America First (policy)

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Logo of the America First Committee, a non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II

America First refers to a foreign policy in the United States that emphasizes American nationalism in international relations and that is often described as isolationist. It first gained prominence in the interwar period and was advocated by the America First Committee, a non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II.[1] Since 2016, a similarly named foreign policy that emphasizes similar objectives has been pursued by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.[2][3][4][5]

Original use[edit | edit source]

America First originally referred to the foreign policy advocated by the America First Committee, a non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II; it emphasized American nationalism in international relations and was isolationist. The America First Committee's membership peaked at 800,000 paying members in 450 chapters, and it popularized the slogan "America First."[1] 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."[6]

Later use[edit | edit source]

America First has sometimes been used as a slogan by some Republicans in later periods, notably by Pat Buchanan, who praised the America First Committee and said "the achievements of that organization are monumental."[7] Buchanan's "call for an America First foreign policy has been compared with the America First Committee."[8]

From 2016, the slogan has been used by Donald Trump, who has said that "'America First' will be the major and overriding theme" of his administration.[9][10]

In a Politico/Morning Consult poll released on January 25, 2017, 65% of Americans responded positively to President Trump's "America First" inaugural message, with 39% viewing the speech as poor.[11][12]

The slogan has been criticized by some for carrying comparisons to the America First Committee, an isolationist organization that lobbied the United States against entry into World War II.[13] Trump denies being an isolationist, and said, "I like the expression."[14] A number of scholars (such as Deborah Dash Moore), commentators (such as Bill Kristol) and Jewish organizations (such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs) criticized Trump's use of the slogan because of its historical association with nativism and antisemitism.[15]

In popular culture[edit | edit source]

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.[16] News satire television programs initially throughout Europe, and later from around the world, comically appealed to Trump to prevent their individual countries from being neglected by his isolationist policy, with a narrator employing a similar voice, speech patterns, and exaggerations to those of Trump himself.[17] 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?".[18]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Ruth Sarles, A Story of America First: The Men and Women who Opposed U.S.intervention in World War II, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003, ISBN 9780275975128
  2. "America First Foreign Policy". Whitehouse.gov. The White House. Retrieved January 26, 2017. 
  3. Shapiro, Ari (January 23, 2017). "As Trump Adopts 'America First' Policy, China's Global Role Could Change". National Public Radio. Retrieved January 26, 2017. 
  4. "The New Nationalism". The Economist. November 19, 2016. Retrieved January 26, 2017. 
  5. "Trump details 'America First' foreign plan". BBC World Service. April 28, 2016. Retrieved January 26, 2017. 
  6. Pat Buchanan (October 13, 2004). "The Resurrection of 'America First!'". The American Cause. Retrieved 2008-02-03 
  7. Michael Cox and Martin Durham, "The Politics of Anger: The Extreme Right in the United States" (p. 287), in Paul Hainsworth, ed., The Politics of the Extreme Right: From the Margins to the Mainstream, London/New York: Pinter, 2000, ISBN 1855674599
  8. DelReal, Jose A. (April 27, 2016). "Trump, pivoting to the general election, hones 'America First' foreign policy vision". Washington Post. Retrieved January 26, 2016. 
  9. 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. 
  10. Sherman, Jake (January 25, 2017). "Poll: Voters liked Trump’s ‘America first’ address". POLITICO. Retrieved January 26, 2017. 
  11. Savransky, Rebecca (January 25, 2017). "Majority of Americans approves of Trump's 'America First' message". The Hill. Retrieved January 26, 2017. 
  12. Elving, Ron (January 21, 2017). "Trump Vows Policy Vision Of 'America First,' Recalling Phrase's Controversial Past". NPR. Retrieved January 27, 2017. 
  13. Thomas, Louisa (July 24, 2016). "America First, for Charles Lindbergh and Donald Trump". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  14. Thomas, Louisa (July 24, 2016). "America First, for Charles Lindbergh and Donald Trump". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  15. Camila Domonoske (6 February 2017). "If America's No. 1, Who's No. 2? European Nations Compete For The, Uh, Honor". NPR. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  16. Hillary Busis (7 February 2017). "Meet the Men Trolling Trump in Those Viral European Videos". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  17. "Click this page. It's Huge. Like Donalds hands. It's the funniest website in the world! Believe us!". Every Second Counts. Neo Magazin Royale. Retrieved 8 February 2017. 

External links[edit | edit source]