Recently, there has been a push by the Republican Party’s propaganda machine to draw comparisons between Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan. In a recent article by Tammy Bruce, she focuses on parallels between how Ronald Reagan was treated in the media to how Donald Trump is being treated by the media, which would otherwise be a meaningless, but not inaccurate comparison had she not wrote one sentence in particular that put a burr under my saddle. She writes, “I do believe there are many similarities between Reagan and Trump.“
No, Tammy, there really aren’t, and your argument not only fails to support that statement, it’s ridiculous on its face. On the first premise about the media attacks, I can’t remember a single modern Republican president or presidential candidate that didn’t come under withering and often vicious attacks from the American media. So suggesting that Donald Trump is somehow “just like Reagan“, because he is attacked by the press is a sophomoric argument. Cancer, tobacco companies, and oil spills have all come under withering and vicious attacks, so is Trump like cancer?
Reality check time. In no uncertain terms, comparing Donald Trump in any way to Ronald Reagan is nothing short of a slander of Reagan’s legacy, and I will not stand for it. In fact, I was so incensed by the implication that it’s taken days for me to trim this article from fireball to a somewhat polite retort. Here, however delayed, is a four point argument on the differences between Ronald Reagan, a titan of American conservatism, and Donald Trump, a populist, celebrity loudmouth.
1) Different generations.
Ronald Reagan was a member of the Greatest Generation. The generation that experienced the First World War, then fought through the Second World War, despite the terrible cost in human life, against the racist malevolence of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. The generation that carried itself through the Great Depression. The generation that raised their children through the darkest hours of the Cold War. The generation that sent their children to fight against communist North Korea and their communist Chinese allies in the Korean War. Reagan’s generation saw the true heart of Communism and Fascism first hand. In every way, Ronald Reagan was a product of his generation.
“Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment.”
-Ronald Reagan, 1964-
Donald Trump is a member of the Baby Boomers. The generation that was born in the shadow of the Cold War, after the Second World War. They vaguely remembered the Korean War. When the last of the Cold War era battlefronts escalated into full out war, the Boomers ultimately lost to a broken enemy, abandoning thousands of American soldiers to die in hellish Viet Cong prisoner of war camps and disappear into unmarked graves, and spat on the veterans who survived for defending their country. Selfless patriotism fell out of vogue. Under the Baby Boomers, divorce became fashionable and abortion legal. Trump’s generation became the “me” generation. In every way, Donald Trump is a product of his generation.
“It’s scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam-era. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”
-Donald Trump, 1997-
2) Different ideological backgrounds.
Even while the president of the Screen Actor’s Guild, Reagan was already actively anti-Communist, anti-Socialist, and vocally pro-American. During the 1950’s, Reagan traveled the country as a spokesperson for General Electric, speaking on the importance of political and economic freedom to the American way of life. By 1964, when Ronnie gave the historic “A Time for Choosing” speech supporting the Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, his political ideology had been sharpened by over a decade of public and personal exploration. By the time Reagan took the presidential Oath of Office in 1981, becoming the 40th president of the United States, his conservative ideology had grown deep roots for over three decades.
“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”
-Ronald Reagan, 1962-
Since 1987 alone, Donald Trump changed political parties no less than 6 times. During his campaign for president, Donald Trump espoused political positions on both sides of dozens of policy issues, from public land use to taxation, from minimum wage to health care. Before 2010, Donald Trump gave substantially more to Democrats ($686,250.00 total, from 1989 to 2010) than to the Republicans ($520,390.00 total, same time period). In fact, only after first flirting with running in the 2012 presidential election did Trump stop writing checks to Democratic politicians. The only thing that is certain about Donald Trump’s guiding ideology is that he clearly doesn’t have one.
“In many cases, I probably identify more as Democrat.”
-Donald Trump, 2004-
3) Different professional backgrounds.
Ronald Reagan came to prominence as a celebrity, possessed of a personal charm and movie star good looks. Unlike Hollywood celebrities of today, Reagan didn’t “study” to become an actor. Instead, he majored in economics and sociology, and, though not an outstanding student, he graduated with a well rounded education. After college, he went into sports broadcasting, which lead into his career as an actor. His involvement in the actor’s union took him into more political realms, especially after he became president of the Screen Actors Guild. After serving in the Army Reserves during World War II, he found himself more and more interested in political philosophy, most specifically in the growing threat of Communism. It was this personal investment in pro-American ideology that lead to his run for governor of California in 1967 and ultimately for president in 1976 and 1980. Ideology, not personal celebrity, guided Reagan’s political ambitions.
“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”
Donald Trump was born into the real estate business built by his grandmother and father. His obsession with his own personal wealth and celebrity began immediately. He studied at an Ivy League school, a fact he repeatedly reminds people of, studying business, though his academic records, like Obama’s, remain sealed. He was already involved in his own business ventures in college, and the degree, something his father insisted upon, was only tangential to his pursuit of wealth and celebrity. By the time Trump was in his 40’s, he was already a world famous billionaire, known mainly for slapping his name on everything from board games to airplanes, from frozen meat to luxury casinos. Almost all of these companies have crumbled into bankruptcy, still his personal brand persists. Personal celebrity, not ideology, guides Donald Trump’s ambition.
“I don’t even wait. When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
4) Different personal backgrounds.
Ronald Reagan was born in a small town, the child of 2nd and 3rd generation Irish and Scottish Americans. Reagan’s father was a salesman and his mother a homemaker, both deeply religious people. Ronald went out into the world, becoming a sports announcer, which lead him by chance to Hollywood, where he started acting. It was in Hollywood that he met his first wife, Jane Wyman, with whom he two children, and adopted a third. His involvement in the screen actor’s union created an irreconcilable difference between himself and Jane, and she divorced him in 1948. A year later, Ronald Reagan met Nancy Davis, and the two dated for three years, before marrying in 1952. They had two children and spent over half a century together, until Ronnie’s death in 2004.
“Whatever I treasure and enjoy… all would be without meaning if I didn’t have you.”
-Ronald Reagan, to his wife, Nancy-
Donald Trump was born in Queens, New York, the fourth child of 3rd generation German American and 1st Generation Scottish American. From very early age, Donald was involved in his father’s real estate business. Accustomed to wealth, Donald grew into an unruly and cruel young man, bullying other students at his school. He became so unmanageable that his parents enrolled him in a military academy, hoping to reform him. At age 31, Donald married Czech model, Ivana Zelníčková. Their rocky marriage ended in 1991, Donald having later admitted to numerous infidelities, the final straw being with actress Marla Maples. Donald married Marla in 1993, then divorced her just 6 years later in 1999. In 1998, Donald became involved with his current wife, Melania Knauss, who he married in 2005 and then allegedly cheated on in an affair with Karen McDougal.
“You know, it really doesn’t matter what (the media) write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
I have long since personally written off the Republican Party as philosophically bankrupt, and this misbegotten attempt to take credibility from Ronald Reagan and staple it cheaply onto Donald Trump’s rudderless presidency simply goes to prove just how bankrupt the Party of Reagan has become. This is why the GOP is desperate to draw political connections between the historically popular Ronald Reagan and the historically unpopular Donald Trump for obvious reasons.
While many Americans view Donald Trump negatively (55% disapproval per Gallup), his political agenda in Congress remains politically dangerous for members of Congress who would ultimately pay the price for aligning themselves with him. Loss of control of Congress would be devastating to the Republican Party’s hopes of pushing through any long term legislative changes. This is why these propagandist vultures are trying to open up Reagan’s grave to carve off pieces of his legacy.
This must not be allowed to happen. For better or, more likely, for worse, Donald Trump’s personal political circus is his own. To Tammy Bruce and all of the other GOP pundits I say leave Ronnie’s legacy alone. Don’t taint his memory with Donald Trump’s dishonor. If Donald is going to somehow succeed as president, he will do it alone, and evoking Ronnie’s memory isn’t going to save him one moment of shame, nor should it.
Liberty is For The Win!