“What a crowd! You are incredible people.”
If this phrase sounds familiar, it’s because President Donald Trump has used some iteration of it to kick off the 50-plus rallies he has held since winning the presidency. Dozens of these rallies were specifically intended to raise support for his re-election campaign. In opposition to every other president before him who filed at midterms or later, Trump filed the paperwork for his re-election campaign on January 20, 2017, the day he took office.
As a comparison, Barack Obama held 33 campaign events in the first two years of his first term (2009 and 2010), including rallies for Democratic politicians, fundraisers for the Democratic Party and Democratic party dinners. None of these events were to promote his re-election campaign. He didn’t file his paperwork until April 11, 2011, three years into his presidency.
Trump supporters claim that Trump’s unending stream of rallies is due to his comfort “rubbing shoulders with the people.” However, the real reason that Trump holds these rallies is to keep the spotlight shining constantly on him. Trump rarely interacts with his supporters at the rallies and instead uses them as a conduit for self-promotion. Trump purposely holds political rallies to fulfill his goals of bolstering his own reputation, spreading violent and insulting speech about political opponents and misleading his political base.
The Washington Post’s Fact Checker examined the contents of the Trump rally in Billings on Sept. 6 and discovered that the majority of Trump’s statements involved abuse toward the Democratic Party, self-promotional speech and deception regarding his administration. He called liberals “fools,” claimed that he could build the wall in a year and said that his proposed tax cut would be “the biggest tax cut in the history of our country.” 70 percent of Trump’s statements were determined to be “false, misleading, or unsupported by the evidence.” However, the cost of Trump’s rallies goes beyond a psychological toll to a material loss.
As a Republican president, Trump has repeatedly emphasized his focus on revitalizing the economy through conservative fiscal austerity. In particular, he promotes tax cuts for all Americans. However, his rally obsession has cost cities (and by extension taxpayers) tens of thousands of dollars. According to Business Insider, his rally in Phoenix cost the city $450,000 in enormous public security, transportation and public works expenses. A much smaller rally in Burlington, Vermont resulted in a cost of $8,500 in security and traffic control expenses. While the re-election campaign committee covers some of the costs for his rallies, taxpayers foot the bill for police and emergency services, traffic control, Secret Service and cleanup.
I understand that Trump wants to create a Congress united around his ideology with whom he can pursue his conservative agenda. I can appreciate the importance of promoting policies to a wide audience and drawing support. However, Trump’s position is not that of Rally-Master General. Instead, he is the President of the United States. His focus should be on leading the country, not stumping for Republican Party members and himself at every opportunity.
Trump’s rallies are unnecessary, expensive acts of showmanship that serve no vital political purpose. Actions speak louder than words, and Trump’s rallies are a loud and clear message that he values his ego over putting his policies into practice.