Repulsa in Tulsa a Fiasco
June 21st 2020
South of the equator, yesterday was the day of the Winter Solstice. So cheer up, fellas! You’re over the hump. Don’t lose hope. (Note to self: don’t mention that for the rest of us in the northern hemisphere, it’s all downhill from here.)
I was keeping a wary eye on the news yesterday, since the Trump campaign kick-off rally took place in Tulsa, OK. There was a confluence of so many factors that I was concerned that it could prove a flash point leading to a very large social explosion.
It may well have been on the minds of all those gathered: the Trump supporters, the protesters and counter protesters, and the police. Aside from a few minor incidents, the event concluded peacefully, which was a credit to all sides. Even the ones who might have been looking for trouble seemed to have second thoughts.
Trump was determined to stir the shit, and brought his full arsenal of race-baiting, xenophobia, and defamation of any who oppose him to the show. But he gazed around the half-empty stadium, doubtlessly thinking of his campaign’s boasts that a million people had expressed an interest in attending (only 6,275 did, according to the stadium gatekeepers), and gave his two-hour speech in a listless monotone, and just fifteen minutes in, his enthusiastic audience of true believers were beginning to look openly bored. Outside, the stage for the planned-for overflow rally was being dismantled (the campaign seriously expected between 100 and 300 thousand people to flood into Tulsa for this event) and millions of viewers were gifted with the eerie sight of a twenty-four foot screen in the parking lot showing Trump addressing the audience inside, with an audience of exactly nobody. You would think that there might be some old guy, taking his dog out for an evening stroll, who stopped to see what the asshole was saying while his dog relieved itself, but no. Just one lonely, bored tech whose job it was to make sure nobody stole the screen or the equipment running it. And he wasn’t even watching it.
Trump, apparently determined to keep the public attention focused on his mental and physical health, ranted for 15 minutes about the news noting his difficulties maneuvering down the ramp at the West Point ceremony (It didn’t help that someone found an old video of Obama ascending the same ramp with the carefree grace of a teenager). Trump then essayed to show his audience that yes, he could indeed drink a glass of water using one hand. The audience cheered—one of the few things they really had to cheer about on this sad night—but everyone watching on television could see it was a tiny 6 ounce glass, half-full, and even then his movements were slow and considered. If it was a sobriety test, he would have failed. He went on to rant about poor old lazy and demented Joe, apparently unaware that the Biden campaign had just put out an ad showing Biden jogging, where he pauses to tell the camera, “I would like to see Trump do this.”
Trump also made the extraordinarily stupid boast that he asked for testing for the coronavirus to be slowed down, leaving people to wonder if he really thought less tests meant less cases. That’s a bit like eating 4,000 calories a day, convinced that so long as you don’t step on the scales, you aren’t putting on weight. It’s magical thinking, and about the lowest and most self-destructive form of magical thinking there is. This should be in every Democratic ad between now and November, if they have any sense at all.
Speaking of which, one online correspondent told me that the sparse turnout may have saved thousands of lives. Given the exponential nature of contagion, I’ve little doubt that he’s right. Horowitz, of course, had the mot juste: “Coronavirus disappointed by small turnout.” Trump’s campaign slogan ought to be “Donald: Because he’s killed a lot less people than he might have.”
Finally, there were the images of the Donald alighting from the Marine helicopter on the grounds of the White House in the predawn hours. Exhausted, haggard, obviously depressed, he had his tie undone and hanging from around his neck like a suicidal rattlesnake, and his pose could only be described as ‘abject.’
Fingerpointing for this undeniable fiasco began at once. Brad Parscale, man most likely to be unemployed by Monday night, opined that the campaign based its inflated projections of attendance on thousands of K-Pop fans on TikTok who reserved most of the tickets and flooded the “interested in attending” page. Someone finally noticed the hideous optics of a professional campaign getting scammed like that by a bunch of teenagers in Korea (you don’t put a $25 deposit on reserving a ticket, for crissakes?) and decided that some 300,000 committed Republicans were going to show, but were scared off by AntiFa(scists) and BLM protesters. There were about 300 anti-Trump protesters there, consisting of the usual suspects—school teachers, college students, and (shiver violently as I say the words) people who hate fascists. If they really scared off 300,000 Republicans, then they made the Battle of Thermopylae look weak by comparison. The Trump campaign just blamed the poor attendance on widespread cowardice within the party. That should play well with his supporters.
Trump looked like a cornered rat, and you know what they say about cornered rats. He, and his party and followers, are going to be more dangerous and extreme going forward, now unable to entertain the belief they are an unstoppable popular front.
One indication of this came in the form of an unbelievable full page ad in the Nashville Tennessean. In fairness, the paper did immediately repudiate and pull the ad once the blow-back began, saying, “The ad is horrific and is utterly indefensible in all circumstances. It is wrong, period, and should have never been published. It has hurt members of our community and our own employees and that saddens me beyond belief. It is inconsistent with everything The Tennessean as an institution stands and has stood for and with the journalism we have produced.”
Fair enough. But the ad was beyond belief, written by some end-times crackpot who claimed that “Islam” was going to explode a nuclear weapon in Nashville sometime during the month of July. Quite aside from the hateful nature of the speech, there’s the fact that not everyone in Nashville is that tightly wound, and an ad like that could cause a panic.
There’s never a shortage of end-times crackpots around. I know several personally. Generally, they’re harmless. But some have both money and malice. And it’s not unusual for papers to have various nuts show up, money in hand, demanding that the local paper vouchsafe whatever demented and paranoid fantasies they have to the populace. Generally, papers have enough sense to tell them to bugger off.
Someone in a position of responsibility at the Tennessean thought publishing this was a good idea. Maybe it would get a few Moslems lynched. Maybe it would help Trump. Someone thought something this extreme and foolish would help the cause.
The right is crowded with people like that, and they are starting to panic.