Trump Threw a Party and Hardly Anybody Came

I apologize for being scarce. I had to give a thirty-minute talk to a bunch of zennies on Zoom, and preparing for it seemed to eat most of the week. But it’s done now. I think it went okay.

So what about that rally yesterday, huh? And how much of Trump’s campaign staff will be fired after that debacle? Earlier the campaign was anticipating a huge overflow crowd. But that didn’t happen. From Forbes: Turnout At Trump’s Tulsa Rally Was Just Under 6,200–A Fraction Of The Venue’s 19,200 Capacity.

One probable reason for the inflated ticket registration figure was a concerted effort by teenagers on the social media app TikTok to reserve seats at the rally in an effort to create empty seats. Numerous TikTokers posted videos encouraging their followers to register for tickets to deny spots from supporters of the president. They in turn recruited ‘K-pop stans,’ fans of Korean pop music, a massive and active community on social media, to do the same. While it is unlikely this effort denied people any seats, as the rally was first come first serve, it may have accounted for a substantial chunk of the ticket registrations.

The Trump campaign claims that it knew about the fake registrations and weeded out any registration with a fake phone number. The TikTokers and K-pop stans say they were aware of that and spread information on how to acquire a Google Voice number or another internet-connected phone line. Those who did use their real numbers to register were spammed by Trump campaign junk.

The Trump campaign now is putting out excuses that all those millions tens of thousands at least forty people who signed up for the big rally were blocked at the entrace by protesters.

The local Tulsa newspaper published a time-lapse video of the area around the rally venue, from Friday to Sunday, and frankly the crowds around the place were never that huge. Times Square on Sunday morning is more crowded.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune sent a reporter:

Hundreds of demonstrators flooded the city’s downtown streets and blocked traffic at times, but police reported just a handful of arrests. Many of the marchers chanted, and some occasionally got into shouting matches with Trump supporters, who outnumbered them and yelled, “All lives matter.”

Later in the evening, a group of armed men began following the protesters. When the protesters blocked an intersection, a man wearing a Trump shirt got out of a truck and spattered them with pepper spray. …

… Trump campaign officials said protesters prevented the president’s supporters from entering the stadium. Three Associated Press journalists reporting in Tulsa for several hours leading up to the president’s speaking did not see protesters block entry to the area where the rally was held.

So no, the Trump faithful were not blocked from entering the arena. But I would also suggest to Black Lives Matter protesters to stay some distance from the next rally; don’t give them an excuse.

Most of the Murdoch press is reporting the “blocked by protesters” claim as fact. But Chris Wallace at Fox wasn’t having it.

On his Fox News Sunday program, Wallace noted that President Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally on Saturday had been sparsely attended despite the fact that the president claimed nearly a million people had requested tickets.

“We all saw the pictures last night,” Wallace explained. “The arena was no more than two-thirds full. And the outdoor rally was cancelled because there was no overflow crowd. What happened?”

“The key here is to understand,” [Trump 2020 campaign spokesperson Mercedes] Schlapp replied, “there were factors involved, they were concerned about the protesters who were coming in.”

“He talks about how he can fill an arena,” Wallace said, referring to the president. “And he didn’t fill an arena last night. You guys were so far off that you had planned an outdoor rally and there wasn’t an overflow crowd.”

“Protesters did not stop people from coming to that rally,” he added. “The fact is, people did not show up.”

I could be wrong, but I get the impression that Murdoch or whoever is running Fox News these days may be a tad ambivalent about whether Trump wins, loses, lives, dies, or grows feathers. They may be about to decide he’s a loser who hurts their brand. Anyway, it’s entirely possible more people wanted to attend and were (justifiably) concerned about the spread of coronavirus, or else they are too financially strapped right now to travel very far. And whose fault is that?

So the next question is, how long will it be before Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale — whose Twitter feed today is like a festival of excuses — will lose his job?

Rick Wilson, a bestselling author, former Republican consultant and co-founder of the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super pac, was critical of Parscale’s approach.

“Brad broke the first rule of American politics: under promise and over deliver,” he told the Guardian. “Brad’s survival now depends on the good offices of his patrons inside the Trump camp, and [Ivanka and Kushner] are already signaling their displeasure to the media.

“The only X factor is whether anyone else in Trump’s crew of skells [and] grifters … has offered to keep the scam running.”

The speech itself appears to have been the usual word salad of self-praise and other-blame. I like what WaPo’s Robin Givhan wrote — “He stood at the microphone, pinching at the air with his fingers, ruminating and fulminating until everything becomes a blur of interminable, unearned preening.”

Eric Lach, The New Yorker:

In some ways, what Donald Trump didn’t say on Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a rally that was billed as his big post-pandemic return to the campaign trail, matters more than what he did. In more than ninety minutes onstage, not one mention of the murder of George Floyd. Not one mention of the murder of Breonna Taylor. Barely a mention of the hundred and nineteen thousand Americans killed by covid-19, or of the tens of millions thrown out of work, facing uncertain futures for themselves and their families. This is the President who was, just a few weeks ago, supposedly considering a big speech on race and unity. Instead, on Saturday, Trump did a cool twenty minutes on his experience of walking down a slippery ramp after delivering the graduation speech at West Point last weekend. He also bragged about the stock market; called covid-19 the “kung flu”; accused Representative Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia, of wanting to turn America into a failed state “just like the country from where she came”; and said that he instructed a military officer during negotiations with Boeing not to put anything “in writing,” because he wanted to potentially skip out on paying a multimillion-dollar order-cancellation fee for new Air Force One planes.

One line will probably get more attention. Trump actually said, “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘slow the testing down.’” There are predictions that line will be featured in future anti-Trump ads. But for the most part, I am not sure that anything Trump says matters any more. Anyone who still enthusiastically supports Trump must have tuned out reality a long time ago. If you want to know what a Trump true believer looks like, don’t miss Jeff Sharlet’s piece at Vanity Fair — “HE’S THE CHOSEN ONE TO RUN AMERICA.”

And, I would add, anyone who stayed away from yesterday’s rally because of fears of coronavirus might fall short of being a true believer. However, disaffection from Trump won’t automatically translate into more votes for Biden.

One thing I keep saying, and I think the rally fail exemplifies this — Trump has not expanded his base. Most presidents who win close elections at least think about what they might do to win over those who voted against them. Trump never did that. He has one strategy, one note to sing, and that is to mug for the people who love him already and the hell with everyone else. And there are all kinds of indicators that even the base is starting to fracture: See, for example, Forbes, June 8: Poll Shows Trump’s Support Eroding Among His Base. But again, we can’t be complacent.

I do not know if Trump has any more campaign rallies scheduled. He can survive one fizzle; whether he can survive more is doubtful. The event made him look pathetic, like a loser. David Atkins writes that Trump’s signature rallies could become a liability. The “problem is that now those very rallies carry a huge political downrisk in both actual pandemic impacts and in public perception,” Atkins writes. The virus is now moving into Trump country; people who could be complacent because it was just city folk getting sick may soon learn they need to be more careful. And a majority of voters support wearing face masks (none of whom live near me, it seems) and think big public rallies are a bad idea.

Even more critical, if the majority of the spin coming out of rallies ridicules Trump and makes him out to be a loser who can’t draw a crowd any more, that might hurt him more than if the rally-attendees all end up on ventilators. It’s going to be interesting to see if the campaign even tries more rallies or decides to leave well enough alone.  Trump will probably insist on trying it again, though.

Anyway, yesterday was almost fun. On a darker note, the past few days also saw the saga of prosecutor Geoffrey Berman, fired by either Barr or Trump, although neither will own up to it. That needs to be looked at more closely. See also What to rename the Army bases that honor Confederate soldiers.