Every American knows the date of Donald Trump’s last rally in Washington, D.C. The political fallout continues with the aftermath seared into our collective memory when the president’s most ardent supporters marched from the rally and violently breached the Capitol.
In the seven days following the Jan. 6 “insurrection,” when shocking video was horrifying the nation, nobody could have predicted that the soon-to-be-former president — impeached for a second time in record time — would resume hosting his now-infamous rallies only six months later.
In America, anything is possible, and Trump proved that axiom last week. While appearing on the Trump-loving, One America News network, the former president announced his rally plans saying, “We’ll be doing one in Florida, we’re going to do one in Ohio, we’re going to do one in North Carolina,” with details released, “relatively soon.” However, Trump could be indicted, which may or may not alter his rally plans.
Aside from that minor detail, imagine how much bashing, trashing, venting, and bragging will spew from the former president’s mouth — a fact-checkers feast. But, before speculating about the rally’s theme, content and objectives, two overarching issues could become problematic for Trump and nullify any political benefits.
A potentially thorny issue about who will pay for what is sure to be supersized security. Of course, the Secret Service is responsible for Trump, and recently he was accused of profiting from the benefit of their protection.
But the intriguing question is whether taxpayers will foot the entire bill for all the post-Jan. 6 rallies. New ground will be broken since no former president has engaged in a sustained political come back tour on the scale that Trump is teasing.
I say “teasing” since recently, on his DonaldJTrump.com mouthpiece, he boasted about his “beautiful Boeing 757 that became so iconic during the Trump rallies.” The plane is currently being “updated” and “prior to the end of the year,” he says, “it will be better than ever, and again used at upcoming rallies!”
This year and into the 2022 midterm election campaign, his rally security costs could morph into a passionate political hot button. The negative press will emphasize that Trump is a billionaire, and his Save America PAC began the second quarter with $85 million in cash. Hence, the PAC and not taxpayers should shoulder a healthy percentage of the security costs at his highly partisan, self-serving political rallies.
Moreover, Trump uses these rallies as income generators. He collects attendee data for future fundraising solicitations while earning millions of dollars in free advertising through media coverage.
Along with increased costs incurred by the Secret Service, rallies impact the budget of local law enforcement. When Trump left office, it was reported that ten cities were owed “at least $850,000” in unpaid invoices. Recently, Albuquerque turned over a $211,000 debt to a collection agency stemming from Trump’s Sept. 2019 rally.
With that track record, will local jurisdictions demand upfront security payments before granting rally permits to the former president?
Super-Spreader Events 2.0
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, Trump rallies were widely thought to be super-spreader events — proven true by a Stanford University study. As national COVID rates are rapidly decreasing with half the population vaccinated, surveys show that Trump voters tend to have lower vaccination rates.
Therefore, Trump’s 2021 and 2022 rallies could again turn into super-spreaders (and now easier to trace back), resulting in the villainization of Trump and his supporters.
Conversely, Trump has an extraordinary opportunity to generate good news at his rallies by encouraging attendees to get vaccinated or, better yet, “make vaccinations great again” and available on site.
All the Political Considerations
As mentioned earlier, Trump’s post-Jan. 6 rallies will showcase his penchant for bashing, trashing, venting, boasting — and don’t forget his signature name-calling. But let’s highlight the former president’s number one objective for holding rallies: To remove “former” from his current title. Therefore, at every rally, expect him to flirt with the audience asking, “Should I run in 2024?” The answer will be cheers of “four more years” with Trump 2024 banners waving — repeatedly shown on Trump-friendly media outlets.
The former president aims to clear the 2024 field, canceling the need for a GOP primary. And, he might be successful since a mid-May Morning Consult poll found that 50 percent of GOP primary voters support Trump, with his former VP Mike Pence a distant second at 13 percent.
But mixed signals for Trump are seen in a new Quinnipiac University poll finding 66 percent of Republicans want him to run in 2024, but 66 percent of Americans do not.
Trump’s second rally objective is revenge upon any GOP officeholder who dared not support his “Big Lie” or voted for impeachment. You know their names, and Trump will call them out for booing. The flip side is his support for candidates who can defeat any officeholder not 1000% loyal to Trump, rewarding them with an on-stage appearance.
Theoretically, Trump rallies are to support the Republican Party’s attempts to win back the House and the Senate — convenient cover for his number one objective. Rallies solidify Trump’s standing as the supreme Republican leader, branding the party’s present and future in his name. Candidates and incumbents are either with Trump or against him. There is no middle ground.
Attending Trump rallies will be his adoring base — the 53 percent of Republicans who believe Trump remains the “true president” and the 61 percent who say the election was stolen — according to a new Ipsos/Reuters poll.
Embracing those beliefs is Trump’s main schtick while recanting all the reasons why attendees know he is the greatest president. But alas, he was cheated and victimized by mail-in voting, election officials, courts, the FBI, voting machines, high-tech, corrupt media, social media — but still managed to win more votes than any incumbent president. That list is what they came to hear with a potential indictment only another Trump victim card to be played.
The fact that Trump’s old stage act is reopening to the same loyal audience six months after the Jan. 6 rally is not just a feat of savvy showmanship but a miraculous political resurrection.