America First vs. America Last? Ukraine Splits GOP Between America First And Neoconservatives

republicans ukraine
Crenshaw: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) Gage Skidmore 12/21/19 Hawley: YouTube Screen Shot-Senator Josh Hawley

While Democrats struggle to put together a coherent message about what they stand for prior to the midterm election, Republicans are dealing with an internal rift of their own.

Foreign policy has been a flashpoint since the emergence of Donald Trump as a force in the GOP – particularly his policy of America First.

The Hill, not exactly a conservative outlet, disingenuously frames the rift in the GOP as being between America First and “Reagan” factions – but the latter really means the Bush-era neoconservatives. (For interested readers, the hawkish neoconservatives accused Reagan in similar ways they would later accuse Donald Trump.)

Nevertheless, the split is definitely real. The Hill wonders what it means if the GOP takes Congress in the midterms.

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Could Effect 2024 Election

Republicans and Democrats alike are waiting to see if Donald Trump will enter the 2024 presidential race. If so, a Trump candidacy will give America First Republicans in Congress a bigger voice.

For those who are obsessed with foreign military adventures, the outcome of the midterms is largely irrelevant. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) is on the House Intelligence and House Foreign Affairs Committees. He told The Hill, “If freedom is under assault by dictatorship and we don’t back up freedom, then what message does that send?”

Immediately following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, U.S. support was high. But many Americans don’t want to get into another protracted war halfway around the world – the lessons of Vietnam apparently haven’t been learned, if Afghanistan is any indication.

And as that midterm election nears, there are many more pressing issues at home.

Sen. James Risch (R-ID) invoked Reagan’s name to support unlimited war halfway across the world:

“I would say to those that criticize, do you really want to do this? Ronald Reagan would be deeply disappointed. He’d hang his head in shame if he knew that we walked away from Ukrainians when we could help them and we have the ability to help them.” 

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The “No” Votes On Aid Package

Currently, “no” votes for unending aid to Ukraine seem to be in the minority. Back in May, 57 House Republicans voted no on a $40 billion aid package. Included in the “nay” votes were Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

In the Senate, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) was one of only 11 Senators to vote the package down. A recent Morning Consult poll showed that Greene, Gaetz, and Hawley are not alone.

The poll showed that GOP support for aid to Ukraine had dropped by half since the first month after the invasion began from 40% to 20%. The sentiment among GOP voters is that 37% feel that, “the right amount” is happening, 30% said the U.S. is doing “too much.”

[totalpoll id=”256819″]

America First Republicans may also have help coming in the form of some 2022 candidates. Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance pointed out Ukraine’s less-than-democratic history, calling it a “corrupt nation run by oligarchs” – something that was regularly featured by U.S. media until recently. (Google “Ukraine corruption” and have fun.)

He added that it is “insulting and strategically stupid to devote billions of resources to Ukraine while ignoring the problems in our own country.”

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Support Has Been Waning For A While

Back in June, President Joe Biden announced another $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine. Even then, as support in the U.S. was still relatively high, as well as in the U.K. and many eastern European nations, some were beginning to perhaps see where things were headed.

French President Emmanuel Macron stated at the time that at some point, Russia and Ukraine would have to sit down at the negotiation table. Germany and Italy also expressed desire to see a cease-fire and peace talks.

Along with those in the GOP who feel America should fund Ukraine in perpetuity, Hollywood also stepped up to raise money. 

The idea was for average Americans, the ones living paycheck-to-paycheck, and not sure if they will be able to fill up the car and buy food, to donate money. No word on when the Hollywood telethon for those same average Americans will air.

If there is a GOP fracture brewing, the midterm election may decide who comes out on top.

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