Donald Trump’s Bronx Rally Is More About Ego Than Votes

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Donald Trump’s Bronx Rally Is More About Ego Than Votes

There are political reasons for Donald Trump to hold a campaign rally in the Bronx. Some are even plausible. Polls have shown that his general election opponent, current president Joe Biden, is struggling to assemble support from voters of color, an essential part of Biden’s winning 2020 coalition. So appearing on Thursday night in the borough’s Crotona Park, a neighborhood with a predominantly Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Black population, allows Trump to highlight a Biden weakness and advertise himself as an alternative—though his actual audience is very much elsewhere. Four years ago, Biden won this county by about 68% of the vote, and Trump has no real hope of winning the Bronx, much less New York state, this time around.

Still, the fact that the rally will happen within easy reach of America’s densest concentration of reporters should generate cheap and wide coverage for Trump (yes, including this story). The Bronx rally is the latest and largest in a series of local Trump stunts. My favorite so far was the ex-president’s motorcade rolling up to a midtown Manhattan firehouse so Trump could wave to the cameras and redeliver a pair of (cold) pizzas delivered by his staff a half hour earlier. Trump has also visited a Harlem bodega where, two years ago, a clerk fatally stabbed a customer who jumped over the store counter and shoved him. Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, ultimately dropped second-degree murder charges after concluding that the clerk could have been acting in self-defense.

Trump brings pizzas to a fire station in midtown, May 2, 2024.By Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times/Redux.

In the Bronx, Trump will no doubt again claim (incorrectly) that life in the city is like “living in hell,” rhetoric that may play well with the white suburban voters Trump is trying to attract. But it angers Ritchie Torres, the Democrat who represents New York’s 15th Congressional District, which covers most of the South Bronx, and he calls Trump an “enemy” of the borough. “Gun violence in a place like the Bronx is not an inevitability—it’s a policy choice that has been thrust upon the lowest-income communities by dangerous demagogues like Donald Trump. He has given us a far-right Supreme Court that has struck down gun safety laws here in New York state, further flooding us with firearms,” Torres says. “His catastrophic mismanagement of the pandemic was deadly—a toll of more than 7,000 people in the Bronx. We in the Bronx have a responsibility to expose Trump for the fraud that he is.”

It has been more than eight years since Trump held a campaign rally in the city; his last one anywhere in the state was in Buffalo in 2016. He became a legal resident of Florida in 2019, fleeing his hometown in search of “respect.” The only reason Trump has been back in New York for most of the past month is because Bragg has forced him to stand trial on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. But because the alleged crimes, which Trump has denied, flowed from his long-ago alleged sexual encounter with porn actress Stormy Daniels, the parade of witnesses has been a fascinating trip back to the heyday of the city’s tabloid media culture—and a reminder of the ’80s and ’90s era when Trump enjoyed a relatively benign celebrity in which he could command the front page of the New York Post because Marla Maples supposedly claimed he’d given her the “Best Sex I Ever Had.” Perhaps that’s what Trump dreams about when he closes his eyes and appears to sleep in the courtroom: “Ah, the good old days, when there was gossip about who I slept with!”

Together with the Cannes Film Festival debut of The Apprentice, which traces Trump’s 1970s public rise under the tutelage of sinister lawyer Roy Cohn, the trial has sometimes seemed like a retrospective glimpse of Trump’s New York glory days. Yet his gaudy prominence and sometimes popularity in city life feels like ancient history. Yes, the city has pockets of Trump fans, and he has a certain antihero following. But the vast majority of Democratic-dominated New York vehemently disdains Trump, and he has been on a losing streak in its legal system, with writer E. Jean Carroll winning an $88.3 million defamation lawsuit and state attorney general Letitia James landing a $454 million fraud judgment. And next week, the jury in Trump’s hush money trial could deliver the first criminal conviction of a former president.

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