Editorial: Trump’s Rally in Tulsa: A Bigly Unfilled Arena

Donald Trump was clearly an unhappy man as he made what Twitter users have referred to as his walk of shame back to the White House following Saturday’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Trump campaign had boasted earlier that they had received 1 million RSVPs to the event. On the night of the rally, however, fewer than 6,200 showed up, leaving almost two-thirds of the 19,000 seats empty in the BOK Center, where the rally was held. Trump and some of his allies would like to blame everyone but Donald Trump, himself.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale blamed the media. “The fact is that a week’s worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of Covid and protesters, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally,” he said.

Apparently, Parscale thinks that the threat of contracting COVID-19 was just hype, and should not be a deterrent from large indoor public gatherings. It would also seem that protesters and “American cities on fire” are nothing more than nuisances deterring Donald Trump from having a successful ego-stoking event.

Parscale also blamed local Tulsa law enforcement for the low crowd numbers, saying that police had “overreacted,” and had barred entry to “thousands” of supporters who tried to get into the BOK Center for the rally. He blamed Black Lives Matter protesters, too, for trying to keep rally-goers away. Reporters say, however, that, other than some verbal confrontations between MAGAs and BLM protesters, no one had barred attendees from entering BOK Center.

Trump, too, blamed a combination of protesters and the media, notably not making any distinction between “thugs” and peaceful protesters.

“You are warriors,” said Trump to the small rally crowd. … “We had some very bad people outside. They were doing bad things.”

“I’ve been watching the fake news for weeks now,” he continued. “…And everything is negative: Don’t go, don’t come, don’t do anything.”

If there is any speculation about throngs of Trump supporters trying unsuccessfully to attend Trump’s rally, we should also note that even in the overflow area outside the arena, no huge audience was waiting to greet Trump or Pence. By early evening, the arena was nearly empty, plans for Trump and Pence to speak in the overflow area were canceled, and the speaker platform was dismantled.

One other element some are blaming (or crediting, depending on perspective) was a trolling effort by users of social media platform TikTok, and some K-pop fans. They reserved numerous tickets online with no intention of showing up, so that thousands of seats would be left vacant.

Another Trump campaign official refuted that as a factor, however. “We had legitimate 300k signups of Republicans who voted in the last four elections. Those are not [TikTok] kids. It was fear of violent protests. This is obvious with the lack of families and children at the rally. We normally have thousands of families.”

Admission to the rally was on a first-come, first-serve basis, so the TikTok stunt probably was not a major reason for the large number of empty seats. It probably contributed to the initial estimation of the expected crowd size, however.

“Since the day I came down the escalator, I’ve never had an empty seat,” Trump has said, referring to the supposed crowd sizes at his rallies. Though that statement has always been false, never has it been more untrue than on Saturday in Tulsa.

It couldn’t be true that Trump supporters stayed away because they really did fear becoming infected with COVID-19, could it? The largely unmasked people who were in attendance didn’t appear to be worried. Trump has continually downplayed and even ignored the seriousness of the pandemic, contradicting the medical experts and leading his supporters to do the same.

But as the U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 deaths and cases, and as the number of cases is now climbing again in many states, could it be that at least some of his supporters, those who didn’t show up to the rally, have decided that they can no longer trust what Donald Trump says about the coronavirus? Could it be that some of them are even offended that Donald Trump completely disregarded their health and safety by encouraging them to brave the virus in order to attend his rally in Tulsa?

Is it possible they might be growing weary of Trump’s constant opposition to what the medical experts are saying? Might they be tired of Trump’s crowing about how well he’s handled the spread of the virus, despite all evidence to the contrary? Was the idea of being required to sign a waiver saying they would not hold the Trump campaign accountable, should they become infected with COVID-19 the last straw?

Trump continues use racial slurs to refer to the coronavirus (“the kung flu,” “the Chinese virus”), and has used racist and anti-immigrant sentiment to fuel his campaign.

He has downplayed and largely ignored the past and current racial tension that has built to a crescendo in the U.S., too, disparaging the protesters and conflating them with violent, looting opportunists. He was ignorant of the existence of Juneteenth, originally scheduling his rally on that day, in the city where one of America’s most brutal massacres of African Americans took place. Is it possible that Donald Trump has finally overdosed some of his supporters on his unabashed racism?

On June 1, when Trump used military might to clear peaceful demonstrators from a public park so that he could proceed through the park to a widely offensive photo op, numerous decorated and highly respected military leaders criticized his actions. Some leaders from his own party, including President George W. Bush and Senator Mitt Romney, spoke out against the spectacle, warning that Trump was exhibiting signs of an authoritarian ruler. Even some of his appointees distanced themselves from Trump’s actions on that day. Could it be that some of Trump’s supporters are questioning just who it is they voted for in 2016?

Was the turnout at Trump’s rally in Tulsa an indicator of a crack in the seemingly impermeable MAGA wall of support for Trump? Are fewer people willing to walk through fire (or breathe COVID-infected droplets) in their unwavering support of him? No matter what the reasons for the low turnout at Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, it wasn’t because people were clamoring to get in and someone kept them out. It was simply because they chose not to come.

Trump reacts after low turnout at Tulsa rally l GMA [2020-06-22]

Trump’s Tulsa rally in less than 4 minutes | Washington Post [2020-06-20]

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