Posted on April 24, 2021

White Nationalist Language of America First Caucus Sets off New Alarms on Racism

Savannah Behrmann and Phillip M. Bailey, USA Today, April 22, 2021

Calling for respect of the county’s “uniquely Anglo-Saxon traditions.” Saying the nation’s infrastructure should express the “progeny of European architecture.” Decrying the influence of domestic and international “globalist” forces.

The language used in the would-be Republican congressional America First Caucus’s platform has alarmed many lawmakers and civil rights advocates who say its white nationalist message shows the growing clout of extremism in the right wing of the Republican Party.

Reports of the new faction in Congress first broke last Friday, when Punchbowl News shared a seven-page document outlining the group’s call to continue former President Donald Trump’s agenda.

“It is the firm belief of this caucus that American policy-making needs to get back to first principles, restore a long-term time horizon amongst our nation’s leaders, and instill a greatly internalized sense of service to the American people on part of our elected leaders,” the document said.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., acknowledged her office held “staff-level” discussions about the document and last weekend praised America First principles as a way to save the country from “self-destruction.”

But after GOP leaders distanced themselves from the document’s white nationalist themes, Greene backpedaled, telling USA TODAY on Monday that she was “not interested in another caucus.”

The platform defines the United States as a country with “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions,” setting off alarms.

“There’s nothing that’s innocuous about saying this is a country based on European heritage because we know historically the contributions of people from a lot of different backgrounds have built the United States,” said Carolyn Holmes, a political science professor at Mississippi State University.

Marilyn Mayo, a senior researcher at the Anti-Defamation League, said the combination of the caucus’s platform and its association with lawmakers who’ve been embroiled in controversies over race since taking office are a troubling signal.

“To say you want to promote Anglo-Saxon values already indicates a certain kind of ideology, and that certainly is a dog whistle to white supremacy and white nationalism,” she said.


But some scholars said Greene’s ascendance and the emergence of the America First document were part of a backlash against the social justice movement that parallels the resistance in the 1950s and ’60s to the civil rights movement.

“I would describe Marjorie Taylor Greene and her cohorts as ideological reactionaries,” said Marvin King, a professor of political science at the University of Mississippi.

“The more threatened they feel, the more they will lash out at people who, to them, are purveyors of progressivism because they feel like they are the last gasp effort at saving, quote unquote, their way of life.”


Greene has dismissed the idea that Black Americans face discrimination.

“Guess what? Slavery is over,” she said. “Black people have equal rights.” She has called the progressive billionaire activist George Soros, who is Jewish, a “Nazi.”

Greene has also attacked the Black Lives Matter, calling it a “radical Marxist group” and “domestic terrorists.”

Mayo, who studies far-right extremism in the U.S. and Europe, said she took note of how the America First document at least four times mentions “globalist” forces influencing U.S. policy at home and abroad.

The term can often have a multiple meanings across various conspiracies, she said, and is often used as a wink and a nod to those who hold anti-Semitic views.


The caucus’s platform says members will follow “Trump’s footsteps” on a number of policy fronts, and much of it reads like the former president’s wish list.


But where the document is most inflammatory, critics say, is the section on immigration, the issue that launched Trump to the presidency. The document warns of how “societal trust and political unity” are threatened when immigrants are “imported en-masse into a country” without being properly assimilated.

The U.S., the document says, has long been “strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group in the fifth century most commonly associated with early adoption of Christianity, and who inhabited modern-day England after migrating to the island from the North Sea coastlands of mainland Europe.

Holmes said those sections are an overt appeal to a doctrine known as “Great Replacement Theory,” which plays on anxiety among white Americans about the country’s demographic shifts.


In another section, for instance, dealing with infrastructure, the document says the United States should work toward building an aesthetic value that “befits the progeny of European architecture.”


“One of the common themes is that it’s whites who built up this country, as well as Europe, that they created a great culture, amazing architecture and this idea of a multicultural society takes away from that,” Mayo said.


House GOP members this week dismissed reporters’ questions about the America First Caucus.

But the plan drew swift commendation from Democrats.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, told reporters Tuesday that he was “very disturbed” by the America First Caucus.

“The GOP base is becoming more and more nativist, more white supremacist in its character,” he continued, and urged GOP leaders to reject it “out of hand.”

“There’s no place for that kind of rhetoric in the United States Congress,” Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock, of Georgia, told USA TODAY on Monday.


Republican leadership appeared to tweet about the issue over the weekend but did not name Greene or the caucus.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted: “America is built on the idea that we are all created equal and success is earned through honest, hard work. It isn’t built on identity, race, or religion.”


Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the No. 3-ranking Republican in the House, echoed that sentiment, saying, “Republicans believe in equal opportunity, freedom, and justice for all. We teach our children the values of tolerance, decency and moral courage.”

“Racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism are evil. History teaches we all have an obligation to confront & reject such malicious hate.”

Cheney went a step further on Tuesday, telling reporters that she has been “very clear to the extent of which the America First Caucus as they proposed it; any form of nativism or racism or anti-Semitism, those things are evil.”

“Whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, (we) have an obligation every day to do as much as possible. So I think when you look at the attack on Jan. 6 and you look at the symbols of anti-Semitism and racism that were part of the attack, we have a particular obligation to make clear at all times that we’re the party of Lincoln and that’s what we believe in and that’s what we stand for.

“That’s got to be very clear, and we’ve got to be willing, as Americans, to call that out,” she said, and continued that McCarthy has also been “very, very clear in condemning immediately the America First Caucus proposal.”


Marci McCarthy, chairwoman of the Republican Party in DeKalb County, Georgia, said she initially was alarmed with the document’s excerpt about Anglo-Saxon traditions when reports first surfaced.


But during a telephone interview Monday, McCarthy defended the America First Caucus document and Greene, saying the freshmen member is a lightning rod for national liberals, much like Trump is.


She said that after reading the entire set of principles, she found nothing racist or offensive about the caucus or its goals. {snip}