It seems like a lifetime, but it was only two weeks ago that Trump conducted his travesty in Tulsa. In a recent post about “America’s Great Evasion” I pointed out that America’s “frontier experience” had helped create in our nation a tendency to:
“view groups of people that we deemed ‘others’ as fair game for exploitation as well. Whether they were the natives that came before us, the slaves we brought with us, or the various groups of immigrants who came after, they were all fair game. And this attitude included women as well…In all this, the idea of real community was lost.”
I suggested that because of this, the ruling minority viewed the people around them not as a community, but as just another opportunity to be exploited. Last week, Trump showed just how deeply he epitomizes this predatory view of people. His performance was especially ironic in that he has repeatedly invoked “law and order” and made other nods to the police who have come under such scrutiny lately. One popular notion is that the police exist “to serve and protect.” Even while he trumpeted this notion in his rhetoric, Trump was betraying it in fact.
Trump’s Tulsa travesty had nothing to do with serving and protecting anybody. It was a pure exercise in ego gratification. We should all be clear about this. Oklahoma is not a swing state that really has electoral votes in play. It is considered deep red. So, the rally served no real political purpose for Trump. It actually damaged his party. He had no real message, but messages were sent nonetheless. One of them (in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic) was that he was not at all concerned with social distancing or mask wearing. In fact, though there were thousands of empty seats in plain view, his campaign staff had quite intentionally removed stickers from seats that had been put there with the intention of keeping people apart. It didn’t help that at least eight of his staffers tested positive for the virus themselves. Neither Trump or his staff or most people in attendance bothered to wear a mask—even though Covid-19 cases were already spiking upward in Oklahoma.
In his rambling, disjointed speech in Tulsa, Trump hardly mentioned the policy issues confronting this nation. He had nothing useful to say about police malpractice or reform, nothing to say about systemic racism or about how to confront the pandemic. By creating a situation which will probably lead to the resurgence of the Coivd-19 virus, he probably helped delay any real economic recovery. In short, his performance did nothing to advance the national interest or any real policy. It did nothing to advance his party’s interests or even his own. It was simply (as some of his aids admitted) staged to make him feel better.
In spite of this, the 35% of Americans whom he calls his base continue to be enthralled by him. His supporters should think about that word “enthralled.” In ancient Europe, a “thrall” was a slave. To be “enthralled” meant to be subjected to slavery. Thralls were typically fitted with permanent iron collars around their necks. They were property and were used and exploited as such. They were no different than the various groups I mentioned at the start of this article.
By calling them all to a rally which really served no purpose at all except to help soothe his much-damaged ego, Trump exploited his own supporters with total disregard for their health. To him they are not people to “serve and protect”—they are only a mine for votes and donations and to shore up his political standing. If his regard for “his own people” is that low, imagine how the rest of must rate…
Just a couple of weeks after the Tulsa debacle, Trump filed a brief in support of a Supreme Court case to completely dismantle Obamacare. That would throw about 24 million Americans off of their healthcare insurance in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Tens of millions of American have lost their jobs (and with them, their healthcare)- Obamacare is about their only affordable option left for them. We also know that minorities and the working class—by far the hardest hit by the pandemic, are suffering disproportionally. Trump even argued that the provision for pre-existing conditions should go. I suppose that having the Covid-19 virus will now be considered a pre-existing condition.
In these circumstances, it is truly hard to believe that American voters with any sense will view Trump’s behavior as “leadership.”