Day 2, 1460 more days to go
The phrase “America First” that Trump is using to describe his approach strikes me as non-sensical on the face of it, but deeply troubling from a historical perspective. Every president has put America’s interests first; even some of our larger mistakes, such as escalating the Vietnam War, were driven by ideas of protecting America’s interests above all others. Of course different people, including presidents, can define America’s interests in a wide variety of ways. Winning a chapter in the Cold War (or trying to, anyway) was one way of defining it. Providing health care for all would be another way of defining it, and one that strikes me as both more attainable and more desirable. Trump is selling his vision of putting America first as taking care of the white working- and middle-class voters who put him in office, who are worried about terrorism, immigration, and “bringing back factory jobs.” He may reduce immigration, but I doubt he will succeed at the other two. The other connotations of his “America First” vision, however, are very dangerous.
He also sees “America First” as requiring him to fundamentally change our relationships with nations across the world. But America First has a past, it was an isolationist movement in the early stages of World War II determined to keep the United States out of the war. Let Germany do as it wanted in Europe, do not try to help Great Britain, the ocean will protect us. His modern version seems to be let Russia do as it wants in Europe, encourage England in isolating itself from the European Union, and talk tough about China. That the new president is espousing a policy that exactly fits what Russia’s dictatorial leader would like to see us do – leave him alone in Europe and reduce our support for Europe, and pit ourselves against China – doesn’t show he is Putin’s puppet, but it doesn’t show anything good. We won’t know what he really means until we see our government’s actions after Russia’s next act of aggression, and how it responds to China, who will probably greet his idiotic outreach to Taiwan with provocative behavior requiring Trump to either look weak or do something stupid. America’s interests always come first for the government, as they should, but defining them in these terms means not caring about violence or aggression elsewhere in the world, not making any effort to protect people or nations being attacked or slaughtered, not supporting alliances that promote stability and peace, and not standing up to bullies. People sometimes compare Trump to Hitler, which may not be as silly as the comparisons of Obama to Hitler were but are still not justified (so far anyway), no matter how appalling Trump’s behavior has been to this point. His version of “America First” doesn’t make him Hitler. It just says Trump will let any far-off wannabe Hitlers do as they like.