How to Chart Ronald Reagan’s Ascent – and Its Parallels to Trump
Reagan Rising by Craig Shirley fascinatingly charts Ronald Reagan’s rise from the defeat of the 1976 presidential campaign to his victory in 1980. This book allows people to gain new insights into how Ronald Reagan grew as a candidate and leader as he championed the individual and appealed across party lines. But readers can also see many similarities between the rise of Ronald Reagan and the election of Donald Trump.
As with Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan was not taken seriously by his Republican counterparts or the national media. His rival, Gerald Ford, later remarked that he considered Reagan a lightweight and on the campaign trail made fun of him: “Governor Reagan does not dye his hair; he is just turning prematurely orange.”
It seems that orange is the color for those who attempt to clean the swamp. Shirley commented to American Thinker, “Everyone wrote Reagan off as a dumb bunny, and a right-wing kook.”
The Republican establishment, once realizing Reagan was a force to be reckoned with, started a “stop Reagan movement,” similar to the Never Trump movement of 2016. Shirley pointed to the speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, where Reagan “prided himself on not being a part of the Washington Establishment, mocked Capitol Hill’s ‘buddy system’ with the bureaucracy, the lobbyists, big business, and big labor, and their attempt at collusion. He spoke of ‘the man and woman in the factories … the farmer … the cop on the beat. Our party.'”
Because of Jimmy Carter’s policies, Americans gravitated toward Ronald Reagan just as they gravitated toward Donald Trump after having President Obama for eight years. The book reflects on Carter’s weakness in confronting America’s enemies, “issu[ing] a blank check to the Russians to run amok.” Sound familiar? President Obama has done the same, empowering ISIS. His rhetoric and this administration’s ineptitude have made the world less safe. His utter failure to confront radical Islamic terrorism has allowed successful attacks to occur in Europe and America.
Readers will find it astonishing how similar were the eras before the election of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. In both cases, Shirley noted, “Americans did not want more of the same. The working man and woman were forgotten, and many homes needed two paychecks to just get by. Public schools were not teaching their children, and the failing teachers were associated with the Democratic Party. Both then and now, the Democrats were growing out of step with blue-collar American values. It was the first time that Americans felt that the future would be worse off for their children than it had been for them. Today that feeling has increased exponentially.”
Although there are many similarities between Trump’s and Reagan’s elections, Shirley points out some differences as well. “I think he is more intellectual then Trump and less emotional. Reagan approached the draining of the swamp dynamically. He wanted to grow the net private economy six times faster than the federal government. Basically, the federal government’s influence decreased as the size of the private economy grew. Another contrast was back then thirty-seven of the nation’s governors were Democratic, the GOP controlled the legislatures in only four states, and both houses of Congress were firmly in the hands of the Democrats. Obviously, it was a much more hostile environment for conservatives and Republicans.”
The author wants Americans to understand that “Ronald Reagan is a fascinating figure of history, a renaissance man. He was the right man with the right message at the right time.
“I think there is a need for books by conservatives about conservatives. Books need to be out there that are beyond the liberal interpretation of history. This is how to bypass the ultra-left and get the ideas out there. My next book, Citizen Newt, is written for just that purpose. Most of the books written about Newt [Gingrich] are by leftists that desecrate, criticize, and mock him as they have with Reagan.”
Reagan Rising is a great account of Reagan’s journey from 1976 until the 1980 election. Shirley offers insight into the development of Reagan’s optimistic and unifying philosophy. Readers will find the comparison with Donald Trump fascinating as they hear him speak of many Reagan-era principles of less government, more individual freedom, projecting American power, and defending American constitutional values. As Shirley stated, “Ronald Reagan would have been very comfortable saying, ‘I’m not the president of the world. I’m simply the president of the United States.'”
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.