Washington, D.C.’s Fourth of July celebrations have played out roughly the same way for decades.
This year, though, the longstanding security, logistics, and crowd management practices on the National Mall are being recrafted in the image of President Donald Trump. The nation’s birthday party won’t be a first-come first-serve egalitarian gawp in 2019. It’ll have tiered, ticketed entry, some form of militaristic performance art, and a speech by the divisive and twitchy current occupant of the country’s highest political office.
Trump’s plans include cordoning off a special “VIP” area stretching from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to halfway down the length of the Reflecting Pool. The velvet-rope ethos is an essential part of the gaudy, ostentatious luxury image Trump long ago made into his own personal brand. But it’s alien to D.C.’s fireworks night, which has traditionally been a partisanship-free occasion.
Nobody seems to know exactly what to expect, according to the Washington Post’s reporting.
“The ongoing shifts to what had been established security and crowd-control protocols have left officials in the District and some federal agencies confused about logistics as basic as what Metro stops and roads might be open or closed, and for what period, and how many fireworks displays will launch,” the paper reported Friday.
Trump famously promised to “drain the swamp” once he got to D.C. Instead, he’s empowered a series of cabinet officials who used taxpayer money to travel in luxury on official trips and triggered wave upon wave of ethics investigations.
The real people who live and work in this city, meanwhile, will have one of their old reliable diversions swallowed by the Trump circus. The administration’s under-explained changes to the Independence Day fireworks show include the complete closure of one major commuter bridge between the District and Virginia, a temporary shut-down of air traffic into and out of the city’s nearest airport, and still-unspecified military hardware displays.
Trump has openly craved a high-pomp military parade in D.C. since the early months of his presidency, with multiple outlets reporting that he became stuck on the idea after attending a Bastille Day parade in Paris his first summer in office. Such demonstrations are not common in the United States, and Trump’s critics have worried he wants to wield martial imagery in a fashion more commonly associated with totalitarian countries than in open, democratic societies.
Trump’s taste for the lavish hasn’t just inconvenienced people who live near the city he’s borrowing. It’s also shrunk the actual, tangible resources that city has available to do things for people. The extra security measures required on Thursday by Trump’s decision to inject himself into the festivities will reportedly force the city to dip into its emergency fund.
That new debt will go onto a pretty long tab Trump has already run up for similar grandiosities. D.C.’s government still has not been reimbursed for a $7 million debt incurred by Trump’s approach to his inaugural weekend festivities in 2017, the Post reported recently.
Though Trump has branded the politicized, militarized version of the national fireworks display as a “Salute to America,” the way he talks about the plans indicates its about gratifying his own ego.
“Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!” he tweeted in February.