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America First refers to a foreign policy in the United States that emphasizes American nationalism and unilateralism. 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, an identically-named foreign policy that emphasizes similar objectives has been pursued by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.[2][3][4][5]



"America First" has been used as a slogan by both Democratic and Republican politicians. At the outbreak of WWI, President Woodrow Wilson used the motto to define his version of neutrality as well as journalist William Randolph Hearst.[6] The motto was also chosen by President Harding during the 1920 election.[7]

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."[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."[8]

In later periods, the slogan was used by Pat Buchanan, who praised the non-interventionist WW2 America First Committee and said "the achievements of that organization are monumental."[9] Buchanan's "call for an America First foreign policy has been compared with the America First Committee."[10]

History under President TrumpEdit

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

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.[11][12] 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;[13] following his election to the Presidency, America First has become the official foreign policy doctrine of the Trump Administration.[2] 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.[14] 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.[15]

The slogan has been criticized by some for carrying comparisons to the America First Committee;[16] however, Trump denied being an isolationist, and said, "I like the expression."[17] 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]

Others have said that Trump is not a non-interventionist and never has been.[19][20] 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."[21] Indeed, aspects of his foreign policy, such as that concerning the European Union, suggest that he is willing to use interventionist tactics where he feels this supports his interests. Examples include building alliances with far-right conservatives in Germany to undermine the government and by extension the EU,[22] and both economic and politically-based critiques and policies aimed at undermining the European Union.[23]

In popular cultureEdit

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]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ a b "America First Foreign Policy". 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. ^ Rauchway, Eric (2016-05-06). "How 'America First' Got Its Nationalistic Edge". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  7. ^ Mikelbank, Peter (2018-03-25). "Sex Scandals and 'America First': Warren G. Harding Was Donald Trump 1.0". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Pat Buchanan (October 13, 2004). "The Resurrection of 'America First!'". The American Cause. Retrieved 2008-02-03
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ "The Long History Behind Donald Trump's 'America First' Foreign Policy". Time. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  12. ^ "Transcript: Donald Trump Expounds on His Foreign Policy Views". Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  13. ^ DelReal, Jose A. (April 27, 2016). "Trump, pivoting to the general election, hones 'America First' foreign policy vision". Washington Post. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
    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. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Trump's budget proposal truly puts America first". The Hill. May 24, 2017. Archived from the original on 2018-03-13. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  16. ^ Elving, Ron (January 21, 2017). "Trump Vows Policy Vision Of 'America First,' Recalling Phrase's Controversial Past". NPR. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  17. ^ Thomas, Louisa (July 24, 2016). "America First, for Charles Lindbergh and Donald Trump". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
  18. ^ Thomas, Louisa (July 24, 2016). "America First, for Charles Lindbergh and Donald Trump". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
    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.
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  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Hillary Busis (7 February 2017). "Meet the Men Trolling Trump in Those Viral European Videos". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 7 February 2017.
  26. ^ Boyer, Lauren (January 25, 2017). "Dutch TV Show Trolls Donald Trump For 'America First' Message". U.S. News & World Report.
  27. ^ "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.
  28. ^ Purdom, Clayton (6 February 2017). "Trump's "America first" slogan parodied as other countries vie to be second". AV Club.