Jun 21, 2020
Trump opened his campaign for re-election in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the midst of celebrations by the black community of Juneteenth. That celebration commemorates the date when news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Galveston, Texas, the last outpost of slavery in this country.
Tulsa also has a special page in the violent racist history of this country. Ninety-nine years ago, Tulsa was the site of one of the most vicious pogroms of black people ever carried out. White mobs rampaged through the main black business district of Tulsa, pulling out people, raping women and girls, killing those who didn’t manage to escape. At least 300 people lost their lives in one day. The business district was burnt down.
Was it simply an unthinking coincidence that Trump decided to open his campaign in Tulsa? Bad enough. But, no, as discussions among his advisers made clear, his campaign was fully aware, not only of the Juneteenth celebrations, but also of Tulsa’s bitter history.
It was quite simply a bitter provocation, an indication of what Trump intends his re-election campaign to be.
In the days leading up to his Tulsa rally, Trump flooded the internet with calls on his supporters to attack the anti-police demonstrations. Like this one: “STOP ANTIFA, Dangerous mobs are running through our streets DESTROYING OUR CITIES.”
Trump’s campaign announced that a million people had put in for tickets to his rally—for a venue that seats only 18,000 people. If that had been true, it could have meant a disappointed mob out on the streets of Tulsa. It’s what the campaign expected. It set up to have Trump address the crowd inside the rally, and then go outside to whip up the much bigger one they expected outside. The second speech didn’t materialize. There was no overflow crowd. In fact, the rally itself was filled with row upon row of empty chairs.
The poor showing for his rally doesn’t mean Trump will change the axis of his campaign. What else can he campaign on? “Victory” over the virus? Not hardly, as infections are peaking up in areas that never had them. The economy? With 40 some million people still out of work, that’s a joke. No, Trump reverts to his usual racist rant: attacking the people who demonstrate against outrages like the death of George Floyd.
It’s understandable that many people might view the election in November as primarily a way to get rid of a hateful demagogue, who stokes racial animosities to serve his own electoral and personal interests. But in this election system we have, by default that means voting for the Democrat.
There is an enormous danger in that, believing that because Biden isn’t Trump, his election will change the course of the country.
Trump may have ranted about sending the National Guard into cities; Democratic mayors actually sent heavily armed police against demonstrators.
Trump may have presided over an economic collapse; Obama presided over seven years of “economic recovery,” in which working people had no share.
Trump may call on racist gangs to attack demonstrators. Does anyone believe that the Democrats will organize a defense against that?
The way to stop a racist demagogue like Trump is the only way that has ever worked—and that is to organize ourselves against the gangs, just as people in Tulsa did the night of his rally, just as how many people did throughout the South, finally shutting down the KKK.
The only thing that will change the course of the country is a continuation and expansion of the movement that has forced a reckoning with racist violence and the role of the cops. The biggest danger right now is that those who demonstrated let themselves be pulled into focusing on November, instead of expanding the movement.