This Is Spinal Tap: Presidential Edition

In the first recorded instance that I might exert something like influence upon reality, just days after writing about how a racially-charged rally in a racially-divided city in the middle of a nation undergoing racial, executive, financial, and infectious disease crises wouldn’t be a good idea, remarkably, everyone stayed at home. Go check out some photos of last night’s campaign rally in Tulsa. Go ahead; I’ll wait. The attendance, to say the least, was staggeringly low. I don’t know why. It’s not like it’d be an expensive, inconvenient, or potentially dangerous proposition to travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma (“Gateway to Iowa!”) at this time to attend a rally, but I’m also not hell-bent on picking up those sweet, sweet electoral votes from… a solidly red state? I understand that the strategy here may be like dating post-divorce; you kind of have to start in a safe place and build up your confidence, but, like everything else this administration does, it seems to be the perfectly wrong call at the wrong time. There were literally tens of dozens of attendees; and numerous groups are claiming credit for sabotaging this thing — K-Pop fans and TikTok are all claiming they (or their users) encouraged people to get tickets online, and then not show up (thus stopping people from attending); but I get the feeling that the Trump Campaign wasn’t turning people away from the door. It’s possible that this was some sort of head-fake to inflate the numbers and get mass media coverage for an event that didn’t really happen; but that’d be conspiracy-level planning. The Donald, of course, has blamed all of this on violent protesters; and, to be fair; there were a hundred-ish protesters a few blocks away (I guess they read my advice to just stay home and most of them did), but, I’ll admit; I could probably get 150 people show up and protest whatever horrible new Wendy’s novelty milkshake they released last month; so it doesn’t mean a whole lot (I feel certain Beloved Leader tear-gassed more people on his way to the church photo-op).

We live in uncertain times. We always have, don’t let anyone fool you; but humans are the only species obsessed with predicting the future. This obsession leads to almost every piece of conventional wisdom that’s been thoroughly disproved in the last four years, and the people reading the future in tea leaves are still employed. Here’s my prediction: this weird little pantomime of the rally attendees being slightly outnumbered by protesters is a herald of the future. Conventional wisdom is that center-left candidates tend to win in elections with historically high outcome. Conventional wisdom also held that Trump wouldn’t last past the New Hampshire primaries, that he would be removed from office, etc. Here’s mine: We’re going to see the demographics inverted and, in elections with lower turn-out, the leftist candidates will win. Again, I have no real proof for it, except that we’ve seen every other conventional bit of political wisdom wither and die in the last four years (Arizona might be a swing state — how weird is that?), and that the protesters and attendees of the rally were, at best, in equal numbers in the middle of Oklahoma. It’s possible that this is just another weird fluke that’s seemed to define this administration, for the sake of argument, let’s assume 200 people showed up to Beloved Leader’s rally (a generous count, I’d say), and 150 people showed up to the BLM march next door, despite organizers actually discouraging people from showing up; there’s a pretty bleak picture for the GOP that you get a low turnout when voters feel obligated to support Beloved Leader, and an almost-equal number number of folks at the same time when people are told to stay at home, because they feel their lives are on the line. This might give us a glimpse of future elections in which there are historically low-turn-outs, but the folks on the conservative side are there because of party loyalty, and the minorities are there because we feel threatened by the party, and you can, potentially, see how there’s a subtle shift in which lower turn-out suddenly becomes a liberal advantage, because they now hold that razor-thin margin (again, if another busload of protesters showed up and/or I had more reliable data, I’d feel fairly confident in saying, for the first time I’ve ever heard of; there were an equal number of protesters at a campaign stop as supporters).

There is, of course, yet another way to read this bizarre scenario, and I do hope you’ve stayed this long, because this is where the pay-off arrives: Donald Trump is actually Nigel Tufnel. Nigel Tufnel is one of the main characters of the greatest film of the 20th century (Saving Private Ryan be damned), This is Spinal Tap. For those of you who’ve been hiding under a rock; this is the bizarre, mockumentary of a fictional band that was really popular in the late 60's/early 70’s, who’ve disappeared from the public light after a string of high-profile missteps (I will never not watch the farm scenes from Vikings without “Sex Farm” running through my brain)(the fact that this film has a bizarrely real soundtrack and actually created a real-life version of the band should blow your mind, but I digress), and, in the film, 20 years later, they’re positioning themselves for a come-back. Even though large portions of the film are based on allegedly-real anecdotes and stories from famous musicians, there is an uncanny similarity to last night’s deserted political prom, and that scene where the band ends up playing for a naval officer’s retirement party. Certainly, I feel that if I had transcripts for all the planning meetings for this event, they would be disturbingly similar to the band’s hilariously-bungled plan for a massive Stone Henge recreation in which a single typo leads to an undersized set of props. Bear with me, please:

I do not, for one, think the problem was protesters; I think the problem may have been holding an event in a distal mid-sized city with virtually no electoral or economic significance in the middle of multiple national crises!

Admittedly, as with most missteps in this administration, the clown act is usually either a cover for something more nefarious, or acts as an impetus for Beloved Leader to do something truly reprehensible. Only time will tell. On the other hand, we’ve made it through a Sunday and he hasn’t tear-gassed any clergy, so, that is a step in the right direction. I’m actually slightly-cheered by this weird turn of events, because it indicates that people just might value their lives and livelihoods more than empty political gestures. Which is not a even a first step toward building a more just, equitable society that actually values human life; it’s America quietly noting that the fiesta of rabid, cannibalistic capitalism and pseudo-fascism is about to end badly, and, as the cocaine starts coming out at this metaphorical party, America is checking for its coat and keys.

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Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

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