The authoritarian nationalist leader usually writes the nation's history in his own image. Our own authoritarian nationalist is particularly dedicated to this fusion of national mythology and self-hagiography, often presented in his unique language of stark, colorful spectacle.
Historians tell us that authoritarian nationalists do this. As Jill Lepore of Harvard puts it, they replace history with well-tried fictions ̵
This is what we will see in one form or another on the fourth of July, regardless of what President Donald Trump says in his planned Independence Day speech from the Lincoln Memorial. The mere adoption of the method in the way he imagined, creates this feat.
New details appear about Trump's plans. The Washington Post reports that the National Park Service is now diverting millions of dollars previously earmarked for improving parks across the country to finance Trump's celebration at the National Mall from the Air Force One fleet, which is located right in the moment hovers above us, in the Trump enters the stage. Tanks will participate in the exhibition.
Finally, the White House distributes tickets for the event to GOP donors and political commissioners. Passports are distributed by the Republican National Committee and by Trump's reelection.
As many critics have emphasized, Trump has inevitably turned the celebration into a campaigning event by politicizing the Fourth of July. It remains to be seen if he will explicitly do so in his speech, but either way the conversion has already been done implicitly.
It is the fusion of this fact with the particular depiction Trump makes that makes it so ugly. The demonstration of military power, Trump's association with himself, and the impudent conversion of a pawn into the nation's founding into a reelection event-all this is more than the sum of its parts.
The Bold Boldness of Usurpation is itself the point. The fact that Democrats and Liberals are outraged increases this point even more.
Many have interpreted this moment as another sign that Trump does not care about the idea of America. Never Trumper Tim Miller has a good argument that Trump in many ways rejects the ideas of freedom, equality, and self-government that form the core of Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence.
Instead, Miller remarks, "It's all false branding, not history," an exercise that "exchanges freedom and self-government for the possession of libs and self-aggrandizement."
All this is true. But at the core of Trump's celebration, there will indeed be a vision of America – or at least of American size, and more of its imaginary restoration of that greatness. Because you can not unravel Trump's vision of these two things from his statements to the strength of our military.
Trump campaigned for the wrong story of America in steep decline. He embellished this story with endless lies and demagogy about immigrants and how international engagement supposedly led to foreign leaders "laughing" and "humiliating" us. At the center of this story was the constant denial that our military was "exhausted", the ultimate symbol of this national decline.
Trump's claim to rebuild the military is also a basis for his revived American greatness story – and his own authorship of it. He withdrew from the Iran agreement – international diplomacy had produced a "weak" solution – and will now force Iranian surrender by threatening unilateral "erasure" demonstrating military might – as evidence of his own imaginary role in " Restore "the size of the USA.
But the whole story that told Trump about the American decline is wrong and leads to epic political catastrophes. The crazy worldview that underpins his lies about immigrants is leading to a terrible humanitarian disaster. Anti-globalization rhetoric, though containing kernels of truth, has in practice produced a combination of endless brod-and-circus puzzles against foreign elites and destructive trade wars.
Meanwhile, Trump has turned away from international engagement in practice meant a real embrace of the authoritarian nationalism of a strong man and thus a real departure from the ideals of liberal democracy. Just this week, Trump agreed with the statement of Russian leader Vladimir Putin that "the liberal idea has failed" and joked with him about getting rid of journalists. Trump has freed the Saudi royal family from any role in dismantling Jamal Khashoggi.
As Jonathan Chait suggests in the New York Journal, Trump may not know why he hates liberal democracy – only that he realizes that it is so incompatible with the value he places on rule and hierarchy.
It may also be that Trump did not think much about the Declaration of Independence or about what Abraham Lincoln – whose monument is Trump's stage – about Thomas Jefferson's words in a letter from 1859:
"All credit Jefferson – the man who in the concrete pressures of a struggle for national independence by a single people had the coolness, prognosis and ability to introduce into a merely revolutionary document An abstract truth that applies to all people and for all times and to them there, today and in all the coming days, it will be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the harbingers of a resurgent tyranny and oppression. " This" abstract truth "of Jefferson became at that time an afterthought in the midst of the immediate political Grievances of the moment viewed. But that's what's in it, and it's a big reason why we're celebrating the fourth of July.
However, no one has a monopoly on the meaning of America and its history. That's a big reason why we're celebrating the fourth of July.
Trump will be reading some of his own words about Jefferson and Lincoln written for him to give the impression that he understands these things. But the celebration itself will reveal that he does not do much.
Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line's blog. After working at Talking Points Memo, New York Magazine and the New York Observer, he moved to The Post in 2010.