By BARRY SHEPPARD
According to the preliminary information given out by his election team, the Trump campaign rally set for June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, would be like the large raucous adulations of his 2016 campaign.
A million people had sought to get tickets, we were told. There would be two rallies, one inside an arena that seats some 19,000, and a bigger open air overflow rally just outside the arena, expected to be at least 40,000, and maybe even double that.
The big day came. There were people who had bought tickets who came to Tulsa from other states and cities in Oklahoma who waited hours (in some cases days) to get into the arena. They were joined by Tulsa people who got tickets.
As the day wore on, only a few people trickled to the outside rally, which never materialized. These few were urged to go inside. As the seats in the arena were taken, TV cameras scanning the audience showed the upper balcony nearly empty. In fact, only 6,200 were inside the arena, according to the Tulsa fire department.
Trump chose Oklahoma, a state he overwhelmingly carried in 2016, counting on a big turnout, for his first rally in months.
“President Trump’s attempt to revive his reelection campaign sputtered badly …. [He] delivered a disjointed speech that did not address the multiple crises facing the nation or scandals battering him in Washington,” an article in the New York Times said.
He didn’t take up the suffering of the many millions of unemployed, under employed, and small mom and pop businesses hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic, referring only to the high stock market to show how great he is.
“In rambling, grievance-filled remarks, Mr. Trump made no reference to the Tulsa massacre of 1921 or to George Floyd, whose death at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis sparked global demands for racial justice” the article said. “He also did not mention Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in the United States and fell just a day before his rally.
“Instead, the president railed about ‘left-wing radicals’ who he falsely claimed were rioting in cities across the country and praised police officers…
“‘The unhinged left wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our [Confederate] monuments, our beautiful monuments, tear down our statues and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute, total control,’ Mr. Trump said.”
If anyone is punishing and persecuting “anyone who does not conform” to his “demands for absolute, total control” it is Trump.
Trump held his rally, with people in close contact, most not wearing masks, in in a city experiencing a big increase corona virus cases, in spite of local health officials warning that the rally could result in a new upsurge of cases.
“The president once again shrugged off the threat of the corona virus,” the NYT wrote. This is in keeping with his demand that the economy be fully reopened like it was before the pandemic hit, to bolster his election prospects.
Six members of his team sent to Tulsa to organize the rally were infected there, as were two members of the Secret Service preparing for Trump’s visit. Trump was furious that these facts were given to the press by his own campaign, according to sources close to him.
He put the blame on China for the now over 120,000 deaths in the U.S. from the virus, taking no responsibility for his own actions which were responsible for the way the pandemic mushroomed here. He referred to the virus by the racist term “Kung Flu.”
He said that testing for the virus increases the number of known cases – true and necessary knowledge to contain the pandemic — and drew the astonishing conclusion that as a result he is ordering testing to be slowed down! That is, finding new cases doesn’t look good for him.
Previously, he made the comment that people are wearing masks in order to discredit him.
The day after the rally, his spokespeople went on TV to vociferously make the claim that Trump was just joking about cutting back on testing. The next day he refuted them, saying that he doesn’t joke.
In his speech, he accused Ilhan Omar, a Representive in Congress from Minnesota, a Muslim and Black born in Somalia, of wanting to turn America into a failed state “just like the country from where she came.”
Trump’s son Eric also spoke at the event, where he referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as “animals.”
Trump spent 20 minutes refuting some media claims that he looked shaky at a previous event. He doesn’t want to let his followers to think he has any health problems.
Protesters demonstrated outside the event. In spite of Trump’s threat to unleash violence against any protests there, none materialized.
“Democracy Now!” reported, “One demonstrator, a 62-year-old art teacher and grandmother named Sheila Buck, was handcuffed and arrested at the request of the Trump campaign, even though she had reserved a ticket. Buck, who says she was inspired to protest after years of witnessing her Black students suffer from racism, says she plans to sue the city, the police department and the Trump campaign.”
Trump and his spokespeople blamed the empty seats on protesters and the media. But no protesters were allowed anywhere near the arena entrance where people calmly filed in without incident. He attacked the media for frightening people away, presumably for saying that the Tulsa health authorities warned that attending the rally could spread the virus.
Trump is again saying that the virus is defeated in the U.S. The facts speak otherwise. Twenty nine states are reporting an increase in cases, largely in states that reopened without adequate safety measures. This is not a “new wave” of infections, but a continuation of the first wave. While the number of new cases in the U.S. being reported daily fell down from its high of about 30,000, it fell to a plateau revolving around 20,000 new cases every day.
This contrasts in most other advanced countries, where the number of new cases kept falling, not reaching a plateau. The difference with the U.S. is that in those countries there was a vigorous nationally organized testing campaign. The Trump administration left testing up to the states, without adequate funding.
With the new surge in cases, the seven-day average of new cases has turned upward, and climbing. For one day, new cases reached 30,000 again and then dropped to around 27,000. Hospitalizations, which lag new cases, are also increasing. Deaths lag hospitalizations, but will rise.
In Florida, which reopened willy-nilly in most areas, the number of new cases is growing exponentially, that is, doubling every few days, the same curve that New York City saw in the first stage of it becoming the epicenter of infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the world.
What happens with the virus will have an effect on the economy, and the elections. Did the upsurge in cases in Tulsa affect the turnout for Trump’s rally? In any case, it will become much harder to find venues for the kind of rallies Trump wants – packed shoulder to shoulder mass events.
Whatever the facts are about the upsurge in cases affecting the turnout in Tulsa, there is another factor. That is, the mass uprising against police violence and institutional racism gripping the country has demoralized white racists, dampening their enthusiasm. Many whites are shedding their passive racism as the movement exposes more and more aspects of the systematic oppression of Blacks, and its long history.
From the start of his election campaign for 2016 up to the present, Trump has presented himself as the strongman who can “Make America Great Again.” He is increasingly saying that the 2020 elections will be rigged against him. He hints that he might refuse to accept any result that goes against him. Many in the media are wondering if he will even allow the elections to take place, possibly using the pandemic as an excuse.
His authoritarian aspirations are becoming more evident. Top Republicans openly affirm they are for a “strong executive”. That is one of the reasons they back Trump. Members of the reactionary reactionary wing of the Supreme Court have the same views. Obviously, a wing of the ruling class is backing them.
The most important force blocking Trump is the mass Black Lives Matter uprising. There is growing understanding within the movement that their fight goes way beyond elections. Every indication is that the movement will not be silenced this autumn out of concern for not upsetting the boat for the Democrats, but continue beyond November, unlike many others.
At least there is real hope that will be the case.