The Sordid History of Trump's "America First"

January 21, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


In his inaugural speech, Trump declared: “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.” He chanted “America first” at an inaugural ball. He has an “America First Energy Plan” and an “America First Foreign Policy” posted on, the official website of the president of the United States.

This past summer, Trump told the New York Times, “America First is a brand-new modern term.” But “America First” actually has a sordid history. In 1940-41, the America First Committee had more than 800,000 dues-paying members. The pro-Nazi group wanted the United States to stay out of the war in Europe, and its positions were riddled with anti-Semitism, nativism, racism, and xenophobia. Some of America’s most “upstanding citizens” were members: Gerald Ford (later to be president of the United States) and Potter Stewart (who went on to become a Supreme Court justice) were members, as were the publishers of the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News. The chairman of Sears Roebuck was a founder and the first president of the America First Committee. Charles Lindbergh, the aviation pioneer, was America First’s most prominent spokesman. He was one of the three or four biggest celebrities in the world—and a Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite.

Lindbergh visited Nazi Germany a number of times between 1936 and 1938. He later wrote glowingly: “The organized vitality of Germany was what most impressed me: the unceasing activity of the people, and the convinced dictatorial direction to create the new factories, airfields, and research laboratories.” He attended the 1936 Summer Olympics at the invitation of the high-ranking Nazi Field Marshal Hermann Goering, and in 1938 Goering presented Lindbergh, on behalf of Hitler, the Service Cross of the German Eagle for his contributions to aviation.

In a 1939 Reader’s Digest article, Lindbergh wrote: “[O]ur civilization depends on a Western wall of race and arms which can hold back... the infiltration of inferior blood.” In a 1940 speech, Lindbergh talked about America’s “Jewish Problem”: “Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.”

If you heard an echo of the Nazi “Deutschland über alles” (Germany above all) in Trump’s inauguration speech, you heard right. Trump has resurrected “America First” as a fascist rallying cry for a program of unrestrained chauvinism backed up by a beefed-up military aimed at those he deems his enemies.


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