Note to candidates (especially Donald Trump): Cancel your rallies!
After playing golf this past Saturday and Sunday and going to political rallies and fundraisers, have you considered that might not exactly sit well with a worried nation? You are the President of the United States — You should act like it.
And about wearing that red Keep America Great hat on your visit to the Center for Disease Control, rethink that. This is not a PR crisis, it’s a health crisis. It’s simply not a campaign event.
As for the general optics of large public rallies with thousands of people crammed into stadiums and standing cheek to jowl behind the candidates — regardless of party, it’s not good. I know political candidates love that visual of the cheering throng all lined up with their signs and colorful tee shirts, inches from each other, but really… Think about it. Meetings large and small — gatherings like South by Southwest and large trade shows — all have been canceled. People are scared to travel or go to church or to the mall. It seems tone deaf for candidates to continue to invite people into situations that could prove physically dangerous, even fatal.
Both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) canceled their election night rallies on Tuesday, after Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency and urged people not to hold large events. Biden announced that a rally scheduled for Thursday in Tampa would also be canceled and that he would give a speech on the coronavirus crisis.
But not Donald Trump. Instead, he announced — just hours after Biden and Sanders canceled their rallies — a “Catholics for Trump” rally in Milwaukee, Wis., on March 19.
What is it that Trump doesn’t understand? He apparently is planning to attend the Republican Jewish Congress in Las Vegas on Friday to speak at a political rally. Instead of working on the coronavirus crisis?
CNN reports that Rush Limbaugh has accused Democrats of wanting Trump to stop holding rallies “not because of public safety, not because of public health” but to hurt the president. And this guy was given the Medal of Freedom.
Democrats should take the lead in canceling big rallies and structuring different events that show their concern for the issues confronting the country. Putting together more controlled discussions with smaller groups, people who are not sick, who are not jammed together, would be smart.
This is now a matter of leadership and common sense.
Big boisterous rallies with cheering crowds aren’t conveying a helpful message. Candidates should carefully consider whether viewers and voters think such rallies at this point are smart or whether — as is more likely — that they reveal candidates and their advisors to be woefully out of touch.
Trump can’t seem to get out of the box that “everything is about him,” and he loves his rallies. But this one isn’t about him. It’s about the country, its safety and its future.
So, let’s get with the program and cease and desist.
Stop organizing huge public events that may prove dangerous to the lives of those who attend. Let’s show that this is about the people of this country, not about some political visual.
Peter Fenn is a long-time Democratic political strategist who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, was a top aide to Sen. Frank Church and was the first director of Democrats for the 80s, founded by Pamela Harriman. He also co-founded the Center for Responsive Politics/Open Secrets. Follow him on Twitter @peterhfenn.