President Trump’s penchant for cryptofascist rhetoric and his authoritarian instincts continue to grow more pronounced as he becomes more comfortable in his role as commander-in-chief. Now, he wants to take his dictator fetishization to new levels.
The New York Times reports that White House and Pentagon officials have been ordered to plan “a grand military parade” for the president’s edification. Two sources told The Times that Trump met with top generals last month at the Pentagon, where they began to draw up the plans.
The meeting was also attended by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, himself a former military general, is said to be involved with the ongoing plans. The discussions were supposed to remain confidential, but the sources leaked the plans to the The Times.
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“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France. This is being worked at the highest levels of the military,” a military official told The Times anonymously.
Trump previously voiced his admiration for the military parade to celebrate Bastille Day he witnessed during his trip to France. In reality, it seems more likely that Trump just wants to roleplay his junta fantasies. While he’s voiced his desire for such an event in the past, this is the first indication that it’s actually being put in motion. The entire story evokes images of North Korea’s infamous shows of military force.
Reportedly, Trump plans to tie the parade to a patriotic holiday like Memorial or Veterans Day, but make no mistake: whichever holiday is chosen is simply a pretext for Trump to flex his military might. Bastille Day celebrates a historic event, Trump’s parade would simply celebrate his ego.
The officials are unsure how exactly the parade would be paid for, but the officials say getting the tanks and military equipment necessary could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The tanks themselves could destroy the asphalt of the D.C. streets, further complicating planning.
Trump would like the parade to process down Pennsylvania Avenue, between the White House and Capitol Hill. The Times notes that such a route would mean it would pass by Trump International Hotel, a “coincidence” that I’m sure hasn’t escaped the president’s notice.
Granted, it’s possible that Trump simply wants to play with the military like a child with toy army men, but one can’t help but see this development in the larger campaign of destabilization he’s been waging against our country’s democratic institutions.
He’s taken to calling Democrats “treasonous.” He’s declared a propaganda war against the FBI. He’s refused to sign sanctions on Russia despite Congress voting overwhelmingly in favor of them. He’s conjured an enemy out of thin air with his narrative about a “Deep State” arrayed against him, a trick used by would-be authoritarians throughout history. The parade fits into this pattern.
Strong military aesthetic displays are one of the cornerstones of fascist regimes. They distract with base jingoism to keep people from focusing on the eroding foundations of the country. While it’s important we don’t jump to the most extreme, alarmist assumptions, we must stay vigilant. Democracies don’t fall overnight, but they do fall.