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Why Trump's Tulsa rally fell flat

| By Christopher Connors |

While there are likely many factors contributing to the lax turnout, it’s important to put these various reasons in due perspective.

The long-awaited return of Trump rallies turned bust in Tulsa, Oklahoma Saturday night. While various groups were quick to claim victory after the 19,000 seat venue at the BOK Center failed to attract more than 6,200 attendees, according to the Tulsa Fire Department.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t ended

While the President and his allies have spent weeks inundating his supporters with messaging indicating the pandemic that has killed 119,000 Americans, according to John Hopkins University, is a hoax perpetrated by Democratic governors to tank the once-booming Trump economy, that talking point seems to have been obliterated in the past week as various states in the South have become flooded by new cases of COVID-19.

As of May 20, the five states with the highest slope of increasing cases per million residents were as follows: Arizona - by a large margin, South Carolina, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma. Likewise, due to the spike in the Southern United States over the last week, the country’s daily numbers on average have exploded in a way not seen since the early months of the pandemic.

Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina are seeing their highest seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, according to a CNN analysis of data from John Hopkins University. Perhaps rally attendees in Tulsa were smacked with a tough dose of reality and figured it wasn’t a wise decision to sit in (what was expected to be) a densely populated arena where few wore masks.

The Campaign Oversold Attendance Numbers

Recently embattled Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale violated a sacred rule of promotions. He oversold and underserved. By tweeting about the massive attendance expected at the rally, he set himself, and his boss, up for failure.

The outdoor “overflow” area - meant to serve the hundreds-to-thousands of rally goers expected to miss out on the indoor event - was dismantled in an almost poetic irony after the campaign realized they needed to usher everyone possible in doors in an attempt to save face from what became an embarrassing showing when compared to their expected attendance.

It seems these numbers were inflated from the start, thanks to a teen-led protest of sorts, featuring a coalition of Tik-Tok users and the increasingly politically active fans of the K-pop genre.

While neither of these groups forced Parscale to tweet out the ridiculous number of expected attendees, they set the stage allowing Parscale to overpromise, creating a negative storyline that could have been completely avoided.

Conservative Media’s Messaging too Effective?

Ever since the George Floyd protests and resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, conservative media has been working overtime to paint protestors as looters and rioters.

While looting and rioting did occur in Minneapolis and other major cities in the first few days of the protests, in recent weeks, the protests have been generally peaceful, save for destruction of statues of perceived - and actual - racists.

Last week, Fox News was caught digitally manipulating images of protests in Seattle. It goes without saying this is a major faux pas in the world of journalism, something that usually leads to firings and a massive loss of credibility for the organization in question. Luckily for Fox News they are insulated from criticism due the us-against-them mentality of conservative media.

Likewise, Fox programming has also been accused of using old b-roll from the initial days of Minneapolis’s rioting to pair with segments about peaceful protests throughout the country.

All of this is to say that perhaps conservative media is too effective in their messaging. They’ve convinced a large portion of the country that peaceful protests are filled with looters and rioters - and, dare I say, Antifa - and it very well could dissuade rural and suburban supporters from coming anywhere near cities.

This isn’t even mentioning how conservative media has demonized cities as dangerous slums over the past 30 years. If you spent everyday hearing about how dangerous the cities have become, it isn’t a stretch to suggest a reasonable person might avoid cities at all costs, especially at a time of increased tension.

Why Did the Rally Become Such a Failure?

It could have been any of the above. A raging pandemic that has already claimed the lives of 119,000 Americans? An overzealous campaign team too eager to show off their success inadvertently dissuading supporters from being packed in a nearly a million person crowd? Tik-Tok and K-pop stans artificially inflating attendance registrations? Conservative media’s demonization of cities and Black Lives Matter protests?

Any of the above could have led to this momentous failure but more than likely, it is the product of various reasons all coming together for a disappointing return to the campaign scene. It’ll be interesting to see how turnout improves when Trump-fanatics go all hands-on-deck to own the libs and Fake News media all over again.

For more on this story, contact Christopher Connors on Twitter@Chris_Connors

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