Instead, I will focus on the remarkable idiocy of staging a large indoor public gathering in Tulsa just now.
So, from a strict public health perspective, the selection of Tulsa is a terrible decision. So why the choice? Yes, Tulsa is an extremely conservative city with wonderful cheeseburgers and a deluxe golf course, as well as a city where he has found enthusiastic support at past rallies, but this is true of many cities in the South. Is the choice really just another manifestation of Brutalist politics?
As a native Oklahoman, I have a theory: Oral Roberts. Oral Roberts and the hazy world of faith healing. I know this topic quite well. As a kid, on Sunday mornings, my brothers and I used to watch Oral Roberts on television. Our Hebrew Sunday School started at 10 a.m., so we killed time in the early hours watching the faith healing shows till it was time to go listen to the rabbi.
Importantly, this was before Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker and the other preachers with high production values crowded out the field. The Oral Roberts shows then were grainy and uncertain with a jittery camera and fluctuating sound that made them strangely sincere.
Watching, my brothers and I felt confusion and awe, wondering if they were kidding or if they were actors or if they were insane or if they maybe were being cured — I mean it seemed so convincing in its own way. Rows of people looking up, believing and eager and happy despite (or because of) the scene’s basic lack of credibility. They shrieked and clapped as Oral Roberts’ touch and prayer healed person after person.
Which brings us to now and the Trump rallies. For me, the most unsettling feature as he gloats and preens his hour upon the stage is the hypnotic connection between him and his crowd. Because these are the very faces I saw on my Sunday morning TV — those of people who are witnessing an incredible miracle.
Tulsa therefore is the perfect place for the President to resume his campaign. Not only does he get a groveling crowd and a chance to cruelly wink at the city’s racist past but because he is guaranteed something he can’t find any place else: an arena full of people raised on the exhilarating lunacy of a giant tent revival.