The Orange in Chief, continues to use a phrase with questionable historic significance, “America First.” He has used it in terms of national security, business and economics, and multiple times both on the campaign trail and while in office. For people of the modern age -and maybe even for Trump at his advanced age of 71- the phrase seems innocuous at first, maybe one part oblivious and one part obnoxious American, but standard enough. The problem is that it is not. The slogan, “America First,” has had a long and problematic history, and to many in our great grandparent’s generation it would have sounded like a dog whistle going off in the dead of night. Let us explain…
The First America First Committee
The America First Committee may sound like a club that promotes making sure the United States is always listed as America, in online forms, because they are sick of scrolling all the way down to the U’s… but its not. The AFC was founded in 1940 and featured several high profile members, including: Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and future US Supreme Court Justice and Boy-Who-Lived, Potter Stewart. Moreover, the committee hosted prominent politicians, businessmen, and celebrities in over 450 chapters across the USA. Some of its funding came from members dues, but the bulk came from private investors such as the German-born manufacturer, William H. Regency, the founders of Sears-Roebuck, and the Chicago Tribune. Now all of this sounds well and good except for one small issue…
The America First Committee was… well… they were kind of pro-Germany, or at the very least Anti-Roosevelt. In public they believed that America should:
A) Not Get Involved in World War II;
B) Stop Sending Supplies to England and France; and
C) Close and Defend the American Border Against Everybody… especially Jews.
Yeah… Now, to be fair it is not like the America First Committee set policy on Jewish refugees leading up to the Second World War, and 83% of Americans at the time were against accepting refugees. However, Charles Lindbergh, the group’s most visible personality, gave a series of a lectures and rallies with the intent of keeping America from helping the British beat back the Nazi’s. On September 11, 1941 -less than 3 months before Pearl Harbor- Lindbergh gave a speech in Illinois that suggested the Jewish communities advocating for the war were Un-American. He continued saying that Jewish “ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government” was the “greatest danger” to America. The speech got labeled as anti-Semitic, and Lindbergh himself was labeled as “Pro-Nazi,” which may not have been entirely untrue.
You see Charles Lindbergh was very beloved in Nazi Germany, as he was an international aviation hero, and it didn’t hurt that he was blonde, blue-eyed. and white. The Nazi’s even let him get a sneak peek at their state-of-the-art air force, the Luftwaffe, but in fairness Lindbergh did report what he saw to the US government. Unfortunately, he also showed a great admiration for Germany and the white race in general. He once said, “We can have peace and security only so long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood, only so long as we guard ourselves against attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races.” Even after America entered the war FDR was convinced the Lindbergh was a Nazi and personally barred him from serving in the war, and Old Lindy wasn’t alone on that list.
Avery Brundage, the former chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and prominent member of the AFC was notoriously anti-Semitic. He had even prevented two Jewish American runners from participating in the Berlin Olympics. Aviator, Laura Ingalls, another public face of the AFC, was arrested by the FBI about a week after the Pearl Harbor attack, and convicted of being a Nazi agent. Henry Ford was similarly problematic. His anti-Semitic views were a matter of public record. He wrote a book titled, “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.” It was a bestseller in Nazi Germany. He hated immigrants, but especially Jews. He blamed Jewish bankers for everything from the Great War to the Great Depression. He was also uncomfortably pro-Nazi. The Ford subsidiaries in Germany were very profitable and Ford had a great love for German efficiency and manufacturing. Ford was even mentioned in Mein Kampf and received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle from Nazi officials in 1938. It was the highest honor given to any foreigner and represented Adolf Hitler’s personal admiration. Even after war broke out in Europe, Ford kept his relationship with Germany alive and kept his factories there running, even after they stopped making cars and started making tanks and bombs. It is also almost certain that Ford was aware in one fashion or another that his German factories were being worked by Jewish slaves.
Realistically, the America First Committee may not have been a publicly Anti-Jewish/Pro-Nazi organization, but a lot of its more prominent members definitely were.
Make America First Again
Though, we are aware that Donald Trump is not a student of history… or science… or grammar… or business… or really anything useful, someone around him probably is. There should have been someone there to tell him about the uncomfortable correlations between racism, Nazism, and “America First,” and yet he still continues to use the phrase. Of course, the real problem is that there are people around him who get the connections, and who like them. Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, are given a lot of credit for reviving this particular slogan, and we would bet dollars to racist-donuts at least one of them is aware of history… Not that Donald Trump is no stranger to discrimination first policies, himself.
In 1973, Donald Trump and his father were accused of violating the Fair Housing Act, by discriminating against minority renters. The case was quietly settled in 1975, without the Trumps having to admit any wrongdoing. However in 1978, the Department of Justice renewed their case against the Trumps for housing discrimination, saying that they violated their agreement. The Donald was also accused of the same thing in 1983 by the New York Times, and was penalized in 1992 for removing an African American dealer in one of his casinos at the request of a wealthy client. In 1989, Donald Trump bought full newspaper advertisements, advocating the death penalty for the New York Five, five minority boys who were accused of killing a jogger in Central Park. They were found innocent thanks to DNA evidence. He insulted Native Americans in a Congressional hearing in 1993, and in 2000 he funded a series of anti-Native American advertisements that included images of syringes and cocaine. In 2011, he started the “Birtherism” movement, a campaign to discredit President Obama’s citizenship and Presidency. And this was all before he was a candidate and called Mexicans “rapists,” insinuated a defense of people rallying at a Nazi/KKK rally, tried to ban entry by Muslims into the country -on two separate occasions- and all the rest of his unending list of racial injustices, discriminations, and all the insults he has hurled at minorities and others since he rode down that golden escalator…. but he likes people from Norway.
It is also worth noting that Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was arrested at a KKK rally in 1927. So maybe, the America First apple doesn’t fall too far from the AFC tree. Regardless, of whether or not Trump understands the racial undertones of his America First slogan, he certainly embodies them, both in office and as a private citizen. In fact, with his rhetoric and his isolationist and racial policies we would say he takes the dream of AFC one step farther. At least the America First Committee had enough good sense to publicly cut ties with their more anti-Semitic members -and that one woman who turned out to be an actual Nazi spy- but Donald Trump is both public and proud of his Tweeted policies. So regardless of whatever dimwitted defense his son tries to come up with, we all need to be very clear on thing: Donald Trump is a racist.