In embracing “America First’’ as his guiding foreign policy philosophy, Donald Trump appropriated — spontaneously, it seems — one of the most denigrated political slogans of the last century, and one that evokes an isolationism Trump himself explicitly rejects.
“It’s a rotten term that evokes the naive idiots, defeatists and pro-Nazis who wanted to appease Hitler and make friends with him’’ before World War II, says Susan Dunn, author of 1940: F.D.R., Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler — The Election Amid the Storm. That said, she doesn’t think the old phrase means much today.
Trump’s use of an expression so dated and discredited reflects his willingness to dip into the past for catch phrases that, no matter their historical baggage, can still appeal to voters.
During the Republican presidential campaign, Trump also has claimed to speak for “the silent majority,’’ a term coined in 1969 by Richard Nixon’s administration, and adopted Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign theme, “Make America great again.’’
Trump’s rhetoric, though derivative, is effective, says Jennifer Wingard, an expert on the subject who teaches at the University of Houston.
An expression like “America First” sounds vaguely and reassuringly familiar, even if (or maybe because) “you can’t quite place it or know why you know it,’’ she says.
Plus, “it has an emotional resonance, especially if you feel you’ve lost a job because of foreign competition: ‘I’m an American. I come first.’’’Read the rest of this op-ed HERE.
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