts and in Fulton County, Georgia.

In December, former GOP Rep. Liz Cheney — a fierce Trump critic — made a comment that has stuck with me. Speaking of the threat posed by a second Trump term, she warned, “One of the things that we see happening today is a sort of a sleepwalking into dictatorship in the United States.”

I hope people across the country read about what took place Saturday night at the Libertarian convention. Maybe, just maybe, the loud jeers and boos by those patriotic Americans directed against Trump will wake up their fellow citizens to the threat he poses if he’s elected again to lead our country.

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