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6 Ways Trump’s July 4th Event Could Go Wrong

A pro-Trump rally in March 2017 drew several hundred people to the Mall. Photograph by Evy Mages

President Trump plans to deliver a national address at the Lincoln Memorial on July 4, in addition to overhauling Washington, DC’s annual Independence Day celebration in his image. The customary fireworks display over the Potomac will be moved to West Potomac Park, and he may add another stage of entertainment.

What could possibly go wrong? Let us count the ways.

Few people show up

This region is, to be charitable, not a hotbed of Trump support. By glomming on to our celebration of becoming an independent country, Trump is going to force area residents to decide whether they want to celebrate him, too. As we saw with the empty Metro cars and puny crowd on the Mall during his inauguration, that’s not exactly a priority around here. That puts a lot of pressure on Trump supporters to travel to DC, never a cheap proposition in off-peak months. And the first week of July is often the hottest, most miserable time of the year in DC. If not enough people decide to make the trip, it will be difficult to paper over their absence with paid actors.

Disagreement about crowd size

A corollary to the above: Remember Sean Spicer‘s debut as press secretary? Get ready for weeks of claims that this was the biggest July 4 ever, fact-checks, Twitter fights, people screaming at one another on TV, New York Times and Washington Post stories with dozens of sources speaking on background, and no one talking about anything actually important for a really long time.

Local reporters who get July 4 off have to cover this suddenly controversial celebration rather than hang out with family, neighbors, and friends

Okay, that’s perhaps a limited concern. But I really like the way I usually spend the Fourth!

Protests and counter-protests could go bad

At previous pro-Trump rallies around here, pro- and anti-Trump activists have shown up. Those people don’t tend to get along. Violence, vandalism, and arrests could ensue. Someone could burn a flag on TV and hand Trump a symbol of the left’s decadence. Someone else could punch a Nazi. They’ll all plant a rich field for the nation’s content farmers to work for weeks.

The Fourth of July becomes a referendum on the current President

This one worries me the most. Independence Day is about eating and drinking too much and possibly blowing off a digit with sketchy fireworks. Oh, and it’s also about the US breaking away from British rule. Trump would love nothing better than all of us talking about him instead. And dammit, he’s going to get that.

It’s a wild success

Trump stays on message, delivers a stirring speech about national unity, delights the Washington wise people who yearn for him to truly become President, lots of people attend, and those of us who predict this is going to be an utter disaster all have egg on our faces and get our naysaying headlines tweeted as us for months. That would suck!

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.