Bitcoin is for Republicans, Ethereum is for Democrats

March 3, 2023, 2:49 PM UTC
Chet Strange—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Greetings from Colorado’s capital, where more than 20,000 Ethereum enthusiasts have descended to celebrate ETHDenver, a multi-day extravaganza dedicated to demos, workshops, and a whole lot of hoopla related to their favorite blockchain. As usual, many of this year’s attendees turned up wearing rainbows or outlandish animal costumes—a colorful pageant that felt especially striking given that this year’s ETHDenver is taking place at the city’s fabled stockyard and rodeo grounds, which is adorned by images of cowboys, Budweiser, and other icons typically associated with red America.

I remarked on the hippie-like vibe—which included a “zen zone” and an arena full of sleepings bags for 500 Ethereum scholarship attendees to stay overnight—to a 50-something crypto industry professional, who was himself dressed in a vibrant shirt and hipster glasses. He nodded and observed, “Bitcoin is for Republicans, Ethereum is for Democrats.” It’s hard to disagree. While the hardcore Bitcoin crowd is fixated with hodling and suspicion of the government, the Ethereum set is more given over to radical experimentation and eccentricity.

I put this characterization to Kevin Owocki, the founder of the open software promulgator Gitcoin, who has just launched Supermodular, a venture studio that aspires to commercialize a wide variety of Ethereum innovations. He described the political labels as “very reductionist,” but conceded the broad strokes are correct. “Bitcoin is about red meat and guns…Ethereum has rainbows and unicorns,” Owocki noted.

All of this underscores the degree to which crypto culture has grown and become more diverse since the libertarian Satoshi published his famous white paper in 2008, and soon after embedded a warning about central bank profligacy in the first block of Bitcoin. Today, the two most important blockchains have come to embody very different political tribes, both of which offer new and distinct ideas, but also overlap with broader progressive and conservative cultural movements.

For the thousands of mostly young people packed into the stockyard building, however, politics was far from their minds. They were instead consumed by the prospects for the next phase of Ethereum, which successfully pulled off a very difficult switch to the environmentally friendly proof of stake last year, and is on track to introduce a host of other updates that will make the blockchain faster and easier to use. In May, it will be Bitcoin’s turn to be the center of the crypto universe when its devotees gather in Miami Beach for an extravaganza of their own. We’ll have a dispatch from there too, but for now, it’s enough to observe that—even after one of the industry’s toughest years ever—crypto and its colorful culture are more entrenched than ever.

Jeff John Roberts


Coinbase purchased digital asset manager One River in a bet on future institutional demand for crypto. (Bloomberg)

Silvergate experienced a run on deposits as Coinbase, Circle, and other major crypto clients fled the troubled bank. (Coindesk)

The potential collapse of Silvergate, whose shares fell 50%, is unlikely to have a broader impact on the banking sector. (Bloomberg)

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) issued a letter calling on Binance to explain "potentially illegal" activity. (Reuters)

The Securities and Exchange Commission has recently increased the staff of its Crypto Asset and Cyber Unit by 40%. (Fortune)


Just when you thought crypto couldn't irk regulators any further...

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