In 2012 Nate Silver published one of the best political science books of the 21st century, The Signal and the Noise. In it he asked the reader to distinguish between the diversions and the omens. Coronapalooza-Tulsa on Saturday night is being viewed by many progressives as a signal when in reality it is just noise. To perceive it as a signal is dangerous. Let’s explore.
Trump held his rally in a venue that could hold about 19,000. By all credible reports it appears he drew well less than 7,000. The question is: what does that really tell us? My contention is that in this particular circumstance it tells us precious little of ultimate significance. There are plenty of lies and exaggerations to go around and I’d like to discuss a few in the following paragraphs.
On the left a couple of groups of mainly young people claim they sabotaged the event by registering thousands of fake ticket requests. That was a contributing factor but far from the whole story. In fact it appears the Trump campaign was aware of the sabotage and allowed for it. I don’t totally believe either claim. The truth lies somewhere between the positions.
The lack of professionalism and experience that the 2016 Trump campaign displayed is apparently still present in the 2020 version; add to that a significant measure of laziness. A skilled campaign would have done the hard work of distributing the tickets through local campaign and party operatives who contacted legitimate supporters and distributed the tickets to them. (That is how we handled similar ticketed events in President Obama’s 2016 campaign. In reality people were “vetted” before they were even invited.)
Trump still accomplished one of his major objectives in that his lies distracted from many of his misdeeds being covered; and those that were received diluted coverage. The noise overwhelmed the signals. (The signals included the debacle at SDNY and the effective takeover of foreign marketed federal government broadcasting.)
One of the claims coming out of the Trump campaign disinformation machine is that protesters prevented wannabe attendees from getting into the venue. Based on reports from legitimate media, that is categorically false. They reported few protesters and no problem entering the arena. A grand total of one “protester” was arrested. I put that word in quotes because the arrested person was a woman with a ticket for the event who was removed from the line awaiting entry by law enforcement, at the request of the Trump campaign, for the “crime” of wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. There is a lot to unpack there; I’ll leave that to my readers.
Weather may have been a factor but no more than it was for the people who waited in line for hours to vote in Georgia.
In my estimation the biggest factor by far contributing to the poor turnout was the coronavirus pandemic. Oklahoma, like about half the states, is experiencing its worst outbreak to date and it is simply dangerous to spend any significant amount of time in an enclosed setting with a large group of people, most of whom will be shouting. Trump and his minions blamed the media. It is only their fault if reporting the facts (not the alternative facts) is a crime. The last time I checked in America it is still not; however inside the Donald Dome it probably is.
The fact that six members of the campaign staff slated to accompany Trump to Tulsa tested positive for the coronavirus didn’t help attendance any. Reportedly Trump was furious that the news of that was made public before the rally.
Trump spent two hours telling lies along with admitting he manipulated the coronavirus numbers. His staff said his line, “I said to my people, slow down the testing” was a joke. I saw the tape of him delivering it; if it was a joke Trump is an even worse stand-up comedian than he is a president. In fact it is consistent with earlier comment he made. Was he joking then also?
Showing up to a rally is one thing; actually casting your ballot in the fall is another. Don’t take this debacle as a sign of death. Trump ended up winning in 2016 while committing countless political mistakes. He is even in a better position to do the same in 2020.
The most dangerous thing progressives and Democrats can believe is that Tulsa showed Trump is dead in the water. His base will turn out for him. That alone is insufficient to win reelection but if it is augmented by enough voters it will get him close enough to cheat his way to victory. VOTE and vote by mail if possible.
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