The Washington, DC city council is having none of it. ‘Tanks, but no tanks’, it tweeted at Donald Trump. Trump may shy from actual warfare but he has arranged a military extravaganza masquerading as a July 4 ceremony. While there may be no ‘brand new Sherman tanks,’ as Trump promised — they were retired after the Korean War — the Pentagon is furiously trying to figure out if it can safely transport the 60-ton M1 Abrams tank over Memorial Bridge without collapsing it. A thunderstorm might also cause any tanks to sink into the ground of the National Mall. It would be awkward symbolism for the man who promised to drain the swamp.
Trump’s planned ‘Salute to America’ is really a prolonged salutation to himself for all the great things he has been doing to restore American greatness. Trump has even literally figured out how to capitalize on the event. The Trump Hotel has apparently doubled and tripled its rates and the Republican National Committee is handing out the tickets to high-value donors for a special cordoned off VIP area next to the Lincoln Memorial. Bill Clinton got into hot water for renting out the Lincoln bedroom for campaign donations, but he’s a piker next to Trump. Indeed, the RNC, which reports a record haul of $105 million for the second quarter of 2019, is riding high.
In converting July 4 into a commercial event, Trump is creating the ultimate fusion between capitalism and patriotism. The only thing absent from the event are corporate sponsorships and sky boxes for the plutocracy, while the hoi polloi watch and applaud from afar. As Andrew J. Bacevich has observed, Americans have embraced an ostentatious and pious militarism that would have been anathema to their forebears who fought to overthrow the trappings of monarchy. Now the deliquescence of the republic has taken more than a ceremonial step forward with Trump. Perhaps Trump, like the Roman emperor Commodus, will go on to declare himself a new Hercules and force a cowering Senate to recognize his divinity.