Eric Burlison and Mike Moon, candidates for Missouri's 7th U.S. Congressional seat, spoke at a luncheon meeting of the Greene County Republican Women’s Club in Springfield on Monday, July 12, 2022. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

“America First” was a term coined by President Woodrow Wilson during his 1916 reelection campaign, promoting a non-interventionist strategy in World War I.

One hundred years later, it was Donald Trump who arguably re-popularized the phrase. On the campaign trail, in foreign policy and national security, Trump sought to put what he considered the interests of America, first. 

To some, “America First” means more than simply non-interventionism, but contains elements of isolationism and nationalism. From withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, to the ‘Buy American and Hire American’ executive order, and COVID-19 vaccine export restrictions, the ideology takes on many forms. 

We asked the frontrunners in Missouri’s 7th Congressional District Republican primary about their take on several issues in an earlier story by the Daily Citizen. Now, let’s see what America First means to candidates Eric Burlison, Mike Moon and Jay Wasson, one of whom will likely win the Republican nomination for the district, and likely be Southwest Missouri’s next representative in Washington, D.C.

Burlison, who’s earned Ted Cruz’s endorsement, wants to preserve American dominance

Eric Burlison, a candidate for Missouri’s 7th U.S. Congressional seat, at a luncheon meeting of the Greene County Republican Women’s Club in Springfield on Monday, July 12, 2022. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Burlison said that we have to keep the values of self governance in place because our rights are not derived from the government. He suggested we’ve moved toward “brain-dead” and “zombie” ideas — where people envy others’ lives and seek to take their resources and tell them how to live their life. 

“If we lose freedom here, this is the last place on earth,” Burlison said. “Other nations don’t have it so good as we have it here in America. So the first thing we need to do is make sure that we keep America strong, we secure our borders, we maintain military might and strength — that’s the first and foremost things America needs to focus on.”

Additionally, Burlison thinks America shouldn’t be building infrastructure in other countries or selling oil reserves to other nations, but instead “we should be harvesting and mining every resource we possibly can” to ensure self-sufficiency and strength. 

“If we’re going to take taxpayer money and spend it, it should be in America,” Burlison said.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz joined Burlison at a campaign event put on by the Truth and Courage PAC at Ocean Zen in Springfield last weekend before joining Trump and other guest speakers at an America First Policy Institute summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. 

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz spoke at an event put on by the Truth and Courage PAC in support of Eric Burlison. (Photo by Jack McGee)

Cruz came to Springfield to show his support via endorsements to Republican primary nominees Eric Schmitt, who’s running for U.S. Senate, and Burlison. 

“The eyes of the country are on the state of Missouri,” Cruz said. “And Missouri is blessed to have not just one, but two fantastic candidates for House and Senate… If you want a strong and a real conservative in the House of Representatives, the choice is Eric Burlison.”  

Cruz accused Washington party bosses of running ads that Burlison is against law enforcement because Burlison and the Missouri General Assembly are protecting the Second Amendment, which he said has prompted President Joe Biden to “attack” the state.

Jay Wasson: ‘A better job, a better economy is always the best answer’

Jay Wasson (Photo: Submitted by candidate)

Wasson, on the other hand, has received an endorsement from every county sheriff in the 7th Congressional District. While Burlison and Moon are supportive of “America First” policies, it is Wasson who is campaigning with that phrase as his motto.

“What’s good for Americans is slowing down this 40-year (high) inflation rate, and trying to get an economy under control,” Wasson said. “That’s good for Americans, that’s putting America first.”

Additionally, he thinks America should decrease some foreign aid spending, bring back more jobs and manufacturing, and he said his voting record in Missouri’s General Assembly reflects that.

“The best thing you can do for an individual is give them a decent paying job, a job they can be proud of, and a job they can raise a family on,” Wasson said. “…A better job, a better economy is always the best answer.”

Wasson is also supportive of what is perhaps Trump’s most famous talking point in his 2016 platform: building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as a part of his “America First” national security policy.

“I’m not going to say that a wall is going to stop every bit of it,” Wasson said. “They’re going to go over it or under it, as long as there’s profits like they’re making they’re going to try to find some way. But at least we start with a wall, and at least we may shut off some of it.”

Mike Moon wants to protect freedoms and keep American resources in America

Mike Moon, a candidate for Missouri’s 7th U.S. Congressional seat, at a luncheon meeting of the Greene County Republican Women’s Club in Springfield on Monday, July 12, 2022. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Moon, much like his fellow State Sen. Burlison, is campaigning on his conservative record. His campaign website says he is 100 percent America First and he was endorsed by the Protect Freedom PAC.

Moon sees several areas where the federal government is failing to do what’s best for America, including what he said was the U.S. selling oil to enemies while we experience high gas prices and giving away our surpluses of baby formula during the shortages. 

“I think America First is looking at what the needs are for our country first before we aid others,” Moon said. 

As a representative, Moon would not promote “nonsensical” ideas such as unnecessary government subsidies, social credit scoring, climate change and pandemics that cause business closures, vaccine and quarantine mandates.

“If you’re looking at energy, reopen the pipeline,” Moon said, referring to the Keystone XL Pipeline, a section of which was abandoned after Biden revoked a key permit. “We have the stores of oil, petroleum and natural gas. We can begin to lessen the burden on folks with the total price on fuel, I think the refineries need to be bumped up — I understand there’s some problems with some of the refineries that have been shut down. … In a time today where we have recession, I believe, with at least eight or better percent increase in inflation, we’ve got to do something quickly.”

In our previous coverage of the 7th Congressional District, we detailed why the U.S. is not, in fact, currently in a recession.

“America First” isn’t a single idea or one policy field. While Burlison, Moon and Wasson’s ideas on how to put America First don’t drastically differ, the small details may help voters determine which candidate best suits them.

The primary election for Republican and Democrat candidates is August 2.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the business and economic development reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. He previously covered politics and elections for the Citizen. Before that, he worked at documentary film company Carbon Trace Productions and Missouri State University’s student-led newspaper, The Standard. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at jmcgee@sgfcitizen.org or (417) 719-5129. More by Jack McGee