We, in the desert Southwest, can sleep better now that the Trump road show has come and gone.
The “Students For Trump” activities are over. Discarded Trump signs littered the parking lot of the church where his latest edition of hate speech, racist pronouncements and selected lies occurred. The line of Secret Service Suburbans is only a memory.
Media talking heads kept calling it a “rally.” It wasn’t. Trump’s appearance was the closing act of a multi-day program for far-right teens. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was on the program earlier in the day. Some local Arizona Republican pols also participated.
The teens, all clean cut and mostly maskless when together - theater style - were being prepped to be future Limbaugh-Beck listeners as they endured session after session of far-right hucksterism. Trump’s appearance was called the “high point” by local media.
I don’t know what the selection process was for these kids. But, looking at them, seated shoulder-to-shoulder in the “sanctuary,” they must have had to fit some sort of rigid physical requirements. All of ‘em - all - looked like models on “All-American Teen” posters. Nearly all white. Nearly all maskless.
Trump carried on for about 90 minutes. Maskless, of course. It sounded a lot like his failed Tulsa appearance which was, actually, a rally. A failed rally at best but, still, a rally.
He rolled out his, by now, standard pitches. Lots of outright lies like “Obama committed treason” which he didn’t define. Just sort of left it hanging there. He claimed the COVID-19 pandemic was winding down and would soon be gone. Saying that here, in one of the “hot spot” states.
He proudly touted having appointed conservative judges to the federal court system and argued he should be re-elected so he could appoint even more. He called the upcoming national elections “the most corrupt in the history of this country.” Though proven popular with Arizonans and voters in other states, he lambasted mail-in voting, saying people should go to the polls as they have done historically and he demanded some sort of uniform identification before anyone could cast a ballot.
He claimed a “left-wing crowd is trying to abolish our heritage because they hate our history, they hate our values and they hate everything we prize as Americans because our country didn’t grow great with them.”
True to form, he fell back on his racist nomenclature for Coronavirus, calling it “Kung flu” several times, raising his voice as if to punctuate each word. The kids cheered. Loudly.
Several curiosities linger in the afterglow. For one, this was Trump’s third visit to our desert mecca in five months. Why? And, why come to appear before a crowd of just three-thousand teens.
And timing. He also came during the height of a COVID crisis with Arizona reporting jumps of four to five-thousand cases each 24-hours. Day after day. Hospitals are full and some patients are being sent out-of-state.
There’s a very good chance the state can flip a senate seat, replacing Martha McSally - an appointed place-holder who lost to a Democrat in 2018. Democrat and former Astronaut Mark Kelly is well-funded, knows the issues, is good on his feet and even admired by many Republicans. McSally has trailed Kelly in eight out of the last nine polls taken and is putting up some really scurrilous attack ads.
Seems it would take more than a Trump appearance at a conservative summer program for 3,000 teens to help McSally.
The location of his road show also raises an issue. How does a church - a tax-exempt church - get away with a multi-day political indoctrination session, highlighted by the President and other politicians campaigning in the sanctuary, and not risk said exemption? I’ve heard of preachers telling parishioners which guy to vote for. But, this political indoctrination session went way beyond that. For tax purposes?
No, Virginia. This was not a rally. We average folk couldn’t attend. It was just for the kids. Few, in the sanctuary, were old enough to vote. As with most teens, when released from the camp back into the real teen world, their short-term attention spans will be diverted to other priorities. They’ll remember Trump. But, likely, little else.
Air Force One is gone. For now. So, too, the national media and their equipment. It’s back to 110-114 degree temperatures in our Summer desert days. The dust created by visiting political types has settled. Life - with spiking coronavirus numbers - goes on
Rally? Really? Nope.