Ronald Reagan is a beloved icon to modern Republicans. Anyone trying to establish themselves as a legitimate figure within the party want to associate their name with Reagan— and President Trump’s supporters know it.
While discussing the 45th president’s summit with Kim Jong-Un, Sean Hannity outlined similarities between Reagan and Trump, something fellow Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham often does. Both are outsiders “hated by the media” who promise to “Make America Great Again.”
While both men share similarities on the surface, they are in fact very different. This is not only true in policy, but also in character and leadership style.
Reagan understood the importance of free trade, saying, “We should beware of the demagogues ready to declare a trade war against our friends, weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world, all while cynically waving the American flag.” This has long been a conservative principle, but Trump embraces the exact opposite position.
Trump has acknowledged his disagreement with Reagan on trade, favoring protectionist policies to support American workers and companies. Rather than embracing international competition and cooperation, Trump is against it. For instance, Trump has long criticized NAFTA, which has its roots in the Reagan administration.
On immigration, Reagan and his conservative contemporaries favored a “compassionate” solution to problems. “Rather than making them– or talk about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems,” Reagan said in 1980. This view has all but vanished from the party that claims to be molded in his image.
Instead, Trump would rather build a wall, and his efforts to work out such a solution have been hindered by the tweets he’s fired at members of Congress and the Mexican government. Border security is fine, but legal immigration and pathways to citizenship should be embraced.
By demanding “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” Reagan defended freedom by standing up to the Soviet Union and helping win the Cold War. Trump too believes in peace through strength, but he has proven soft on Vladimir Putin’s Russia. A country that took steps to influence our election through misinformation on the internet, that threatens freedom in Eastern Europe, and that is led by a man who jails his political opponents cannot be considered an ally of the U.S. deserving of a spot at the G7 table.
Both Reagan and Trump were once Democrats who made their way to the Republican Party. But Reagan’s ideological transition was gradual: working in Hollywood to combat communism, molding his beliefs after the likes of Eisenhower and Goldwater, and finally becoming the Governor of California. Trump’s transition was all over the place, starting as a Republican, before joining the short-lived Reform Party, becoming a Democrat during the years of George W. Bush, and registering as an Independent in 2011. Trump’s beliefs haven’t been molded after any other conservative leaders, and he has no previous experience in government.
Reagan’s 11th Commandment said, “Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Trump shattered this golden rule during the campaign when he attacked “not a war hero” McCain, “Lyin’ Ted,” “Little Marco,” and “Low Energy Jeb.” Trump is a classic narcissist and is all about “me.” He seems to forget that his job is about “We the People.”
The 40th President beautifully presented speeches that could bring a nation together. “We have every right to dream heroic dreams,” Reagan said in his 1981 inaugural address. He closed by saying, “It does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds, to believe that together with God’s help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.”
Often communicating in 140 characters or less, Trump is no Reagan. His press conferences immediately become confrontational, while his frequent rallies stoke partisan divides. Much of his rhetoric, including his inaugural address, paints America as a nation in decline: “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.”
Contrary to what MAGA supporters may believe, President Trump is no second coming of Ronald Reagan. If Dutch were here today, tuning into Fox News’ primetime lineup, he would surely laugh and say, “There you go again.”
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.