America First (policy)

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America First refers to a foreign policy stance in the United States that generally emphasizes American nationalism, unilateralism, protectionism, and isolationism.[1] It first gained prominence in the interwar period (1918-1939) and was advocated by the America First Committee, a non-interventionist pressure group against the U.S. entry into World War II.[2] Since 2016, an identically-named campaign slogan and foreign policy that emphasizes similar objectives has been pursued by the administration of US President Donald Trump.[3][4][5][6]

Origins[edit]

"America First" has been used as a slogan by both Democratic and Republican politicians. At the outbreak of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson used the motto to define his version of neutrality as well as journalist William Randolph Hearst.[7] The motto was also chosen by Republican Senator Warren G. Harding during the 1920 presidential election, which he won.[8]

America First is best known as the slogan and foreign policy advocated by the America First Committee, a non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II, which emphasized American nationalism and unilateralism in international relations. The America First Committee's membership peaked at 800,000 paying members in 450 chapters, and it popularized the slogan "America First."[2] While the America First Committee had a variety of supporters in the United States, "the movement was marred by anti-Semitic and pro-fascist rhetoric."[9]

In later periods, the slogan was used by Pat Buchanan, who praised the non-interventionist WWII America First Committee and said "the achievements of that organization are monumental."[10] Buchanan's "call for an America First foreign policy has been compared with the America First Committee."[11]

History under President Trump[edit]

"President Trump's Six Months of America First", a video released from the White House.

Donald Trump first embraced the slogan in response to a suggestion and historical comparison by David E. Sanger during a New York Times interview in March 2016.[12][13] In later months, without referencing Pat Buchanan's prior usage or the AFC, Trump said that "'America First' will be the major and overriding theme" of his administration during his campaign for president, and advocated nationalist, anti-interventionist positions;[14][13] following his election to the presidency, America First has become the official foreign policy doctrine of the Trump Administration.[3] It was a theme of Trump's inaugural address, and a Politico/Morning Consult poll released on January 25, 2017 stated that 65% of Americans responded positively to President Trump's "America First" inaugural message, with 39% viewing the speech as poor.[15] In 2017, the Administration proposed a federal budget for 2018 with both Make America Great Again and America First in its title, with the latter referencing its increases to military, homeland security, and veteran spending, cuts to spending that goes towards foreign countries, and 10-year objective of achieving a balanced budget.[16]

The slogan has been criticized by some for carrying comparisons to the America First Committee;[17] however, Trump denied being an isolationist, and said, "I like the expression."[18] A number of scholars (such as Deborah Dash Moore), commentators (such as Bill Kristol) and Jewish organizations (including the ADL and JCPA) criticized Trump's use of the slogan because of its historical association with nativism and antisemitism.[18][19]

Others have said that Trump is not a non-interventionist and never has been.[20][21] Columnist Daniel Larison from The American Conservative writes that "Trump was quick to denounce previous wars as disasters, but his complaint about these wars was that the U.S. wasn't 'getting' anything tangible from them. He didn't see anything wrong in attacking other countries, but lamented that the U.S. didn't 'take' their resources" and that "he never called for an end to the wars that were still ongoing, but talked only about 'winning' them."[22] Trump has made both economic and politically-based critiques and policies aimed at undermining the European Union.[23]

In popular culture[edit]

The policy and its phrasing became a subject of international satire through the Every Second Counts video contest inspired by Dutch comedian Arjen Lubach and launched by German comedian Jan Böhmermann following Trump's inauguration.[24] News satire television programs initially throughout Europe, and later from around the world, comically appealed to Trump to acknowledge their own countries in light of Trump's nationalist slogan, with a narrator employing a similar voice, speech patterns, and exaggerations to those of Trump himself.[25][26] Lubach's initial version, for example, ended by noting that "We totally understand it's going to be America first, but can we just say: The Netherlands second?".[27][28]

In Spike Lee's film BlacKkKlansman (2018), David Duke and white supremacists are portrayed as repeatedly using the "America First" slogan.[29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Olson, Lynne (2013). Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941. Random House Publishing Group. p. 220, 227,234,242, 243. ISBN 978-0-679-60471-6. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  2. ^ a b Sarles, Ruth (2003). Kauffman, Bill (ed.). A Story of America First: The Men and Women Who Opposed U.S. Intervention in World War II. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-275-97512-8.[page needed]
  3. ^ a b "America First Foreign Policy". whitehouse.gov. The White House. Archived from the original on 2017-02-24. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  4. ^ Shapiro, Ari; Daly, Robert (January 23, 2017). "As Trump Adopts 'America First' Policy, China's Global Role Could Change". NPR. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  5. ^ "The new nationalism - Trump's world". The Economist. November 19, 2016. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  6. ^ "US election 2016: Trump details 'America First' foreign plan". BBC News. April 28, 2016. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  7. ^ Rauchway, Eric (May 6, 2016). "How 'America First' Got Its Nationalistic Edge". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  8. ^ Mikelbank, Peter (March 24, 2018). "Sex Scandals and 'America First': Warren G. Harding Was Donald Trump 1.0". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  9. ^ Bennett, Brian (January 20, 2017). "'America First,' a phrase with a loaded anti-Semitic and isolationist history". Los Angeles Times. While the America First Committee attracted a wide array of support, the movement was marred by anti-Semitic and pro-fascist rhetoric.
    Dunn, Susan (April 28, 2016). "Trump's 'America First' has ugly echoes from U.S. history". CNN. Seeking to brand itself as a mainstream organization, America First struggled with the problem of the anti-Semitism of some of its leaders and many of its members.
    Powers, Richard Gid (1995). Not Without Honor: The History of American Anticommunism. Free Press. p. 167. ISBN 0-684-82427-2. The America First Committee and Norman Thomas's group tried to maintain their distance from anti-Semites and fascists, but the lunatic fringe of countersubversives was drawn irresistibly to them, wild for the possibility of become part of a powerful mainstream political movement. Gerald L. K. Smith, Elizabeth Dilling, Gerald B. Winrod, William Dudley Pelley, Charles Coughlin, Laura Ingalls, and all of the country's other notorious anti-Semitic anticommunist crackpots joyously raised the temperature of the debate by attacking defense preparations as Jewish inspired and Communist directed.
  10. ^ Buchanan, Patrick J. (October 13, 2004). "The Resurrection of 'America First!'". The American Cause. Retrieved 2008-02-03
  11. ^ Cox, Michael; Durham, Martin (2000). "The Politics of Anger: The Extreme Right in the United States". In Hainsworth, Paul (ed.). The Politics of the Extreme Right: From the Margins to the Mainstream. London/New York: Pinter. p. 287. ISBN 1-85567-459-9.
  12. ^ Rothman, Lily (March 28, 2016). "The Long History Behind Donald Trump's 'America First' Foreign Policy". Time. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  13. ^ a b Haberman, Maggie; Sanger, David E.; Trump, Donald (March 26, 2016). "Transcript: Donald Trump Expounds on His Foreign Policy Views". The New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  14. ^ DelReal, Jose A. (April 27, 2016). "Trump, pivoting to the general election, hones 'America First' foreign policy vision". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  15. ^ Sherman, Jake (January 25, 2017). "Poll: Voters liked Trump's 'America first' address". Politico. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
    Savransky, Rebecca (January 25, 2017). "Majority of Americans approves of Trump's 'America First' message". The Hill. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  16. ^ Andrade, Juan Pablo (May 24, 2017). "Trump's budget proposal truly puts America first". The Hill. Archived from the original on 2018-03-13. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  17. ^ Elving, Ron (January 21, 2017). "Trump Vows Policy Vision Of 'America First,' Recalling Phrase's Controversial Past". NPR. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  18. ^ a b Thomas, Louisa (July 24, 2016). "America First, for Charles Lindbergh and Donald Trump". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  19. ^ Calamur, Krishnadev (January 21, 2017). "A Short History of 'America First'". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
    Nathan-Kazis, Josh (January 20, 2017). "Trump's 'America First' Leaves Jewish Groups Hesitant". The Forward. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  20. ^ Richman, Sheldon (March 31, 2017). "Trump Never was a Noninterventionist". CounterPunch. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  21. ^ Krayewski, Ed (March 31, 2016). "Donald Trump is No Non-Interventionist". Reason. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  22. ^ Larison, Daniel (August 23, 2017). "Trump the Hawk". The American Conservative. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  23. ^ Borger, Julian (February 10, 2017). "EU foreign policy chief tells Trump not to interfere in Europe's politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  24. ^ Domonoske, Camila (February 6, 2017). "If America's No. 1, Who's No. 2? European Nations Compete For The, Uh, Honor". NPR. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  25. ^ Busis, Hillary (February 7, 2017). "Meet the Men Trolling Trump in Those Viral European Videos". Vanity Fair. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  26. ^ Boyer, Lauren (January 25, 2017). "Dutch TV Show Trolls Donald Trump For 'America First' Message". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  27. ^ "Click this page. It's Huge. Like Donalds hands. It's the funniest website in the world! Believe us!". Every Second Counts. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  28. ^ Purdom, Clayton (February 6, 2017). "Trump's "America first" slogan parodied as other countries vie to be second". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  29. ^ "Cannes cheers Spike Lee's raging rebuke of Trump America". Agence France-Presse. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 2019-11-27 – via France 24.