Cryptocurrency has exploded from a fringe curiosity into a $1.7 trillion market over the last few years. Now the fast-growing industry finds itself at the center of partisan politics ahead of the 2024 presidential race.
- Donald Trump has changed his stance on crypto since leaving office, selling NFTs and planning more crypto-friendly policies if reelected
- Leading Republicans like Reps. Emmer and McHenry and Sen. Hagerty are pushing for light-touch crypto regulations to support innovation
- A Republican administration would likely appoint SEC chairs like Brian Brooks or Hester Peirce who are more crypto-friendly
- Some GOP figures have used pro-crypto policies to appeal to libertarian-leaning voters and donors disenchanted with Democrats
- Crypto regulation is becoming an increasingly partisan issue, with Democrats more authoritarian and Republicans more embracing of the industry
Donald Trump has done an about-face on crypto since leaving the White House in 2021. Once a prominent critic, dismissing Bitcoin as “not money” with “highly volatile” value, Trump is now personally investing in digital assets and exploring their political potency. His recent embrace comes as Republicans make a broader overture to the crypto community, attracting libertarian donors while painting Democrats as heavy-handed regulators.
Key GOP figures have put forth sweeping proposals aimed at nurturing cryptocurrency innovation on American soil. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who may chair the House Financial Services Committee if Republicans reclaim control this year, has drafted legislation that would empower the crypto sector while reining in the enforcement-minded Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
McHenry and other Republicans have floated SEC leadership candidates like Brian Brooks, Coinbase’s former top lawyer, or current commissioner Hester Peirce, both of whom favor clearer crypto rules over stringent crackdowns. Meanwhile Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) believes crypto and the “liberty and freedom it brings” would thrive under regulators receptive to innovation in a second Trump term.
So far the ex-president himself remains an unlikely champion. Trump disparaged Bitcoin in 2019 as “based on thin air” and “highly volatile.” But with Republicans across the board embracing elements of the crypto industry’s wishlist, Trump may see political advantage in setting himself apart from regulation-wary Democrats.
Vocal crypto proponents Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) have already endorsed Trump’s 2024 bid. And primary rivals Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy are using promises of crypto-friendly administration policies to court right-leaning voters.
That marks a stark departure from the stance of Biden’s SEC Chairman, Gary Gensler, who is pursuing an enforcement blitz against major crypto firms. Senate Democrats like Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and progressive firebrand Elizabeth Warren are ramping up industry oversight efforts as well.
Crypto regulation threatens to become fully engulfed by the partisan divide. Most industry advocates reject the notion of crypto as a political football, insisting digital currency appeals across the political spectrum. But leaders in both parties appear to be strategically exploiting crypto’s ideological dimensions heading into the next presidential race.