The concept of America First embodies the American people’s aspirational goals to see policies that primarily benefit them, especially in an era when it feels as if they are being overshadowed by special-interest groups, corporate lobbyists and foreign agendas. It’s undoubtedly linked with President Donald Trump, but the question remains for the 2024 election: Can this idea thrive with someone else’s leadership?
Amongst many stops on his “American Freedom Tour,” Trump stepped back into Washington, DC, for the first time since he left office to deliver a speech Tuesday at the America First Policy Institute’s two-day summit. The group’s chief communications officer, Marc Lotter, exclaimed, “He’s still the leader of the America First movement.”
That may be true — but is Donald Trump still the best leader of such a movement?
Polling shows that GOP voters are becoming increasingly more open to choosing Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis over Trump as the 2024 nominee. DeSantis is also winning over independents like myself who see him as a more uniting force for our country than Trump.
Whether you are a hardened Trump supporter or not, you must understand that the man comes with polarizing negative traits that you’ll either begrudgingly swallow or become infuriated by.
We know he’s going to lean into conflict to the point of taking away from his valid accomplishments. We won’t be surprised when he grants an interview to an adversarial media network so he can lambast it for days on end when it inevitably misrepresents him or deceptively edits his statements.
There will be a point when we will all scratch our heads as he hires questionable people he saw on television like Anthony Scaramucci for prominent positions on his team and fingers inauthentic Republican candidates for elected office like the recent New Jersey resident Dr. Mehmet Oz for a Pennsylvania Senate seat.
As unfairly as the mainstream media and political establishment treated Trump, some of it was his own doing because his reflex is to ingest as much airtime as possible, leaving him exposed to constant political body shots. His demand for constant attention and his enthusiasm for rolling in the mud with his political foes during his presidency made him his own worst enemy.
America First’s aspirations were at times hindered by Trump placing himself first instead of the people he’s representing, rendering the action merely a momentary slogan.
Trump fought to expose the corrupt actors within Washington and became the voice of the American people who were tired of the Chinese Community Party getting favorable treatment in our economy while becoming the most anti-war president in my lifetime with his involvement in multiple peace deals and de-escalating our foreign conflicts.
None of these actions goes unnoticed by me, but I cannot overlook his flaws and how strongly people dislike him. President Joe Biden was able to win an election campaigning in his basement because the vote was a referendum on Trump, not enthusiasm for Biden.
Ron DeSantis, however, is Trump-esque without the Trump baggage of multiple impeachments and the events of Jan. 6, 2021. DeSantis is willing to address legitimate culture-war issues, not just with rhetoric but with legislative action. DeSantis’ rise to political prominence came from him putting the people in Florida first during the pandemic by implementing commonsense measures that minimized the economic and social impact on the state’s residents.
While Trump couldn’t — and can’t — wait to roll around in the mud, DeSantis stands on the outside of the mud pit with rain boots on. DeSantis is willing to battle the press when necessary but doesn’t seek the cameras and lets people within his administration, like his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, deal with the mainstream-media antagonists.
With his governing style and military experience, DeSantis has been placing America First for years without donning any sloganized merchandise. A proper America First movement means that America not only remains first in policy advocacy but must have a leader who doesn’t allow his or her ego or behavior to overshadow the progress of the people.
From where I stand, DeSantis is mostly measured, seemingly authentic and savvy enough to stay on message while picking his battles wisely.
Trump, on the other hand, is a political wrecking ball that was designed to wreck his opponents’ structure but occasionally wildly knocks down his own as well.
Adam B. Coleman is the author of “Black Victim to Black Victor” and founder of Wrong Speak Publishing.