Ronald Reagan is often hailed by historians and conservatives alike as a great President. His accomplishments in foreign policy positioned America as the sole superpower going into the 21st Century. He also cut tax rates, ending months of economic stagnation under President Carter. His boldness led him to tell the Soviets to “tear down this wall.” He is remembered fondly by many conservatives and Americans who appreciate his patriotism, optimism, and can-do spirit.
There are surely differences between Reagan and Trump; they exude a different political tone. But the discourse in pop culture and in media of Reagan’s day are much different than the new realities of how we communicate three decades later. While many voters may lament the new reality of sound bites, short tweets, and reality TV, it is where the market has gone and recognizing this is important to being relevant in today’s competitive reality.
I would caution conservatives who are joining the #NeverTrump movement too soon. Many of you are my friends. Many of you are opposing Trump because of your morality and not because of a lack of such. However, a lot can change in time and a lot is at stake. We still have yet to see whom Donald Trump will select as his vice presidential candidate. We have yet to see what steps he may take to reconcile with former opponents. And we have yet to see how the balance of the Supreme Court will likely be decided by the upcoming elections. We owe it to our cause to be patient and to hope for good things that are bound to come.
Here are some similarities between Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan.
First, the media elites all thought Reagan was dumb and did not have a solid grasp on details and policy. The voters did not care. Leaders do not always know all of the details. Often they paint the vision, chart the course, set the direction, and work with a team to make things happen. This is the case with many CEOs and business owners like Donald Trump. They set the standard, paint a clear picture of where they want to take the country, and they go through the difficult task of hiring–and yes, saying “You’re Fired” to those who are not executing their vision. Reagan saw America as a “city on a hill,” as the “last best hope,” and he kept us optimistic for a bigger, better and brighter future. Trump’s theme of “make America great again” is often mocked but don’t we all want this? Don’t we feel that something is not quite right and we would like to wholeheartedly believe in America again?
Second, pundits all thought Reagan was solely driven by too much ego, tough talk, and did not have a plan when dealing with foreign leaders or nations. Protesters thought Reagan was going to end the world and set off a nuclear winter with his aggressive posturing against the Soviet Union. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Reagan spoke with strength, poise and clarity, and he did not dislike the Russian people. In fact, after multiple diplomatic discussions with Soviet leadership and a trip to Russia, he developed real friendships and genuine fond feelings toward the Russians. Above all, he negotiated from a position of strength. Could this be what Donald Trump is doing? We may not know for sure just yet, but we should not discount him as a warmonger simply because he speaks in a brash style. Projecting strength and clarity is exactly what we need in a post-Obama presidency.
Lastly, Trump and Reagan were both media stars. They both understood the various ways and methods to communicate with the common voter of their day.
Nobody can see the future. As Isaiah said, “The nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales.” We can’t control the events that will transpire and we are ultimately not in control. But in a government of We the People, I think conservatives should think about the stakes. People can change. People can surround themselves with quality advisers, and there are many similarities between Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan at this stage of the campaign. One thing is for certain, the Supreme Court picks of Hillary Clinton and the executive actions she may take because of them would not reflect any ideal of Making America Great Again.