Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
The latest slogan co-opted by Donald Trump gained its place in American history six years before the Republican presidential candidate was born.
“America First,” the stated theme of his muddled foreign policy speech Wednesday, prompted some to remember the America First Committee formed in 1940.
For its brief existence, the committee opposed aid to the allies in World War II even as Britain faced attack from Nazi Germany. Committee leaders included the politically controversial aviator Charles Lindbergh and such others as Gen. Robert E. Wood and Sen. Gerald P. Nye.
Early on, the organization claimed 800,000 members, but it disbanded after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Some later derided its program as right-wing isolationism, but the committee included such leftists as pacifist minister Norman Thomas and progressive historian Charles Beard.
Sympathizers saw it as a morally inspired, anti-war effort, born in the wake of World War I when many people wondered what the nation gained for its hundreds of thousands of casualties in Europe.
How its history may fit today with Trump’s verbal swaggering is anyone’s guess.
Just the same, Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” was also lifted from another time and context.
In 1979, Ronald Reagan’s campaign first declared “Let’s Make America Great Again.” He won the White House the following year amid an economic downturn and the final chapters of the Cold War.