On the campaign trail in the USA, May 2024

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Friday, June 28, 2024

The following is the first edition of a monthly series chronicling the 2024 United States presidential election. It features original material compiled throughout the previous month after an overview of polling and the biggest stories of the month.

This month's spotlight on the campaign trail: an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the US Reform Party's presidential nomination; fear and loathing at the 2024 Libertarian National Convention; and an interview with the Libertarian Party's new vice presidential nominee.



At the start of May, in the RealClearPolitics aggregate of opinion polls, the presumptive US Republican Party presidential nominee, former President Donald Trump led the presumptive US Democratic Party presidential nominee, President Joe Biden, 46.6 percent to 45.1 percent in the head-to-head matchup. With independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., presumptive US Green Party nominee Jill Stein, and independent candidate Cornel West included, Trump continued to lead with 41.4 percent to 39.2 percent for Biden, 10.2 percent for Kennedy, 2.1 percent for West, and 1.6 percent for Stein.

At the end of May, Trump led Biden in the head-to-head 45.4 percent to 44.6 percent. In the 5-way race, Trump led with 41.9 percent to 39.7 percent for Biden, 10.4 percent for Kennedy, 2.0 percent for Stein, and 1.9 percent for West.

Biggest stories


  • The business records trial of former President Trump continued in New York with testimony from porn star Stormy Daniels and former attorney Michael Cohen. A gag order limited what Trump could say about the trial. Still, he criticized Judge Juan Merchan and prosecutor Alvin Bragg and claimed President Joe Biden and the White House had rigged the case. Ultimately, the jury found Trump guilty of all 34 felony counts. In the 24 hours after the trial, the Trump campaign raised over US$50 million.
A protestor dressed as Trump in an orange jumpsuit stands outside the New York City courthouse.
Image: SWinxy.


  • Due to an Ohio ballot access law with an early deadline for party nominations, President Biden would have theoretically not qualified for the ballot in the state with his official nomination scheduled to take place at the Democratic National Convention in August. To circumvent the law, the Democratic Party agreed to officially nominate Biden at a ceremony in June. Nevertheless, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine called a special legislative session and passed a law amending the early requirement, ensuring Biden would appear on the ballot in the state.
  • Biden agreed to two debates with Trump with the first to take place on June 27, the earliest ever for a general election presidential debate. Vice President Kamala Harris also agreed to a debate with the yet-to-be-determined running mate of Trump.
  • Biden took issue with the words “Unified Reich” used in an ad supporting Trump. Though the Trump campaign did not create the ad, it promoted the ad on the campaign's social media. Biden also attacked Trump for allegedly using the “N word” on the set of his reality TV show The Apprentice in 2004, based on an exposee from producer Bill Pruitt.
President Biden speaks at the 2024 West Point Graduation ceremony.
Image: U.S. Army photo by Christopher Hennen, USMA.
  • Among other ceremonies, Biden spoke at the graduation ceremony for Morehouse College, a historically Black college. At the event, Biden railed against the “poison of white supremacy.” The college had not experienced protests against the Israel–Hamas war as often as other schools. Still, some graduates turned their backs on Biden during the speech in protest at his administration's support for Israel. Biden courted African American and young voters who had been trending against him in opinion polls.

Third parties

Chase Oliver campaigns in August 2023.
Image: Gage Skidmore.


Behind the scenes: The Reform Party presidential nomination

With the historic Reform Party nominating Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for president in May, the party's national chairman Nicholas Hensley spoke at length with Wikinews about the process behind the scenes.

Reform Party logo.
Image: Reform Party of the United States.

Since 2020 Hensley has served as chairman of the Reform Party, a centrist party that industrialist Ross Perot founded in 1995 ahead of his 1996 presidential campaign. Perot won more than eight percent of the popular vote in that election but chose not to run in 2000, resulting in an open primary at which even future president Donald Trump, briefly, sought the nomination. Ultimately, the party nominated paleoconservative icon Pat Buchanan over Transcendental Meditation leader John Hagelin at a contentious convention. This left the party heavily fractured. Buchanan appeared on the ballot in all 50 states but received less than one percent of the popular vote. As a result, the party lost significant ballot access. Ever since, the party has remained largely irrelevant, but has continued to field presidential tickets. In 2004, it nominated consumer advocate Ralph Nader, but ended the year nearly bankrupt. In 2008, it nominated little-known activist Ted Weill, who received only 481 votes. The 2012 nominee, fitness model Andre Barnett received a total of 952 votes. Most recently, the party nominated businessman Rocky De La Fuente for president in 2016 and 2020. He received 33,136 and 88,241 votes, respectively, appearing on various other ballot lines.

"Through the last few cycles, we had selected presidential candidates that did nothing for the party," Hensley laments. "We put a lot [of] resources into these elections and got nothing out of them."

Originally, there were no plans for the Reform Party to run a presidential candidate in 2024 with Hensley focused on rebuilding the party through winnable local races. The party had reached out to the better-funded No Labels group and offered to "hand over the keys," but No Labels failed to field a presidential ticket. In early 2024, Hensley discussed the presidential nomination with ballot access director Nick Brana of the Kennedy campaign, but the talks "did not pan out." Then, on May 3, the Kennedy campaign reached out again, leading to a video conference with Kennedy himself.

"This was [a] good meeting," Hensley reveals about the video conference, "and the leadership reported it back to our membership."

Kennedy campaigns in Arizona, December 2023.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

The meeting was so good that the party decided to forgo a possible national convention penciled in for July, and nominated Kennedy outright. The vote was 17 for, two against, with two abstentions. The abstentions were from Hensley as well a previous national chairman, both of whom wished to maintain neutrality.

Hensley expresses excitement about Kennedy's candidacy and believes he has a chance of winning the election. While Hensley admits the party platform does not entirely align with Kennedy's views, he cites the economy, a balanced budget, debt repayment, reining in special interests, stopping endless wars, and enacting ethics reforms, as areas of agreement.

Kennedy had previously challenged President Biden for the Democratic Party presidential nomination but withdrew to run as an independent. Attorney Nicole Shanahan is his running mate. As part of his ballot access drive, Kennedy has sought and attained the presidential nominations of several minor parties with ballot access such as the American Independent Party in California, the Natural Law Party in Michigan, the Independent Party in Delaware, and the Alliance Party in South Carolina. The Reform Party nomination provides him with access to the ballot in Florida and possibly Mississippi.

Fear and loathing at the Libertarian National Convention

Logo for the Convention.
Image: Libertarian National Committee.

Chaos, confusion, and edibles marked the Libertarian National Convention, May 23–26 from the Washington DC swamp. When the smoke cleared and sobriety set in, the party had nominated a ticket of LGBTQ activist Chase Oliver for president and former police officer Mike ter Maat for vice president. Though this took seven rounds of balloting to achieve, it marked an anticlimactic conclusion to a four day affair where history was made.

"Think of this, [it is the] first time in US history, that a presidential candidate of a rival party [is] address[ing] the convention of a party that is presumably gathering to nominate its own candidate," observed former President Donald Trump in his address on Day 3 of the convention, quoting Peter Goettler, president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. The Libertarian Party had invited Trump, as well as President Biden, and independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr to speak. While Trump and Kennedy both accepted the invitation—with Kennedy's speech on Day 2—Trump's speech elicited much greater reaction. As soon as the news came out about Trump's acceptance, efforts began within the party to disinvite Trump due to his views and status as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party. This culminated with a motion on the floor of the convention just before the speech. Physical altercations broke out but attempts to stop the speech were unsuccessful.

Libertarian National Committee chairwoman Angela McArdle in 2022.
Image: ReasonTV.

Ahead of Trump's speech, the Secret Service secured the convention area. Several Trump supporters made their way onto the floor and took seats reserved for Libertarian delegates. Under the threat of physical removal from the, newly-reelected, Libertarian National Committee chairwoman Angela McArdle, those supporters were sent to the back of the crowd. Trump faced a hostile audience from the start, with a chorus of boos throughout.

"I was in the second row for the Trump speech," says delegate Andy Jacobs who runs the YouTube channel the Libertarian Revolution. "It was surreal. I give Trump credit for having the guts to show up, but I was among the many Libertarians who booed him. ... We had to boo Trump for all of his bad policies, and if we did not it would make it look to the world like we were Trump supporters and not our own party with its own different ideology."

Perhaps the loudest booing came when Trump asked for the party's nomination. In response to this reaction, Trump interjected, "No, only do that if you want to win. If you want to lose, don't do that. Keep getting your three percent every four years." Indeed, in 2016 presidential nominee Gary Johnson received 3.3 percent of the popular vote, but in 2020, nominee Jo Jorgensen received only 1.2 percent.

Many of the Libertarians in the crowd for the Trump speech held signs reading "Free Ross," referencing Ross Ulbricht, founder of the site Silk Road on the notorious dark web. Ulbricht has been in prison for over a decade, serving a life sentence. When Trump announced his intention to commute the sentence of Ulbricht, he was met with approval. He also received applause when he promised to put a libertarian in his cabinet and in senior positions.

"A lot of us, myself included, did applaud Trump a few times," adds Jacobs, "he did claim that he would do multiple things with which libertarians would agree, but the problem is that we have no way of trusting him to do any of those things."

Ultimately, Trump did not file the paperwork necessary to seek the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination, believing it would interfere with his role as the presumptive Republican Party nominee. But he still asked Libertarians for their vote in November.

Michael Rectenwald at the Convention.
Image: TheGuardianOfTheWiki.

After the speech, three of the leading candidates for the Libertarian presidential nomination held a joint press conference. The perceived frontrunner for the nomination, author Michael Rectenwald, the favored candidate of the right-leaning Mises Caucus, made some incoherent statements about Trump and stormed off the stage in the middle of the event. The next day, Rectenwald explained he had taken an edible, accounting for his behavior. To Wikinews, he gave further details: "I intentionally took a gummy that I thought was a mild CBD gummy and I found out later that it was 100 mg of THC. I took it to relax my nerves, not to get high. Three other people at the convention were also knocked out by this same source."

Rectenwald lead among the candidates for the nomination through the first five rounds of balloting on the final day of the convention. But after the fifth round, with candidate Mike ter Maat eliminated, Oliver offered the vice presidential nomination to ter Maat, who accepted. This placed Oliver in the lead on the sixth ballot, eliminating Rectenwald and setting the stage for the seventh ballot where Oliver defeated "none of the above" with 60 percent of the vote. The party then approved ter Maat as the vice presidential nominee after two rounds of voting.

"Authoritarianism and egalitarianism are the two most dangerous ideologies in America," says New Hampshire delegate and leading libertarian figure Jeremy Kauffman to Wikinews. Kauffman was a founder of the former file-sharing and payment network LBRY, and past executive director of the Free State Project. He said, "If I'm going to throw away my vote for the Libertarian candidate, I will not do it if they're an egalitarian who sides with the foreigner over the American, or the criminal over the upstanding citizen."

Jeremy Kauffman in May 2022.
Image: ReasonTV.

Kauffman has referred to Oliver as a "gay race communist," and confirmed his support for Trump to Wikinews. Although Kauffman held a sign during the Trump speech that read "MAGA = Socialist," he explained: "Trump has problems, but he's the only one offering the libertarians anything at all."

Kauffman is not alone in his feeling. As Newsweek reported, across the Twitterverse, after his nomination, Oliver received criticism for supporting drag queen shows for children, transgender medical care for youth, open borders, and for previously being a member of the Democratic Party. Wikinews reached out to Oliver for this report, but he did not respond to queries. However, his running mate did respond.

Interview: Libertarian vice presidential nominee

Mike ter Maat in 2023
Image: LibertyDad.

Fresh off his selection as the Libertarian Party's vice presidential nominee, former police officer Mike ter Maat spoke exclusively with Wikinews about the Convention and his role as the running mate of Chase Oliver:

  • Wikinews: What is your reaction to former President Trump's speech to the Libertarian National Convention?
ter Maat: Trump is no libertarian. It was interesting to see that he doesn't even understand liberty enough to fake it.
  • Wikinews: After you were eliminated on the 5th ballot of the presidential vote, why did you accept the VP offer of Chase Oliver over the VP offer from the other remaining candidate Michael Rectenwald?
ter Maat: After my suggestion that the two sides work together without me as VP nominee was declined by the Mises Caucus leader, the next most unifying ticket possible was Chase and me.
  • Wikinews: What duties make up your role as vice presidential nominee and how do you complement Chase Oliver on the ticket?
ter Maat: My role is to raise awareness of our agenda and how it represents Americans' values: stopping the government from spending our money so we can keep more of it in our pockets; ending the Fed to stop inflation from undermining our ability to make ends meet; stopping the military–industrial complex from using our resources to project power and wreak destruction; and reforming the world's most oppressive criminal justice system by ending the war on drugs and holding law enforcement accountable.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.