Zhao Minghao: Stakes are high for Trump to restart campaign rally


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Zhao Minghao: Stakes are high for Trump to restart campaign rally


By Zhao Minghao    Source: CGTN    Published: 2020-06-23

On June 20, Trump held a comeback campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Compared with Trump campaign's previous boast that more than one million people had requested tickets to attend, the crowd at the rally was actually not very big. The low turnout at the rally has drawn mockery from American media and many Democrats.

Although the rally was quieter than expected inside the arena, the scene outside was pretty boisterous. Over the past few days, many anti-racism protesters have gathered in this small city. There were so many of them that the mayor of Tulsa even imposed a curfew on the grounds of preventing riots.

In fact, between May 31 and June 1 in 1921, a massacre against African Americans took place in Tulsa. It is estimated that about 300 African Americans were killed, and a thriving black community was burned to the ground by the mobs. The venue of Trump's campaign rally was only a few blocks away from the place where this tragedy occurred. This choice of rally venue has sparked great discontent among many African Americans.

In addition, this rally was held right after Juneteenth, a festival celebrated every year in the United States on June 19. Juneteenth is an important festival to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, and is called "true independence day" by African Americans (July 4 is the American Independence Day). On May 25 this year, African American George Floyd was killed by white police who pinned a knee on his neck. The incident led to the largest demonstration in the United States since the 1960s. On June 19, nearly 300 protests were held across the United States, with people chanting "Black Lives Matter".

There is little question that Trump and the White House's mishandling of George Floyd's death and large-scale protests have had a negative impact on his re-election campaign, because more voters see "white supremacist" as Trump's true color. Trump's wanton use of active-duty troops to suppress protest groups and his photo-op with a Bible in front of St John's Episcopal Church also triggered waves of criticism for his abuse of power and incitement of anger and confrontation.

Senior Republicans such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also lashed out at Trump. Some of them even unequivocally stated that they would vote for the Democratic candidate Joe Biden in this year's election. It's like a "coup" being waged against Trump within the Republican Party.

Even within the Trump administration, complaints about the president have also got more vocal, which may heighten voters' doubts about Trump's ability to govern.

In addition to the fact that the current Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had rejected Trump's order to send U.S. troops to quell demonstrations, Assistant Secretary of State Mary Taylor submitted her resignation on June 18. She was one of the most senior African American officials in the Trump administration. Taylor wrote in her resignation letter: "The President's comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions. I must follow the dictates of my conscience and resign."

More interestingly, the memoir The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton, who once served as Trump's National Security Advisor, will be officially released on June 23. This book would undoubtedly exposes Trump to more criticism and political infighting. People like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are trying to ask Bolton to testify in the coming weeks on the revelations in his book.

Perhaps more exciting than Bolton's revelations would be the tell-all book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man to be released by Trump's niece, Mary Trump, at the end of July. This book will only further mar Trump's image among voters.

Another major blow to Trump's re-election campaign comes from a recent Supreme Court ruling that the Trump administration cannot immediately end program shielding 700,000 young immigrants (known as "dreamers") from deportation. Launched during Obama's reign, this program takes deferred action on illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States in childhood so that they can have the opportunity to realize the "American Dream".

It's known to all that cracking down on illegal immigration is one of Trump's top campaign promises in 2016, and the Supreme Court's decision was almost like a slap in his face.

More importantly, the two Trump-appointed conservative Supreme Court justices did not give a pass to Trump's move to repeal DACA. Outraged by the decision, Trump claimed that he would continue to make the nomination of the Supreme Court justices a campaign issue this year. In other words, the Supreme Court also gets a target in its back during Trump's re-election campaign this year.

Of course, what worries Trump and his campaign team most is that Biden has continued to expand his lead over Trump in recent polls. According to a poll conducted by Fox News on June 18, 50 percent of Americans surveyed would vote for Biden, compared to 38 percent for Trump.

This is a significant change from last month's poll that found 48 percent backing Biden and 40 percent backing Trump. About 61 percent of the respondents disapproved of Trump's handling of race relations, while 57 percent supported pandemic response measures.

Obviously, in the context of the continued spread of coronavirus in the United States, recent protests across the country have delivered another blow to Trump's chance of re-election.

In order to reverse the tide of presidential campaign, Trump pressured states to reopen the economy in April regardless of the risk of the second wave of infections, and did not come up with a very well-conceived plan to prevent another outbreak. This is considered to be a gamble which trades American people's lives for his second term. The stakes are extremely high for him to hold this campaign rally with little regard to all the signs telling him not to do so.

On June 19, the WHO warned of a new and dangerous phase of the coronavirus pandemic with countries easing lockdowns. The United States is still the country with the largest number of confirmed cases in the world, with more than 2.2 million confirmed cases and over 110,000 deaths. Some media predicted that with campaign rally in Tulsa alone has brought more than 100,000 people together, since most people chose not to wear masks, the risk of virus spread became significantly higher.

Unfortunately, according to The Hill, six members of Trump campaign advance team in Tulsa already tested positive for coronavirus on June 20. Although the campaign said that none of the staffers who tested positive were in immediate contact with attendees at the rally, growing fears are that the rally could serve as a tinderbox for an explosion in transmissions. At the rally, Trump still showed a nonchalant attitude towards the pandemic by using the racist term "Kung Flu" to describe the virus.

No matter how Trump talks in jest and pretends to be calm in public, it is difficult to cover up people's fatigue of his bad taste in ruling. The red alarm is on for Trump's re-election campaign.

The author is a visiting fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.