Trump Is Not Ronald Reagan — Nor Should He Try To Be || Investor’s Business Daily


Trump Is Not Ronald Reagan — Nor Should He Try To Be

When Ronald Reagan won the nomination in 1980, he received over 61% of the GOP primary vote. Donald Trump has, to date, received 41%.  (Arnie Sachs - CNP/Newscom)

By Craig Shirley and John Heubusch

No president in the last 50 years is cited, invoked, or referenced more often than Ronald Reagan. His name in politics is so ubiquitous that it wouldn’t be a campaign season without candidates being compared to The Great Communicator.

In the 2016 GOP primary season, various candidates clamored over each other to channel President Reagan.  Some like Governor Scott Walker did so through a resume of fiscal disciple and conservative principles as a public servant, others like Ted Cruz often cited Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 campaigns as inspirations. Clearly some attempts were more genuine than others, but as Samuel Johnson once said, “Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those we cannot resemble.”

Even the opposite end of the political spectrum tries to channel President Reagan’s legacy to their own ends. A Feb. 11 issue of Time had Reagan and Obama on the cover comparing the two men and claiming they shared a “bromance.” We should note that it is our professional opinion that Reagan would never consent to being in a “bromance” with anyone on general principle.

In truth, there is very little to compare the two presidents, especially on philosophy. Reagan believed fervently in liberty and the primacy and dignity of the individual while Obama champions a central state and an activist government built on liberal mores. President Obama is the consummate American liberal and Reagan was the consummate American conservative. They were and are quite literally polar opposites.

For the record, Reagan never said he wanted to be the next FDR, or the next Calvin Coolidge. He was far too self-confident and inner directed. He did quote the Framers and Founders often, as he sometime cited Roosevelt, but he never said anything resembling “I am going to be the next John Kennedy.” He articulated his own vision for America informed by the lessons of those leaders who came before him but never sought to cloak himself in the largess of another.

 While Donald Trump adopted the slogan of Reagan on the baseball cap he wears, there was tremendous substance behind “making America great again.”

To be fair, Donald Trump has less and less compared himself to Reagan.  Trump has technically won the nomination but not yet the election. Trump also oddly claims he’s received more primary votes than any other Republican candidate in history, but that is a result of a growing population, not popularity.

When Reagan won the nomination in 1980, he received over 61% of the GOP primary vote.  Trump has, to date, received 41% of the Republican primary vote. While the numbers don’t quite match, the specter of Reagan is still floated by many.

The real culprits of false comparisons to President Reagan are some third-party activists and columnists and commentators, reaching for the easy and superficial but deeply flawed comparisons between the two men. These reports are often informed by nothing more than a few anecdotes and a light history lesson.  One true similarity of both is their names adorn many buildings and other structures. However, the honors to Reagan were done by admirers; the honors to Trump are part of his brand.

More directly, Reagan advocated a strong border, but illegal immigration was simply not the problem in 1980 that it is today. However, President Reagan  did sign the Simpson Mazzoli Act and as he wrote in his diaries that evening, it was to get control of our borders. Congress never held up its end of the bargain with the bill  —  its will to address the border problem with funds and resources proved to be weak and President Reagan and key advisors such as Ed Meese saw the deal as the worst compromise of his eight year administration.

Reagan spoke of conservatism as based upon a God-inspired individual. In 1980, he used the phrase, “Man with God.” Reagan was able to synthesize his two favorite philosophers, Solzhenitsyn and Paine, believing that if Man was at the center of the universe, it was because God put him there and, moreover, if every man is inspired by God, then God is in each man at the center of the universe.  As is inscribed on President Reagan’s tombstone, “there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”

We asked the respected polling firm of McLaughlin and Associates to add in a couple of questions to their weekly omnibus survey asking Republicans about the Trump and Reagan comparisons and the results were revealing.

When Americans were asked if Trump and Reagan were similar, 25.5% said yes, but 58% said no, Reagan and Trump were not similar. When asked if Trump would be as successful a president as Reagan, 33.2% said yes and 48% said no, with 18.7% unsure.

This is not to suggest that because most do not see Trump as Reagan or having the potential to be as successful, that they don’t want him to be either. The American people have always had a healthy skepticism of politicians. What people want is a leader who can take the lessons of President Reagan — as Reagan took the lessons of FDR, Jefferson, and Washington — and advanced the nation forward. No doubt, the challenges of globalization and new technologies present opportunities and potential hostilities in equal measure.

Trump can walk President Reagan’s path where he so chooses for now but if he wishes to truly honor it, he must advance beyond it. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery; it is the sincerest form of learning.”