Donald Trump’s slogan of “America First” when it comes to matters of trade and national security got renewed focus on Tuesday when the presumptive Republican nominee tweeted simply, “AMERICA FIRST!” However, that slogan has a long, controversial history.
The slogan first came to prominence in 1940 with the America First Committee. The America First Committee was an isolationist political advocacy group that led the fight against the United States entering World War II. The group boasted 800,000 members, including prominent celebrities like Charles Lindbergh, as it tried to steer public opinion away from another war. However, the group was dogged by charges of anti-Semitism as members of the group alleged that Jews were trying to drag America into war.
“Instead of agitating for war the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way, for they will be among the first to feel its consequences. Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastation. A few farsighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention,” Lindbergh told a crowd in Des Moines, Iowa.
“But the majority still do not. Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government.”
At the time, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “The voice is the voice of Lindbergh, but the words are the words of Hitler.”
The committee instead advocated for peace with Nazi Germany, even as Lindbergh noted that “No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution the Jewish race suffered in Germany.”
In 1984, a new America Party would form, but this one was known for white supremacy. The America First Party was also known as the Populist Party and nominated presidential nominees in 1984, 1988, and 1992. In 1984, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke was the party’s nominee. In 1988, white supremacist Bo Gritz was the party’s nominee. Gritz gained national notoriety in 1992 when he helped white supremacist Randy Weaver negotiate with federal agents, who were chasing him on gun charges.
later, the name came back with the America First Party which was founded by former Reform Party members who had supported Pat Buchanan. The party was known for its opposition to the 16th Amendment, immigration, and international aid. Among its supporters was former John Birch Society president John McManus and in 2003, Gritz was scheduled to speak at the party convention before the convention was cancelled. The party then said in a statement, “Anyone who supports theories that we hoped had died with Adolph Hitler is not welcome in the America First Party.”
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.