‘Swamp Creature!’: Trump Gets Shouted Down as He Begs for Libertarian Nomination

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It was clear from the start that this year’s Libertarian convention would not be a staid affair.

Going into the weekend, the Washington Hilton was stocked with shrink-wrapped packs of Blood of Tyrants’ Liquid Freedom Energy Tea. More than one attendee appeared to be smoking indoors. The drinks were flowing and the crowd was chanting, booing, and hollering through speeches left and right. Punches even flew. And that was all before former President Donald Trump took the stage in front of hundreds on Saturday.

When that moment came, the former president was met with a sound he was not accustomed to: boos. They broke out as soon as he appeared, and never died down, marking one of the most negative receptions Trump has ever received.

“A lot of people ask why I came to speak at this Libertarian convention,” Trump said as he began his remarks. “And, you know, it’s an interesting question, isn’t it? But we’re gonna have a lot of fun.”

It soon became clear that Trump most certainly was not having fun. Try as he might to sell himself as an ally to Libertarians, the crowd was not buying it. Whenever the former president’s supporters began chanting, Libertarians shouted them down. When Trump talked about the government crushing citizens’ rights, an audience member screamed, “You crushed my rights!” When he accused President Joe Biden of enacting censorship and persecution, someone else cried, “So do you!” Shouts of “Swamp creature!” and “Fuck you!” peppered his remarks.

Soon enough, he appeared to downright beg them to go easy on him: “Right now, in this election, we need your help. We need your support,” he said, prompting a chorus of boos.

“Combine with us in a partnership, we’re asking that of the Libertarians, we must work together,” he pleaded, again eliciting angry shouts.

There were more boos when Trump urged the Libertarian Party to nominate him as its candidate. But the former president soldiered on.

“Now I think you should nominate me, or at least vote for me, and we should win together,” he said. “Only do that if you want to win,” he said. “If you want to lose, don’t do that.”

Perhaps sensing he should bargain with the crowd he had so far failed to win over, he then said: “I’m committing to you tonight, that I will put a Libertarian in my Cabinet, and also Libertarians in senior posts.”

This weekend’s convention was the first since the right-wing Mises Caucus seized control of the party at its Reno convention in 2022. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported on the Caucus’ hard-right approach, which has at times included anti-trans, antisemitic, and racist sentiments, as well as its ties to Trumpworld. But in the days ahead of the speech, the party’s decision to allow Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, to headline the Libertarian convention was a major point of contention, and on Saturday, the disagreement broke out into heated conflict.

Members of the Libertarian Party gather for the party's national convention at the Washington Hilton on May 25, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Members of the Libertarian Party gather for the party's national convention at the Washington Hilton on May 25, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“I think it was a bad idea,” Virginia Libertarian activist Marta Howard told The Daily Beast ahead of the speech. “Not all publicity is good publicity. The rest of the world is going to think, ‘Oh, it’s because they’re right-leaning.’ Whatever they think of Libertarians, they’re just going to think it’s another flavor of Republicans.”

Libertarian National Committee chair Angela McArdle told the Washington Post in early May that Trump’s appearance would help draw attention and attendance, an argument that resonated with some.

“I was originally not happy about it, just because of the optics of the Republican candidate for president coming to where Libertarians pick their candidate,” Blake Rogers, a Mises-aligned alternate who had driven his motorcycle up from Georgia told The Daily Beast. “But a lot of people have made a lot of really good points about it in terms of it being a lot of publicity that we wouldn’t ordinarily get otherwise.”

Still, it was clear that many were not sold on the MAGA-fied convention. While red-hatted Trump supporters lined up outside the ballroom ahead of the former president’s speech, one woman hurried by, her middle finger up, singing “Fuck Donald Trump.”

Many of the Trump supporters were the first inside and quickly took over the rows closest to the stage. But McArdle soon took the stage and requested they move so Libertarian convention delegates could sit up front, threatening to call security if they didn’t.

The formal program began with Mises Caucus-backed presidential candidate Michael Rectenwald roasting Trump and his leadership of Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to develop the COVID-19 vaccine. “None of us are great fans of Donald Trump,” he said, provoking boos from the middle of the room, where McArdle had relegated most of the Trump supporters.

When Trump chants broke out, Libertarians in the front rows turned around to respond, with some screaming expletives about the former president.

“We are not a bunch of college leftist sissies, so be respectful,” comedian Dave Smith, a Mises Caucus member, warned, earning cheers all around.

As the crowd waited for Trump to appear, supporters in the audience could be heard fretting that there needed to be more of them. A man with a “MAGA=Socialist” sign stood on a chair in the middle of the audience and was soon surrounded by Trump devotees screaming in his face. Others carried signs proclaiming “Stop Trump Vote Lars,” referring to Lars Mapstead, another Libertarian presidential candidate. A chant of “We want Trump!” was quickly overpowered by one demanding to “End the Fed!”

“We should not be fighting each other,” Trump said soon after he took the stage. “Joe Biden gets back in, there will be no more liberty for anyone in our country.”

Trump did sometimes earn cheers from the crowd, including when he talked about ending wars, pardoning Jan. 6 protesters, protecting cryptocurrency, denying money to schools with vaccine or mask mandates, and defunding diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. The most applause came when he promised to commute the life sentence of Ross Ulbricht, who has been imprisoned for operating a website that sold illegal goods.

But on the whole, the audience wasn’t having it. Even the night before, the anti-Trump resistance was out in full force. When Trump surrogate Vivek Ramaswamy appeared to warm up the crowd and debate the party’s vice presidential nominee, he was booed for so much as mentioning Trump’s name.

“Who’s going to be the President? It’s either going to be the Democratic nominee or the Republican nominee,” Ramaswamy said, sparking audible protests. “I mean, come on! Look, I invite you to dream on.”

Plenty of attendees seemed happy to keep dreaming. An earlier speech by third party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had earned a much warmer reception, with frequent cheers and standing ovations. Many of his best-received lines had been ones slamming the former president.

“I’m curious to know how President Trump is going to defend his attacks on the Constitution when I meet him on the debating stage,” Kennedy said, earning roars from the crowd.

Kennedy told the convention Friday he had challenged Trump to a debate at the Libertarian convention, but that the former president had declined.

In comments to The Daily Beast, Trump campaign adviser Brian Hughes called Kennedy an “ultra-leftist” who “called the NRA a terror group.” Jason Miller, senior Trump campaign adviser, said Trump’s “America First agenda is the one that shares many of the Libertarian voters’ concerns, and he is the only candidate who can defeat Joe Biden and put an end to Biden’s assault on our Constitution, our freedoms, and our God-given rights.”

Team Trump is hoping not to lose too many voters to third-party candidates like Kennedy, whose constituency overlaps with that of the former president. In a close race with Biden, where polls consistently find the two men within a few points of each other, whether Trump earns Libertarians’ votes could be a deciding factor.

“The Libertarian Party can make a big difference,” Trump promised the crowd Saturday, saying he would be “a true friend to Libertarians in the White House” before being booed again.

Minutes after Trump left the stage, McArdle announced a press conference with the Libertarian Party’s actual candidates. The first, Chase Oliver, ribbed Trump.

“Isn’t it nice to have a Libertarian on stage at the Libertarian convention?” he asked. “We just had a neocon war criminal on our stage a few minutes ago."

The response was quieter than it had been when Trump was speaking. Most of the crowd had already left.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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