Rally Fiasco

Photograph Source: DonkeyHotey – CC BY 2.0

The unusually candid photo of Donald Trump as he walked in darkness from the Marine One helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House caught him appearing dejected and defeated on return from a sparse turnout at his Tulsa rally.

He has good reason to be down in the dumps.

The Trump campaign had predicted attendance of more than a million fans. But the hoped-for rock star-like turnout sputtered like a guitar with a broken string as an estimated 6,200 people reportedly occupied the Bank of Oklahoma stadium. A full house in the arena’s bright blue seats is 19,200 people. A nearby outdoor rally to be held after the indoor show was canceled because few showed.

Associated Press photographer Patrick Semansky exposed Trump with his blue suit jacket unbuttoned, his red tie undone with both ends dangling limply from around his neck, the collar of his white shirt opened, a red MAGA hat crumpled in his left hand at his side, the expression on his face one of abject disappointment. This was a picture of a man in distress. NBC said he was “furious.”

His campaign had touted Tulsa as a major event, his first rally since the pandemic-induced near-nationwide lockdown three months ago. After all, Trump won Oklahoma over Hillary Clinton by 36 points in 2016, a seemingly guaranteed red state that couldn’t fail presidential hubris. There may be second thoughts about that now.

Known for temper tantrums, Trump’s wrath is sure to be monumental about the lower-than-expected rally numbers, more so since he reportedly has been angry at polls showing Joe Biden beating him in November’s election. Anger at disloyalty and criticism has led him to lash out in retaliation and to fire many people, both inside the White House and elsewhere in government.

An astounding 415 people have been fired, resigned or changed positions as of May 25 since Trump took office Jan. 20, 2017, Wikipedia says. The list does not include lower level officials.

Want to guess the prospects of the longevity of Brad Parscale as Trump’s campaign chairman?

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh gave one reason for the lower rally turnout as the presence of protesters who were preventing the president’s supporters from entering the BOK center. But reporters at the rally said there were few protesters.

Can an apparent widespread campaign by teens on the social media site TikTok and Korean pop music groups take credit for attempting to sabotage attendance at the rally? They reportedly had thousands of people sign up for free tickets for the rally who then just didn’t show up. But it wasn’t only teens, CNN reported. The ticket prank, or scam, went viral, reportedly reaching Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

Anti-Trump Republican strategist Steve Schmidt said, “The teens of America have struck a savage blow against @realDonald Trump,” The New York Times reported.

It will be interesting to see whether low attendance at the Tulsa rally was a fluke, a result of the coronavirus on the rise in Oklahoma or whether both teens and adults among the Never Trumpers, as the president has referred to his opponents, will strike again in the prelude to another Trump rally as the election season moves into full swing.

What cannot be discounted is that the lower turnout reflected a decline of would-be Trump voters among those who voted for him in 2016. What doesn’t help is the president has been taking the opposite stance from the majority of voters on some major issues, chiefly the current national civil unrest. They also include Supreme Court decisions on LGBTQ rights and protection for more than 600,000 immigrants known as the Dreamers.

For example, a CBS poll this month showed 82 percent of Americans believe LGBTQ people should receive protection under civil rights laws and fully 85 percent said in the same survey that Dreamers should be given legal status, the Times reported.

The Trump administration, supported by evangelicals, conservatives generally, the far right and white supremacists, has fought in the courts to deport the Dreamers and crack down on gay rights.

“The choice is very simple,” Trump said at the rally. “Do you want to bow before the left-wing mob, or do you want to stand up tall and proud as Americans?”

Further, there has been widespread support among a majority of Americans for the Black Lives Matter movement that’s at the forefront of reforming the police and ending their brutality toward Blacks and other minorities. In the opposite corner, Trump favored deploying not only police but active duty Army units against demonstrators in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, where police killed George Floyd May 25 and, most recently, in Seattle.

Standing firm against the majority certainly won’t be conducive to Trump expanding his voter rolls, nor will his continued refusal to lead the country in recognizing the seriousness of the pandemic.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.