When the United States marks its national Fourth of July celebrations on Thursday, it will be doing one big thing differently than in years past.
U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered a parade of American military equipment to be brought through Washington, D.C., prompting critics to accuse him of “glorifying military might” and politicizing a day that normally sees a smaller-scale parade in the capital focused on people instead of machines.
He also plans to make a speech, something past presidents have also done.
But given Trump’s history of highly partisan and inflammatory rhetoric, there are concerns such a speech by Trump will break from tradition and be out of sync with both the unifying nature of past presidential speeches on the holiday as well as the purpose of it altogether.
“The Fourth of July is one of those holidays that we’ve always held dear as a moment for us all to celebrate what it is that makes us American, everything that unites us,” said Sarah Goldfeder, a principal with Earnscliffe and a former American diplomat.
“Everyone does, to some extent, use it as an opportunity to point out their patriotism and their love for America but I think because he’s so uniquely divisive, the use of the Lincoln Memorial — holding it off for Republican donors, very distinctly saying you’re welcome and you’re not — is very un-American.”
WATCH BELOW: Tanks, military vehicles arrive in DC ahead of Trump’s 4th of July celebrations
Trump is scheduled to make a speech at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday, but as the Washington Post has reported, top Republican donors are getting VIP tickets to that event at a national public memorial.
The event, which is estimated to cost millions of dollars, also comes amid a growing humanitarian crisis at migrant detention camps along the southern U.S. border. As the Associated Press reported last week, an investigation of those camps by a group of lawyers found systemic neglect of the children in their care, while Human Rights Watch has deemed the lack of clean water, soap and other necessities as “unconscionable conditions.”
Goldfeder said all of those considerations are top of mind in the criticisms of the parade.
“That’s really the crux of it. It’s not about the parade so much, it’s not about any of that. If it was done in the spirit of uniting the country, people might feel differently about it, but I think it’s because at the core of it, it’s about an us-and-them thing — and that’s exactly what the Fourth of July is not about,” she said.
“This is a great opportunity for a lot of Americans to point out, why aren’t we spending money on taking care of these families, taking care of these people and making sure they have drinking water and aren’t in cages?
“So there’s also this sense of, ‘is this really want our money to go?'”
Trump has billed the parade as a “Salute to America.”
Two M1A1 Abrams tanks and a number of other armoured vehicles are expected to take part, along with a flyover by Air Force One and the Marine One Presidential VH-92 helicopter.
Some 900 members of the DC National Guard are also reportedly being brought in to take part — roughly triple the number usually called up — and reports say Trump has asked senior military leaders to be there as well.
Trump floated the idea of doing a parade in 2018 after expressing admiration for the Bastille Day military parade marking France’s national holiday in 2017.
The estimated price tag soon raised eyebrows, though, with initial reports suggesting it could be done for about $10 million then later revising the projections to $92 million, a cost then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis dismissed as inaccurate.
WATCH BELOW: Thousands celebrate July 4th at Washington, D.C. parade
No official cost has been provided for the 2019 parade, but it’s possible the impacts could be higher than the actual cost of just organizing the parade itself, given that the Federal Aviation Authority will be shutting down Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport for security of the planned flyovers.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, meanwhile, who is the Democratic mayor of the district, accused Trump of “glorifying military might” with the parade.
She stressed that past events have been bipartisan with a focus on national unity, and expressed concern that would not be the case with Trump’s parade.
Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republic National Committee, also criticized the planned parade as being “not a ‘Salute to America’ but a salute to Trump.”
While parades have been held in the capital previously, they tend to be smaller with a greater emphasis placed on local parades, Goldfeder said.
“It’s about our towns and our cities and our communities,” she said. “It’s not about Washington, D.C.”
— With files from the Associated Press.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.