He’s a Yankee Doodle Donald

I see that our president is proposing some modest changes in Washington’s traditional Independence Day celebration — changes that just might make the day more about him.

There will still be fireworks — the traditional kind, moved from the Mall to the Potomac, and the nontraditional kind in the form of an address from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by our pyrotechnist-in-chief, Donald J. Trump.  

The plan, announced May 9, was teased this past February when Trump tweeted his fellow citizens to “HOLD THE DATE!”  (July 4) for “one of the biggest gatherings” in the history of Washington, featuring a “Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!” The day has been marked in Washington by a major fireworks display and entertainment for nearly a century, but live addresses by presidents, the favorite ones or otherwise, have been nonexistent.  

President Lincoln addressed a joint session of Congress in writing, as was the custom, on July 4, 1861, to seek ratification for the wartime actions he was forced to take when Southern states left the Union, but most presidents have observed the holiday recreationally, often while on vacation, according to records kept by the National Park Service and other sources. There have been presidential speeches around the country, ceremonies at military cemeteries, receptions, picnics and golf but the official Washington Fourth has been appealingly nonpartisan.  


The Trump plan is somewhat reminiscent of the other presidential takeover of the Fourth in 1970, at another divisive period in our history.   The usual Washington celebration was renamed Honor America Day by Richard Nixon and came on the heels of the invasion of Cambodia and the deaths of four anti-Vietnam War student protesters at the hands of National Guardsmen at Kent State in May.

Nixon chose the conservative cause’s leading clergyman and comedian, Billy Graham and Bob Hope, to be the hosts and wisely decided to deliver his speech from his summer home in California.

Billed, like Trump’s party, as “the biggest celebration in American history,” Honor America Day attracted tens of thousands of Nixon loyalists and a smaller, but no less vociferous, contingent of hippies and left-wing protesters who engaged in a swim-in in the Mall’s reflecting pool and a “marijuana smoke-in” of red, white and blue joints appropriate to the season. The pot aroma was quickly overcome as tear gas filled the air and, as a reporter wrote, “To the final strains of the anthem, there was a mass stampede of weeping hippies and middle Americans away from the fumes.”

But Nixon survived it all and in 1972, two years before the Watergate eruption, he was triumphantly elected to a second term, carrying 49 of the 50 states.

And that may be exactly what Trump has in mind. If he does make a Lincoln Memorial address this Independence Day, it will serve as a dress rehearsal for the big one on July 4, 2020, which just happens to be nine days before the Democratic Party convenes to nominate its candidate for president.  

Nothing could be finer for the incumbent, whose renomination will take place a month later, than a violent protest by all those socialists, illegals, drug smugglers, gang members and rapists on the occasion of his salute to the nation’s independence.

And don’t think the Democrats’ nut wing is incapable of doing just as the president wishes. July 4, 2020, will arrive at the peak of the presidential election year and after what will then seem like an eternity of nasty campaigning, because that’s exactly what it will have been.

Trump could, of course, elect to be statesmanlike, the type of president we used to elect, and give us two consecutive Fourths of solemn, scripted addresses — the kind he occasionally delivers on special occasions, and sounds as if they were news to him as he reads.

But can you imagine Trump resisting turning the occasion into a Trump for President rally, like the ones with all the high school name calling he’s been holding for nearly three years?

It would be irresistible, especially nine days before the Democrats nominate his opponent and a month before the Republicans renominate Yankee Doodle Donald, unless, of course, challenger William Weld catches fire.  (Just kidding.) 


Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.