Predictably, a terrible decision to try to hold a large political rally in a medium-sized city right now turned out poorly. For some reason the coverage is emphasizing the role Reddit, K-Pop fans (??), and other groups of Youths on the Internet played in allegedly thwarting the President's attempt at self-glorification.
I don't know why people reach for these narratives other than that it makes them feel a sense of power (People like us can shut it down!) or adds to the larger obsession with understanding politics largely as entertainment. But aside from the obviously ridiculous math of the Tulsa rally (Did anyone actually believe that a million people ordered a ticket?) you have a story that played out exactly the way common sense would dictate, even without the benefit of hindsight.
We are in the middle of three crises – a pandemic, a severe economic depression, and civil unrest – that would strongly argue against people turning out in big numbers for a meaningless pep rally. Not a spontaneous protest in response to a specific incident or issue, mind you – just a big stupid "Thank You President Trump!
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" event with all the usual D-list hangers-on of the Trump Extended Universe. I'd argue that even without several exogenous, powerful arguments against going to a big stadium event right now, enthusiasm for these things could be waning. It would be shocking and unprecedented if it wasn't.
Beyond that, for all their bold talk and faux-populist defiance about rules intended to prevent the spread of COVID, it appears that some portion of Trump's aging, maybe-not-in-awesome-health base is worried about the potential of getting sick at a big public gathering where it is all but certain that most attendees will refuse even the most basic precautions against contagion. It's cheap talk to boast about how the virus is Fake News, but even the most brain-addled older people have to understand on some level that people over 70 have greater than a 10% chance of buying the farm if they get sick. All but the most slavish Fox News enthusiasts are likely to have some reservations, or to have a spouse unwilling to indulge their fantasies. Again, these events are tired and stale and pointless. Hardly the kind of thing you're going to risk your life to attend.
Much is made, including by me, of how unwavering support for Trump is. You can't find a historical example of a president whose approval rating covered a smaller range. People who are on board with him are on board.
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They won't be dissuaded, and people who hate him most likely can't be persuaded. I have no doubt that Trump supporters will still vote for him, even if they're tired enough of the circus or worried enough about current events to decline his exhortations to serve as props at his rallies. Even the morons working for the campaign had to have known that this rally was going to be an embarrassment, the kind of thing one will spend weeks making excuses for.
It's worth paying attention to even a tiny dip in enthusiasm among the Trump base, though, given how narrowly he won the last election thanks only to an antidemocratic quirk in the system. In reality, the poor outcome of the rally probably reflects some combination of reduced enthusiasm, worries about getting sick (even if that sentiment is held privately), and the lack of novelty surrounding what feels like a TV show everyone has been watching nonstop for four years. If anything "defeated" the rally it was its protagonist's own lack of contact with reality, not internet interlopers.