Political speech—designed as it is to incite the multitudes—frequently overstates its case. Appearing on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News Channel program on Saturday, Eric Trump paid tribute to this formula as he accused the Democrats “of trying to milk” the stay-at-home orders “for everything they can” so they could take “away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every single time.”
If the Dems had their way, the milking would end November 3, the younger Trump predicted, after which “coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”
Without a doubt, the Democrats are so good at milking stuff they have been known to persuade he-cattle to decant half-and-half. But do the Democrats really possess that much power? Two of them have just seen their state courts strike down their stay-at-home orders. Besides, there are more Republicans in governors’ mansions than Democrats anyway. If the restrictions on mass audiences can be attributed to political scheming alone, Trump could just ask the 26 Republican governors to strike a blow against the Democrats by rolling back the mass-audience restrictions.
Given the early findings on coronavirus contagion—it spreads most readily when people are in close quarters in enclosed spaces and engaged in full-throated singing or yelling—how likely is it that even a Republican governor would do Trump a favor and approve one of his traditional rallies in his state?
Not very. Could it be that the Democratic conspiracy to shut down the rallies has co-opted the Republicans, too? Or is it just a matter of Eric Trump being full of political beans? Occam’s razor would suggest the latter and that the younger Trump’s mouth simply got out in front of his brain and lapped it a couple of times.
But maybe Eric Trump is onto something. Maybe he isn’t pitching the rally idea just as a pretext to poke his opponent in the eye. If he’s sincere about thinking the rallies should go on, maybe the president shouldn’t wait for an invitation. Maybe he should just browbeat one Republican governor into okaying a big rally and have him throw open an arena’s doors. He might want to approach Florida’s Ron DeSantis, a Republican governor who is giving some gyms and restaurants permission to open at half-capacity and has invited major sports leagues to resume play in his state. The Republican governors of Texas and Georgia, Greg Abbott and Brian Kemp, might give him a thumbs up for a rally if their efforts to restart their states is any indication of their mindsets.
Think of the potential for Trump, who has chafed under the strictures of his White House press briefings. It’d be like a mini vacation from the Covid-19 grind. No one would be nagging him with “nasty” questions about whether he was going to wear a mask on stage. No one would be wearing one. They’d probably be burning masks in the parking lot! And none of that distancing either. Let the show run for a couple of hours, make sure there’s lots of spittle-laden call-and-response between the president and his supporters; high-fives; low-fives; hand-crusher handshakes and not a bottle of sanitizer within sight.
Good for Trump’s mood and some invaluable scientific value to boot. If no one gets sick, all the MAGA-world conspiracy theories will be proven true. But if and when the Covid-19 cases arrive (and I’m betting they surely would), the contract tracers could collect data for a study that shows exactly how safe a big assembly like a rally, a sporting event, or a concert really is. The main cost would be the potential deaths of dozens or maybe hundreds of Donald Trump supporters, but it’s a risk Eric Trump seems willing to take. Come to think of it, the president might want to think twice about trying this in Michigan, where his margin of victory was just over 10,000 votes; how many supporters can he afford to lose?
In another Pirro show passage, Eric Trump called “the media” a partner in the Democrats’ strategy to use the lockdown to wound the president. The media, he said, “is effectively a propaganda arm for the Democrats.”
While it’s true that the liberal commentariat has backed the lockdown, it’s a reach to claim reporters are getting their assignments from DNC headquarters. Even so, some of the Trump faithful have long adhered to the idea that the press works for the Democrats. In the past, the president’s supporters have physically attacked journalists, most notably from the BBC, the Orlando Sentinel, and OC Weekly. Earlier this month, Trump supporters harassed reporters for wearing masks as they covered the president’s visit to the Honeywell plant in Arizona. “You’re on the wrong side of patriotism—you’re like communists,” one supporter said. On May 14, a local TV reporter got heckled while covering a right-wing group’s Long Island rally calling for the reopening of businesses. Trump himself encouraged the harassment when he retweeted the reporter’s video account and added this commentary: “People can’t get enough of this. Great people!”
On Monday, the president announced that he is taking doses of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that he has touted as a treatment and a prophylaxis for the coronavirus. “Good things are being said about it,” Trump said, despite multiple reports that it has limited to no effect and might even be harmful in combination with other drugs. As a way to strengthen the bond between himself and his supporters, Trump could pass out complimentary pills to the audience at his rallies. What could go wrong?
Does hydroxychloroquine come in a blisterpak? Send prescriptions to [email protected]. My email alerts are on ventilators. My Twitter feed is taking zinc. My RSS feed believes no virus would find it appetizing.