Despite appearances here and there, some more controversial than others, the President is, because of the pandemic, confined to campaigning on Twitter. Which does not serve him. It was therefore time for him that the political rallies, an exercise in which he excelled to galvanize his base, resume. It will be done next Wednesday, in Oklahoma.
Indeed, failing to be able to surf on a favorable economic record, the president will again be able to harangue the crowds on Wednesday – knowing that the audience will have previously signed a discharge exempting the organizers from any prosecution in connection with COVID-19. In full pandemic. In the midst of an economic crisis. In the midst of a social crisis. Against the background of the debunking of Confederate statues and symbols of colonization. What could have been the occasion for a unifying message will not be, for three reasons which combine in a formidable way.
First, the numbers. The mistakes of the past few months have plunged the President’s approval rate. His opponent outpaces him by an average of 8 points (according to poll aggregator Real Clear Politics) in voting intentions, and the gap is emerging especially in the key states of 2016 (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin). For the first time, his electoral base is weakening as his opponent’s coffers fill up. The economy is recovering, but timidly, and very heterogeneously across the country, while less than a third of Americans believe that the country is going in the right direction, and that the markets are absorbing the probability of a second wave. If the Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, affirms that “the American economy cannot be closed again” the fact remains that the number of hospitalizations is starting to rise again in the undefined states – in Arizona, in North Carolina, in Florida, Georgia, Texas…
Then, the president heavily censored the police by denouncing the demonstrators – spreading conspiracy theories justifying the police abuses, pointing the finger at the “Antifa” without mentioning the documented presence of extreme right-wing supporters of the Boogaloo movement, posing as a cantor from the Blue Lives Matter. This posture is part of a trend: if its predecessor had suspended the Pentagon’s 1033 program of transferring military equipment to the state, university and local police forces (a program which explains the impressive militarization of the operations of maintenance of the order), the current president reinstated it in August 2017. Of course, the president received a clear message from the military, who drew the constitutional line that they would not cross – to the point where many, from Joe Biden to the representative of Louisiana Cedric Richmond, may have speculated that military power could be the one who will escort the president if he refuses to step down after a defeat. However, the support of the police force, irritated by the media treatment of their profession and partly favorable to an ally, contributes to increasing the fractures of the country, even in the maintenance of order.
Finally, Tulsa. An anniversary day. Two symbols.
On the one hand, June 19 is ” Juneteenth “, A contraction of” June “And” Nineteen ” An anniversary day: if the declaration of emancipation dates from 1er January 1863, in Confederate Texas, slaves continue to work for planters. It was not until General Granger of the Union army publicly read the proclamation of emancipation at Galveston on June 19, 1865 before information reached the most remote corners of the country. June 19 therefore becomes Freedom Day, celebrated today in 47 states (and for the past few days, a holiday for employees of companies like Square, Twitter, or Nike).
On the other side, Tulsa. Another birthday. Sinister. In 1921, in this prosperous little town in Oklahoma, the success of a black middle class made people cringe. On May 31, following an incident involving a hotel hunter – black – and a young white girl, an angry crowd swept over the opulent and black neighborhood of the city. In 24 hours, Black Wall Street was obliterated: 1,200 houses destroyed, 9,000 people on the street, 800 wounded, 300 dead. The newspapers of the next day make no mention of the event. The corpses disappeared in mass graves whose location is forgotten. Only the accounts of the survivors remain. Then their descendants. Until Scott Ellsworth completely retraces the story … in 1992 (in Death in a Promised Land).
However, it is in Tulsa, this Juneteenth day, that the president will hold his first rally.
Unable to unite, it divides. His creed, “law and order,” only makes sense against a backdrop of social divides. Voting fragmentation, unless there is a dramatic trend reversal, is the only viable strategy. Because he has shown neither the intention nor the ability to broaden his electoral base. And that moving the Republican National Convention a few weeks before the event considerably complicates matters for his party. 142 days remain for this electoral campaign which could turn into scorched earth politics. With consequences that are still difficult to fully grasp. But from which all will suffer.