- Only 6,200 people attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma Saturday, at a venue that could hold 19,000.
- Some credited the low turnout to the fact that K-pop fans and TikTokers had registered for thousands of free tickets, though others pointed out that the event was first-come-first-serve, so registering for tickets would not result in someone being denied a seat, but may have caused Trump to overestimate attendance.
- The Trump campaign blamed the low turnout on media coverage of the coronavirus and violent protesters blocking the entrance to the arena.
- Numerous reports said that the protests near the arena were small and peaceful, and while a gate was briefly closed due to protesters trying to enter the rally, it was reopened quickly and no one was turned away.
President Donald Trump held his first campaign rally Saturday since the coronavirus pandemic escalated in March. However, the nation’s largest indoor gathering in months, held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was met with much smaller crowds than the Trump campaign had anticipated.
The event, which has been highly controversial, got off to a rocky start when the Trump campaign announced that six people on the campaign team staffing the event had tested positive for coronavirus, seeming to support warnings of public health officials that the rally risked becoming a virus super-spreader.
The inopportune timing of the rally comes as both Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma as a whole are seeing significant spikes in coronavirus cases. On Thursday, just two days before the rally, Oklahoma reported its highest single highest day of confirmed cases. The state broke that record again on Sunday.
Despite the fact that numerous public health officials in Tulsa pleaded with Trump to cancel the rally, he pushed ahead with his plans. Leading up to Saturday’s events, Trump and his campaign officials repeatedly said that they expected a massive turnout— both at the rally itself and the overflow crowd outside the arena.
Last week, Trump himself said in a tweet that nearly one million people had requested tickets to attend the event.
But as the rally began, pictures and videos that showed that thousands of empty seats in Tulsa’s 19,000-seat BOK Center quickly began making the rounds on social media.
Later, a spokesperson from Tulsa Fire Marshal’s Office told reporters that less than 6,200 people had showed up, not including campaign staff and media, meaning almost two-thirds of the seats were empty.
There were very few people outside the arena too. By early afternoon, the area was so empty that the campaign ended up scrapping plans for both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to address an overflow audience.
TikTokers and K-pop Fans Reserve Seats
Once pictures of the empty rally started going viral, numerous TikTok users and K-pop fans took to social media to say that they were partially responsible for the low turnout.
Both groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for the Trump rally as a prank after the Trump campaign’s Twitter account posted a tweet on June 11 asking people to sign up for free tickets using their phones.
K-pop fan accounts started sharing the information with their followers and telling them to register but not show up. The trend also spread on TikTok, with videos of people telling their followers to do the same raking up millions of views.
The topic trending on Twitter Saturday, with users and and media crediting those two groups for the low turnout.
“You just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.
Others, however, have said that it is unlikely the prank actually denied people any seats, because entrance at the rally was first come first serve, and not based on tickets.
While those individuals agree that TikTokers and K-pop fans registering for the free tickets likely caused Trump to overestimate how big his crowd would be, it is unclear exactly how big of an impact they had on actual turnout.
Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale also pushed back on those claims in a statement Sunday, where he explained that the rallies are first come first serve and that the tickets those groups registered for were basically just the equivalent of an RSVP.
“Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work,” he said. “Registering for a rally means you’ve RSVPed with a cellphone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool.”
Trump Campaign Falsely Blames Protesters
Parscale and other members of Trump’s campaign also blamed protesters and media coverage of the coronavirus for low turnout.
“Radical protestors, fueled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage, interfered with @realDonaldTrump supporters at the rally,” he tweeted. “They even blocked access to the metal detectors, preventing people from entering.”
But numerous reports have said that there were only scattered protests in the areas near the arena, and most of the larger protests that day took place in other parts of the city. Tulsa police also said the few protests that were outside the arena were largely peaceful.
While there were reports of a few altercations, nothing escalated.
As for the claims that protesters blocked Trump supporters from entering the arena, it was reported that one small group of protesters tried to enter the rally, prompting security officials to shut down one of the gates. However, reporters on the ground said that police told them that the gate was only closed briefly and no one was turned away.
Tulsa police did say they arrested one woman at the request of the Trump campaign for blocking access to the rally, but MSNBC reporters, who were there and filmed the incident, say the woman was not blocking access.
The now-viral clip from MSNBC shows a woman wearing a shirt that says “I can’t breathe” seemingly just sitting on the ground in a line of people. The woman can be heard telling police “I have a ticket,” before she was forcibly removed.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Politico)
Republicans Say They Will Block Bill To Avert Government Shutdown and Debt Default
Democrats argue the bill is necessary to prevent an economic catastrophe.
Democrats Introduce Legislation
Democrats in the House and Senate unveiled sweeping legislation Monday that aimed to keep the government funded through early December, lift the federal debt limit, and provide around $35 billion for Afghan refugees and natural disaster recovery.
The bill is needed to avoid a government shutdown when funding expires next week. It is also necessary to prevent the Treasury Department from reaching the limit of its borrowing authority, which would trigger the U.S. to default on its debt for the first time ever.
For weeks, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has urged Congress to raise the federal debt limit, also known as the debt ceiling, warning that the department will soon exhaust all of its measures to keep the federal government within its legal borrowing limit.
If the U.S. were to default, it would be unable to pay its debts, sending massive shockwaves through the financial system.
Democrats have painted the bill as crucial to avert an economic doomsday that would massively undermine recovery.
They argue that the combination of a government shutdown and a debt default would destabilize global markets and leave millions of Americans without essential aid.
Republicans Vow to Oppose Raising Debt Ceiling
Despite the considerable threats, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has repeatedly said Republicans will not vote to increase the debt ceiling, arguing that Democrats should do it without their help because they are pushing trillions of dollars in new spending priorities.
Democrats have slammed the Republican leader’s stance as hypocritical. They point out that while it is true they are proposing new spending, it has not been approved yet, and the debt that currently risks default has been incurred by both parties.
Democrats also noted that trillions of dollars were added to the federal debt under former President Donald Trump, which is more than what has been added by President Joe Biden. As a result, Republicans raised the debt ceiling three times during the Trump administration with the support of Democrats.
McConnell, however, remains unlikely to budge. On Monday, White House officials said McConnell has not outlined any requests or areas of negotiation in exchange for support of the legislation.
While the bill is expected to pass the House, it appears all but doomed in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to break the filibuster.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Politico)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Survives Recall
Experts say the outcome should act as a warning for Republicans who tie themselves to former President Donald Trump and attempt to undermine election results by promoting false voter fraud claims.
Recall Effort Fails
After seven months and an estimated $276 million in taxpayer money, the Republican-led effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) failed Tuesday.
Just under 70% of the votes have been reported as of Wednesday morning, showing that “no” on the recall received 63.9% of the vote. That’s nearly twice as many votes as “yes,” which had 36.1%.
According to The Washington Post, even if the margin narrows as more votes are counted, this still marks one of the biggest rejections of any recall effort in America over the last century.
Analysts say the historic rebuke was driven by high Democratic turnout and broader fears over resurging COVID cases.
While the Delta variant continues to push new infections to record highs in many parts of the country with lax mask rules and low vaccination rates, California, once a global epicenter of the pandemic, now has one of the highest vaccination rates and lowest new caseloads in the nation.
Newsom has continually tried to convince voters that those figures are the results of his vaccine and masking policies, which have been some of the most aggressive in the U.S.
Given that polls showed the pandemic was the top concern for California voters, it is clear that the majority favored his policies over those of his competitors. Larry Elder, the Republican talk radio host of led the field of 46 challengers, ran on a platform of getting rid of essentially all COVID restrictions.
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Newsom painted the recall’s failure not only as a win for Democratic coronavirus policies but also for Democracy at large.
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic,” he said. “We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression.”
“I think about just in the last few days and the former president put out saying this election was rigged,” he continued. “Democracy is not a football. You don’t throw it around. That’s more like a, I don’t know, antique vase. You can drop it and smashing a million different pieces. And that’s what we’re capable of doing if we don’t stand up to meet the moment and push back.”
“I said this many, many times on the campaign trail, we may have defeated Trump, but Trump-ism is not dead in this country. The Big Lie, January 6th insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country.”
A Warning for Republicans
Newsom’s remarks took aim at the efforts by Elder and other Republicans — including former President Donald Trump — who over the last week have claimed falsely and without evidence that voter fraud helped secured the governor’s win before Election Day even took place.
While it is currently unknown whether that narrative may have prompted more Republican voters to stay home, Newsom’s effort to cast Edler as a Trump-like candidate and the recall as an undemocratic, Republican power grab appears to have been effective.
Now, political strategists say that the outcome of the recall should serve as a warning that Republicans who pin themselves to Trump and his Big Lie playbook may be hurt more in certain states.
“The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office,” The New York Times explained.
Even outside of a strongly blue state like California, analysts say this strategy will also be effective with similar candidates in battleground states like Georgia, Arizona, Missouri, and Pennsylvania, which will be essential to deciding control of the Senate.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Justice Department Sues Texas Over Abortion Ban
The department claims the Texas law violates past Supreme Court precedents on abortion and infringes on Constitutional protections.
Biden Administration Takes Aim at Texas Law
The Department of Justice sued Texas on Thursday in an attempt to block the state’s newly enacted law that effectively prohibits all abortions by banning the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The abortion law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not provide exceptions for rape or incest, allows private citizens to take legal action against anyone who helps a person terminate their pregnancy after six weeks.
In its lawsuit, the Justice Department argued that the Texas law is unconstitutional because it violates past Supreme Court precedents through a technical loophole.
While numerous other states have passed similar laws banning abortion after about six weeks, federal judges have struck down those measures on the grounds that they are inconsistent with Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions that states cannot prevent someone from seeking an abortion before a fetus can viably live outside the womb, usually around 22 to 24 weeks.
The Texas law, however, skirts the high court decisions by deputizing citizens to enforce the law rather than state government officials, taking the state out of the equation entirely and protecting it from legal responsibility.
Individuals who do so do not have to prove any personal injury or connection to those they take legal action against, which can range from abortion providers to rideshare drivers who take someone to a clinic.
If their lawsuit is successful, the citizen is entitled to a $10,000 award.
DOJ Lawsuit Targets Constitutionality
During a press conference detailing the DOJ lawsuit, Attorney General Merrick Garland referred to the enforcement mechanism as “an unprecedented” effort with the “obvious and expressly acknowledged intention” to prevent Texans from their constitutionally protected right to have an abortion.
“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear,” Garland said, adding that the provision of the law allowing civilians “to serve as bounty hunters” may become “a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents.”
The Justice Department argued that the Texas policy violates equal protection guarantees under the 14th Amendment as well as the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which establishes that the Constitution and federal law generally take precedence over state law.
The lawsuit also claimed that the law interferes with the constitutional obligation of federal employees to provide access to abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, to people who are under the care of federal agencies or contractors such as those in prisons.
Both Sides See Path to Supreme Court
While proponents of abortion rights applauded the Justice Department’s legal challenge, officials in Texas defended the law and accused the Biden administration of filing the lawsuit for political reasons.
“President Biden and his administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn,” a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), said in a statement.
“We are confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life.”
The DOJ’s suit will now be decided by a federal judge for the Western District of Texas, based in Austin.
Depending on how that court rules, either opponents or supporters of the abortion ban are expected to appeal the case, sending it to the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal and likely ultimately placing the matter before the Supreme Court again in a matter of months.
The Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect by declining to approve an emergency petition to block the measure last week, but it did not rule on the constitutionality of the policy.
As a result, the Justice Department’s legal challenge could force the high court to hear another facet of the law that it has not yet considered if it decides to see the case.