I Love a Parade

U.S. Army tanks pass Eisenhower’s reviewing stand during the Inaugural parade. Jan 21, 1957. (Everett Collection Historical / Alamy Stock Photo)

After his Bastille Day visit last year with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Trump left with a new idea: to stage an American military parade after the French model. Having seen French military forces march and fly down the Champs-Élysées, Trump thought U.S. troops could stage such a spectacle too. Only bigger.

​This response to the French national celebration was typical Trump. Pundits at home and abroad have had a hard time putting their collective finger on exactly what it is that makes this new president’s political sensibility so distinctive. I know what it is: his understanding of America does not boil down to a formula or a phrase, and it cannot be captured in a creed or a pledge. It is, rather, visceral.

​He campaigned for America’s highest office partly on a promise to push Congress into funding dramatic improvements to America’s airports, roads, bridges, and ports. Why? Because it does not seem right to him that the great American public works should seem so ratty in comparison to those of, say, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, or the United Kingdom. What to do? How about a $1 trillion program of building or rebuilding such facilities?

​How unsophisticated! the cognoscenti sneered. Where did he get the figure $1 trillion, anyway? It seemed arbitrary. Random. Unrealistic. Definitely not the product of an approved Conservatism Inc.™ think tank.

Kind of like former Navy secretary John Lehman’s 1980s goal of building a 600-ship navy. Not 597 ships. Not 602 ships. Why 600, exactly? Because it was a nice, round number and made for a catchy slogan. Because it was a clear political marker. Because if Congress had been left to devise the plan, something unrelated to the nation’s needs—and likely far less substantial—would have been the result. Yet, somehow, the conservative talking heads of the day were on board with that.

​Other major Trump pledges were similarly visceral. It seemed wrong to the president that Americans consume so many products manufactured overseas. Why? It just did. The response to the reality was visceral. Voters shared this feeling. If America was a great nation, it should be the kind of manufacturing colossus it once was. So, he promised it would be. It was just right. The same went for putting coal miners back to work. Why? American coal miners ought to be mining coal.

​Scott Adams noticed the evident brilliance of Trump’s constant references to out-of-work coal miners as “our miners.” He saw marketing genius in that. Maybe so. On the other hand, it’s just possible that Trump is authentic in this way, and that many Americans share many of his sensibilities.

​Many Europeans, and Americans too, responded to the parade idea with derision, even revulsion. Not Macron, but Kim Jong-un or Leonid Brezhnev came to their minds. What kind of bent leader would propose a show of military might? Dwight D. Eisenhower, for one: the parade at his first inauguration ceremonies included 22,000 military personnel, including a cannon capable of firing a nuclear weapon. The parade at his second included troops, rockets, and tanks.
Scour the media, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find reference to Ike. There’s a reason for that: this fellow Trump just repels the Left, in America and abroad. Polite people don’t discuss such things as the president emphasizes in the faculty lounge or at the boarding school class reunion. Pride in the military! God forbid their kids should join the Army. Hillary Clinton would not have held a military parade.

​No, the kind of people who like that kind of thing are the same kind who disproportionately join the military, wave the flag, and want their country to have borders. They are the ones who would never dream of taking a knee for the National Anthem. They are also the same kind of people who tend to vote in midterm elections—and who voted for Donald Trump.

​Parades are a regular part of military life. Civilians do not see much of that, however. In 2018, a small and declining share of the American population has military experience, and so a grand military parade would be novel for them. The last that come to mind followed victory in the Gulf War. I know: I attended the Chicago parade in which General Colin Powell participated.

​There were also grand military parades after the Spanish-American War and the Civil War. They were patriotic occasions akin to fireworks displays. Hearing the Usual Suspects criticize the idea of a military parade makes me find the idea increasingly attractive. Something in all of us just loves a parade.

About Kevin R. C. Gutzman

Kevin R. C. Gutzman, JD, PhD, is author of five books, including most recently Thomas Jefferson—Revolutionary: A Radical's Struggle to Remake America (St. Martin's Press, 2017).

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36 responses to “I Love a Parade”

  1. It is easy enough to understand. For the left history began this morning at 12:01 am. Nothing proceeds it and it will be erased promptly at midnight once again.

    Schumer 2014 for a parade. Schumer in 2018 against a parade.
    Schumer 2103 for a wall. Schumer in 2018 against a wall.
    Pelosi $40 a paycheck = huge sum. Pelosi $1,000+ = crumbs.

    Democrat slogan—It’s a new day, everyday.

    • Why waste time on vapid posts like that? You must have nothing better to do. I wasted 8 seconds reading it.

      • I take your 8 seconds and happily flush them down the toilet. I read your post on how poorly you feel the US Armed Services do in wartime. It is evident you studied only politically correct history.

      • I did flush them down the toilet. That’s exactly where your words go in light of what they are. Actually I studied real history. You know, the stuff that happened. Sadly there are many in our country who mythologize things. Dangerous. Make people believe BS. Kind of like Trump’s primary modus operandi.

      • BCML–Boys Currying Man Love, Got it. Do come back when you have something to add to the conversation.

      • Good one, you must be into the been a bit earlier than usual. But do you really need to get vulgar? Aren’t homophobe jokes the sign of a backward mind? So thirty years ago Its the 21st century Evvy baby, get out of the 1950s. If that’s your real name you must have been wailed on as a kid. Were you?

    • Let’s not forget that on the matter of immigration, in 1995 President
      Bill Clinton’s State of the Union Address sounded very much like that
      of President Donald Trump in 2018. Then, Democrats applauded
      those same words, but these days they sit on their hands…


    • You poor butt-hurt Trumpanzee! Here’s a hairy banana, with nuts!

      • I see you had your 12:01 a.m. reset there Don. You might try writing yourself a note on today’s happenings. That way you can compare them to your new marching orders tomorrow. So much fun waking up in a new world everyday, isn’t it?

  2. If it would somehow deter enemies, do it. The Democrats could have a float or two to celebrate their own heroes like John Kerry, Jane Fonda, assorted Weatherpeople, Black Panthers, Antifa, MS-13, etc.

    • Can’t wait to see Jane in combat fatigues manning an NVA anti-aircraft battery.

    • It doesn’t deter anyone. We have not won anything since WWII, and even then it was a winning coalition – not the good ole USA – that defeated the Axis. We fought to a stalemate in Korea, got our assed kicked in Viet Nam, got whipped at the Bay of Pigs, and we are losing in Afghanistan. Iraq, on a good day, is a disaster. But we did manage to subdue Grenada. We don’t scare anyone and if you think we would win a major confrontation with China you are gravely mistaken. The good news, their leadership is too smart to start a was with us; the bad news is that ours is not.

  3. It would be nice for our new replacements to see what America looks like. Lets do it.

  4. I really like the air shows, but could they please put mufflers on those noisy jets?

  5. A colossally stupid idea. This kind of dick-swinging is why we are generally detested around the world. Americans may think we can go it alone, but that is wildly incorrect. We need allies and right now that list is shrinking fast. we should be setting a totally different type of example. The author thinks Trump’s visceral hunches are something special. They are – he is perennially wrong. He has make a screw up of his own life and his financial success is a total hoax. He has failed in enough businesses to make the Business Screw Up Hall of Fame. Trump is a train wreck and if he think something is a good idea….RUN. And America down not need to pi$$ off anyone else.

  6. Bill Clinton said what the Left thinks, that he “loathed the military”. Of course the Left does not want to celebrate our military, they loathe it, and America itself.

  7. As one of many who had to actually stand in military parades in full gear and HOT weather, well, let’s just say a 20 year old might have better ideas how to spend the time. However, me thinks the president, while liking pageantry, would be doing this to show his appreciation for the troops. I am fine with it.

  8. As a kid growing up in New York City I remember going to the Veteran’s Day parade every year in Brooklyn. What a great military spectacle that was.

    • unfortunately half of the country would rather watch the Emmys, Grammys, Globes and all the rest of that crap!! Only 1% of Americans are brave enough to join the military Which is why it needs to be celebrated!

      • You mean suckers enough to join!! In my day we had a draft, and everyone except spoiled rich kids (with bone spurs) went!

      • Did your Oboma serve? Did he ever have a real job? Did he respect our milatary or police? F**K NO!! A loser like you!!!

    • Vets are free to parade, but they must pay for it themselves!

  9. Hitler loved parades! Stalin loved parades! Trump would love to be as powerful as either of them!! He’s throw half of America into concentration camps, is he only had the power!! And the Trumpanzees would help him!!

    • Lighten up. Everybody loves a parade. 3.5 million people turn out to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and another 50 million watch on TV.
      But, sure, they’re all just like Hitler and Stalin.

  10. If the White House is going to stage a parade to honor the nation’s armed forces, it should be on Armed Forces Day, the day Congress designated as the day to honor the military but which few Americans even know exists. It should NOT be on Veterans Day or the Fourth of July. It should be on the day its supposed to be on.

  11. Face it.
    Half the country loves the America that once was; the other half hates it.
    An exaggeration? How else could a First Lady Elect say only at that moment did she begin to have pride in her country?
    One of the things the former half loves is America’s military; the latter half despises it.
    What kind of parade does Trump have in mind?
    Take a look at two parade clips in Episode 25 “Reckoning” of “The World at War”, starting at time 00:35:45. Watch both clips, the first with Ike in DC, then some comments by Stephen Ambrose, then a second in NYC and another with George Patton, probably in Los Angeles.
    Want to make the hateful half froth at the mouth?
    Have them listen to Olivier’s narration over the parades in “Reckoning”:
    Americans come home to a country untouched by bombs or shells
    A country twice as rich as when the war began
    More food than it can eat
    More clothes than it can wear
    More steel than it can use
    The only country in the world with money to spare
    The country with the atom bomb

  12. USA!
    Back to back World War Champs!

    I was proud to march in formation in those parades.
    Our drill instructors would have several squadrons compete for the best synchronization.
    I remember how much they emphasized hydrating plenty before marching, and can still remember the sound of some poor guy passing out and hitting the pavement face first.

  13. Trump can have his parade as along a the money for it comes from the veteran’s disability payments! Yep, let the vets pay for their saber rattling!!