As the perceived legitimacy of blockchain technology increases, politicians in the United States have shown a growing interest in turning this non-partisan technology into a topic of political divisiveness.
Speaking via video to an audience of the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore on Friday, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said while cryptocurrencies were an “interesting” technology, they also had the power to undermine the U.S. dollar and destabilize nations — “perhaps starting with small ones but going much larger.” While no longer the leader of the Democratic Party, Clinton’s sentiment on crypto resembles that of top Democrat and senator Elizabeth Warren, who has often criticized the crypto market during committee hearings.
Clinton’s comments came while discussing Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom she accused of being behind a disinformation and cyberwarfare campaign — seemingly also referring to ransomware attacks and some of the crypto payments associated with them. While the former presidential candidate’s intentions are unknown, a prominent Democratic voice like Clinton’s further connecting Russia to a seemingly apolitical financial tool like crypto may have the potential to do damage among U.S. lawmakers trying to enact policy on both sides of the aisle.
Party politics in the United States are, at times, comically divisive. For example, many Republican voters destroyed their own property — Nike shoes and Keurig brewing machines, to name a few — after lawmakers spoke out against former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the U.S. national anthem. The entire discussion surrounding masks and vaccines in the U.S. is often framed not as a scientific matter, but one of “freedom,” largely stoked by social media posts and statements from conservative mouthpieces.
Former President Bill Clinton spoke at Ripple’s Swell conference in 2018, saying that the "permutations and possibilities" of blockchain were "staggeringly great," but he had been out of office for roughly 17 years when he made those statements. When a more current Democratic figure like Hillary Clinton speaks out against crypto, could it affect how the issue is handled by lawmakers in office now?
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On Monday, President Joe Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law that also implemented tighter rules on businesses handling cryptocurrencies and expanded the reporting requirements for brokers to include digital assets. While passing the bill through both chambers of Congress was accomplished mostly along party lines — 69–30 votes in the Senate, 228–206 in the House — the language on crypto was seemingly more of a bipartisan issue.
Cynthia Lummis is a Republican senator who has largely voted with her party on controversial issues, including against a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol and not to impeach the former president — yet, even she is crossing the divide when it comes to crypto. Lummis voted against the infrastructure bill in the Senate and is currently working with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden to pass new legislation changing the law’s tax reporting requirements so that they will not apply to certain individuals.
Related: Bipartisan bill to study blockchain and crypto passes US House of Representatives
Other efforts between Democratic and Republican lawmakers suggest common ground for now — at least as far as crypto and blockchain are concerned. Texas' Democratic Party is planning to pilot a program aimed at raising money for candidates and causes using nonfungible tokens, while the National Republican Congressional Committee and many of the party’s candidates for state and federal offices now accept donations in cryptocurrency.