Updated: Jun 22
Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail in Tulsa, Oklahoma last night. In what was probably one of the most hyped events in recent history, with claims that a million people ordered tickets to attend, the actual attendance was far short of these numbers.
And while Trump blamed mobs of protestors for keeping people from entering the arena, the reason for the small crowd could be an organized effort by members of the social media TikTok that greatly reduced the crowd size by ordering large numbers of free tickets they never intended to use.
The rally itself featured more of Trump's same rhetoric. Instead of promoting unity, he returned to the tired old fear tactics he used when he first announced his bid for office. He claimed chaos would take over America and once again put himself in the role as savior of “American values”.
This was all too reminiscent of his inaugural address, where the term “American carnage” entered the lexicon of American political speeches. Trump warned that our heritage was at risk due to mobs of protestors taking to the streets, completely ignoring why they were protesting.
Even while he’s condemning the protestors, at one point threatening them if they disrupted his rally, he continued to make the false claim that he has “done more for African-Americans” than any of his predecessors.
Although six campaign staffers tested positive for coronavirus, when Trump took the stage, he downplayed the pandemic by saying he told his staff to reduce the number of tests being administered. The aim of this was to increase his re-election chances by creating the illusion that there are actually fewer cases.
Staffers immediately jumped to Trump’s defense, claiming he was joking when he made the comment. Anyone who sees the video, however, would be hard pressed to agree that he was making a joke. With the American death toll around 120,000, with no slow-down in sight, why would anyone, much less the supposed leader of our country, make a joke about people dying?
Holding a rally, with large groups, most of whom were not wearing masks, violated CDC guidelines. They warn of a superspreader event where those who attended the rally could result in more and more cases arising.
Of course Trump loves nothing more than to brag about the size of his crowds. It energizes him and makes him believe he is far more popular than polls are showing. And yet, there were thousands of empty seats and a planned overflow rally was cancelled due to poor attendance. The Tulsa Fire Department estimated the crowd at around 6,200, which is far short of the arena's 19,000 capacity, and the 40,000 overflow crowd he bragged would be in attendance.
In fact, there were so few people there that workers immediately dismantled the special temporary stage that had been built for the occasion.
Predictably, Trump blamed “radical protesters” for keeping those who wanted to be there from entering the facility. Reports from the area immediately dispelled this claim.
Instead, the reason for the small size, while certainly attributable to the pandemic, could have a more grassroots origin. TikTok users claim to have ordered hundreds of thousands of free tickets, preventing others from getting tickets and causing the expected overflow crowd to evaporate.
When conservative mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh tried to organize a movement he dubbed Operation Chaos to disrupt Democratic elections in 2008, it was a dismal failure. This didn’t stop Republicans from using the same tactics during the recent South Carolina primaries.
Where Rush and Republicans failed, the “Zoomers” showed the old guard how it’s done in the modern era.
I titled this a “post mortem” for a reason. While Trump viewed this rally as a relaunch of his re-election bid, I am hopeful that it is, instead, an autopsy for a failed administration.