Friday, August 16, 2019

What did Trump do today?

He got defensive about crowd sizes... again.

Trump tweeted four times today about the crowd he drew at a New Hampshire rally. While he's always been obsessed with the number of people who turn out to see him, he hasn't always called this much attention to it. But a trending Twitter hashtag—#EmptySeatMAGATour—seems to have gotten under his skin. Posts with that hashtag mocked Trump for the obvious bare patches in the small arena. (Trump blamed fire codes—a trick he's tried in the past to explain away empty seats.) 

Even seats immediately behind Trump were empty. The nearly-empty sections near the top of the arena were cropped out of campaign photographs.

Crowd size has been even more on Trump's mind than usual lately—which is saying something for a man who hijacked his own first day in office to insist that his poorly attended inaugural had the biggest crowds ever. Last week, left with time on his hands at an El Paso hospital because no shooting victims were willing to speak to him, Trump bragged to hospital staff about the comparative size of his El Paso rally vs. one held by Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke. (He lied about the size of the crowd during his speech at that rally and blamed the fire department, which was forced to correct him.)

Another bit of Trump crowd-related news also broke today: that most of the people in the audience at a bizarre hybrid campaign rally/policy speech he gave this week in Pennsylvania were paid to be there. Union workers in the energy industry were given a choice between attending the Trump speech or going without pay for the day—but only if they promised to stay quiet and do nothing that might suggest they disagreed with Trump. 

It's hardly the first time Trump has relied on paid attendees at his rallies: many of the people at his 2015 campaign kickoff event were actors being paid $50 apiece to cheer for him.

Who cares?

  • It's not a big deal if a president doesn't fill every seat at a campaign event, but it is a big deal if he's still obsessing over it the next day.
  • If you have to pay people to applaud your speeches, there's a problem with what you're saying in your speeches.
  • Ideally the president is brave enough to speak in front of workers who *haven't* been threatened with losing their jobs if they show any "resistance."