After Tulsa, it was a straight shot to Yuma.
Sure, that sounds like the opening line of a geographically incoherent high lonesome song, but it’s really the arc of Donald Trump’s shattered ego on his failed road trip to recapture the old magic of his crowds.
Yesterday’s trip to Yuma should have been the salve he needed, but even an afternoon visit with a crowd of Trumpjugend Turning Pointers sporting red hats, cargo shorts, and Charlie Kirk tramp stamps couldn’t offset weeks of utter personal and political humiliation. With more than 125,000 Americans dead on his watch, Trump two rallies in hasn’t found even 10,000 willing to risk their health to show up and support him.
Saturday night was Trump-right Catskills shtick, a collection of the Bannon 2016 greatest hits, with a few updated notes like “abolishing the police.” We had the Wall. We had socialists. We had braggadocio galore. Of course, what Turning Point fap-fest featuring Donald Trump would be complete without a little casual racism, as Trump savored repeating his “Kung Flu” line to the delight of the crowd?
Trump wouldn’t be chasing the rally dragon so soon if his campaign was competent enough to organize a two-car motorcade. Nineteen thousand warm bodies filling the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, would have changed the narrative of the 2020 campaign. Nineteen thousand screaming Trump fans, red of hat, stout of middle, and full of rage could have been the perfect catalyst for a wave of dumb, inevitable Comeback Kid stories.
Nineteen thousand people, plus a few thousand extras to fill the spillover space that Trump and Mike Pence were going to speak in, if only anyone had been there, would have tricked dozens of reporters into filing breathless stories about the remarkable energy and persistence of the Trump base, about the continuing intensity of the love for the Donald in red America. Nineteen thousand people would have set the stage for a week of “does Biden have the enthusiasm?” stories on cable and across the internet.
The media, as much as Trump loathes them, were so ready for it. They were excited to make this race into a contest with the old who’s-up-and-who’s-down horse race, instead of staring at the trainwreck after 6,000 desultory people trickled in, with quite a few leaving early.
The ability to draw 19,000 voters in the reddest of red states in the reddest part of the country should’ve been an absolute no-brainer. Part of the sales pitch for the Trump campaign is their unique, esoteric secret sauce based on a rabid cult following motivated by Facebook, Twitter, and other social media manipulation. Supposedly, Website Guy Parscale can activate and motivate their voters whenever he wants. After all, the Trump organization has burned through half a billion dollars in the last year building his Death Star, so it must be able to turn out 19,000 voters on a Saturday night, right?
The pent-up hunger for Trump’s presence wasn’t terribly acute, obviously, and more troubling for the campaign, they’re now questioning their digital turnout tools, that top-dollar “Death Star,” after it got spoofed by the K-Pop stans.
We saw how entirely defeated Trump looked walking off Marine One after Saturday’s shibacle (a portmanteau from friend Steve Schale, combining “shitshow” and debacle”), the grim reality resting on his sweaty mug as he walked toward the White House. He’s losing, and his campaign blew a layup assignment. Even Trump realized his speech had been a flop; the long, rambing Lord of the Ramp story didn’t charm the audience, but left them bored and fidgeting, hoping for a moment where Trump recaptured the magic of 2016.
It must have been a long, long Sunday in Washington as a pissy Donald Trump did his usual pre-firing ritual; he called his circle of golf cronies, friends, and advisers asking, “So, should I fire Brad Parscale?”
Then came Yuma, and a speech so full-on agitprop bonkers that it left one Trump ally so puzzled that they texted me, “OK, fine. We’ll do it live!” in reference to Bill O'Reilly's infamous on-air outburst. As amusing as it is to dismiss Trump’s word splooge, it turns out not only the Yuma speech but the trip itself is a preview of the Fall campaign.
This is Trump’s happy place: grunting riffs, conspiracy-addled fantasies, and a strange obsession with cops treating protesters with strong, rough, manly vigor. What this says about Donald is a topic for another journal, but just listen to the way his voice drops a register while he leans in and whispers things like, “They were so much stronger. Bigger. They handled them like a baby.” Rule 34, but for presidents.
The event was a cavalcade of Trump hangers-on, minions, and wannabes. Rep. Matt Gaetz and former Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell revved up the crowd and Trump interrupted his remarks more times than usual to give audience members shout-outs. Trump likes comfort food and, while Gaetz and Grenell may sound like the name of a '70s folk music act, they are the kind of loudmouths he wants as attack dogs and warmup acts.
The main act was discursive, distracted, and ineffective outside the warm, frothy waters of the TPUSA’s political gene pool.
Like so much of Trumpism, Yuma was one more example of a movement that can’t scale, a campaign that can’t deploy, and a president who can’t stop repeating the stuff that worked for him before. His new shitlord themes are clearly a live-action focus group that he expects to visit time and again this fall.
Get ready for 1968 redux with Fat Nixon at the helm. Strap in for apocalyptic rhetoric about MS-13, antifa, and socialists, not to mention those poor, misunderstood Confederate generals.
The crowd of 3,000 in Yuma may have been slightly more zesty than Tulsa’s night of the living dead, but COVID is clearly a specter haunting the Trump world. Just like in Tulsa, participants were required to sign a release: “By attending this convention, you and any guest voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Turning Point Action, their affiliates, Dream City Church, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.”
With his speeches flopping and COVID exploding, Donald Trump may be forced into campaigning from the bunker. What could go wrong?