Another View: President Biden’s campaign needs to lean in on cryptocurrency

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Bitcoin, Ethereum, Binance Coin, Tether, Solana, etc., etc., etc.

However, you count them, they’re the coin of the realm for the campaigns of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. That may be a big deal in this election year.

There is no doubt this historic contest will be close, and both sides believe the wrong outcome could have cataclysmic results. How does an octogenarian and a 77-year-old connect with young voters and give themselves the edge? By tapping into the thoughts and dreams of young voters and addressing their issues.

Cryptocurrency is a big one, but it’s thorny territory.

The Biden administration has slow-walked crypto regulation for years. Officials cannot decide which federal agency should regulate the digital currency. So far, a few prosecutions and minor reforms have been the order of the day. There is much disagreement on how to address regulation, making it hard to build consensus. Meanwhile, crypto continues to burgeon, with most of the growth coming overseas and outside the purview of American regulators.

Yet American speculators and investors are piling onto crypto. As of last week, the price of bitcoin had skyrocketed to 68,316.64 per coin, a 143.8% increase from a year ago.

Everyone would agree that there should be safeguards for trading in bitcoin and that investor funds should be monitored and protected. Bitcoin will help fuel the next generation of American investors and their wealth. Nearly 20% of Americans say they have bought crypto, according to a recent online poll of 1,000 registered voters. That includes 19% of self-identified Democrats and 18% of Republicans, according to the survey, conducted for the crypto investment firm Paradigm by Public Opinion Strategies from Feb. 28 to March 4. Ownership of cryptocurrency is even higher among younger voters. For example, 41% of men ages 18 to 34 said they have bought crypto.

The kids love it. The presidential race may turn on it. Young voters could make the difference.

The Biden campaign has been reaching out to them for months, on issues such as student debt relief and reproductive choice. Biden has deployed a massive social media strategy inside the White House and on the campaign trail. The messaging may not be working. Trump is gaining ground on Biden’s edge among young voters, a Harvard Youth Poll released last month shows. Among people ages 18 to 29, Biden leads Trump 45% to 37% (16% said they were undecided). That’s an 8% margin, compared with where young voters stood at this time in the 2020 presidential campaign, when Biden was beating Trump by 23 percentage points.

Biden needs to lean in on crypto. Young people have been the earliest and most eager adopters of the alternative currency. Polls show that young voters are worried about the economy and their financial futures. They see crypto as the golden opportunity to get ahead.

Trump has a head start.

“Crypto is Trump’s new weapon against Biden,” declared a recent headline in Politico. “It’s the first time crypto has become an issue in the general election of a presidential race.” Trump is all in on the currency and is even producing his own “fungible token, or NFT,” a form of digital currency, Politico noted last month.

Trump touted his embrace of the currency at a May 8 gathering of crypto supporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. He attacked the Biden administration for its push to regulate the crypto industry and demanded that crypto advocates had “better vote” for him, because, he exhorted, “They are against it.”

Trump’s cheerleading is getting noticed. The former president is even cozying up to Elon Musk, the crypto aficionado billionaire. Musk is popular with the youths. It’s a strategy designed to subtract young voters from the Democratic column.

“President Trump’s remarks signal a sea change in the importance of digital assets this election cycle,” Kristin Smith, CEO of the Blockchain Association, a top crypto industry lobbying group, told Politico.

When it comes to courting young voters, Biden and the Democrats can’t afford to let that opportunity wash away.

Laura Washington is a political commentator and longtime Chicago journalist. ©2024 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.