They say imitation is the best form of flattery. That is particularly the case if you’re a U.S. presidential candidate, and pundits are likening you to a conservative giant like Ronald Reagan.
I was recently reading through several articles that compared and contrasted presidential hopeful Donald Trump with Reagan. This is an intriguing subject to me in particular because I became friends with the Reagans.
In the end, I feel the pros outweighed the cons regarding the similarities of Trump and Reagan, though, of course, the two media giants had their differences.
Let me give you what I believe are the top eight similarities between the two moguls.
1) Reagan and Trump were both entertainers before entering politics.
“Apprentice” and “Bedtime for Bonzo.” Need I say more?
2) Reagan and Trump were both considered liberal Democrats before becoming conservative Republicans.
Time explained that before converting to a Republican in 1962, Ronald Reagan registered as a Democrat, was a New Deal supporter, an F.D.R. fan, campaigned for the first Democrat woman elected to Congress from California – Helen Gahagan Douglas – and encouraged Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for president as a Democrat in 1952. Even as governor of California in 1967, Reagan signed into law one of America’s strongest gun-control laws and one of the most expansive abortion laws to date in the Golden State.
Trump changed his political party affiliation from Republican to independent in 1999, from independent to Democrat in 2001, and has been a registered Republican since 2009. Prior to his registering as Republican, Trump went on record – sometimes repeatedly – as supporting longer wait times to purchase guns, banning assault weapons, being “very pro-choice,” advocating for universal health care and supporting Hillary Clinton in her runs for office.
Now Trump, like Reagan, espouses virtually the entire conservative Republican platform, including advocating smaller government, less taxes, more military and national defense, and being anti-union, pro-gun and anti-abortion.
3) Reagan and Trump were both attacked by the GOP establishment as radical, too polarizing, too simpleminded, and lacking federal and foreign experience.
Prior to Ronald Reagan, the GOP of the ’60s and ’70s was more like the RINOs of today, being more moderate and almost liberal country-club partisans. People like Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford typified the Republican brand.
When Reagan arose as a presidential candidate, the Guardian described him well in that political milieu: “He was too radical for Republicans and too polarizing for Democrats.” Sound like anyone you know?
New York Magazine explained, “A poll in 1976 found that 90 percent of Republican state chairmen judged Reagan guilty of ‘simplistic approaches,’ with ‘no depth in federal government administration’ and ‘no experience in foreign affairs.'”
Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan aide who is also a Trump supporter, echoed the same sentiment to The Telegraph: “The establishment critics said the exact same things about Reagan. Reagan was ridiculed as ‘not serious’ and a B-movie actor, and they said over and over he could never win – until he did. It’s happening again. I really feel it.
4) Few pundits and politicians initially believed Donald Trump could win the GOP nomination let alone the presidency, just like Ronald Reagan right up to his presidential win in 1980.
Ken Taylor at Red State explained, “Pundits stated continually that Reagan could not win and the polls for the most part were agreeing with the pundits as all the way up until Election Day. Reagan lagged behind in most polling. In fact, on Election Day itself in 1980 almost no one believed Ronald Reagan would beat Jimmy Carter and that Carter would be elected to a second term despite the shape of the economy and the general feeling that things were going the wrong direction in the country.”
A January 1980 U.S. News and World Report survey of 475 national and state Republican chairmen concluded they preferred George H.W. Bush to Reagan.
And like Trump, Reagan was attacked by the status quo in Washington until the day he took office. Trump continues to face Washington’s aloofness and reluctance to support him, and, in some cases, its outright disdain.
New York Magazine concluded: “Only a single Republican senator, Paul Laxalt of Nevada, signed on to Reagan’s presidential quest from the start, a solitary role that has been played in the Trump campaign by Jeff Sessions of Alabama.”
5) Reagan and Trump both promoted controversial immigration reform.
Trump wants a wall between Mexico and the U.S. as well as a temporary ban on all Muslims, especially those coming from terrorist countries, among other tightened securities.
Ronald Reagan passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants, required employer verification for employees’ immigration status, and granted amnesty to about 3 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.
6) As Presbyterian Christians, Reagan and Trump both pledged to be advocates of religious liberty and particularly Christianity.
Reagan was a Christian who attended the Presbyterian Church until the day he died.
Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2012: “I’m a Protestant; I’m a Presbyterian.”
When it came to a national role and plan for divinity, one of Reagan’s key statements was: “If we ever forget that we are One Nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
Dr. James Dobson, a leading national conservative evangelical and one who serves on Trump’s faith advisory committee, just officially went on record stating that Trump recently gave his life to Christ and is “a baby Christian.” But that hasn’t stopped Trump from blowing the trumpet for Christians and Christianity, according to the Business Insider.
“I’m a true believer. And you’re many true believers – I hope all. Is everybody a true believer in this room? I think so. But Christianity is under tremendous siege,” Trump explained to supporters at Dordt College, a Christian liberal-arts school.
Trump added, “But you know, the fact is that there is nothing the politicians can do to you if you band together. You have too much power. But the Christians don’t use their power. We have to strengthen. Because we are getting – if you look, it’s death by a million cuts – we are getting less and less and less powerful in terms of a religion, and in terms of a force.”
Trump concluded, “I’ll tell you one thing: I get elected president, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again. Just remember that. And by the way, Christianity will have power, without having to form. Because if I’m there, you’re going to have plenty of power. You don’t need anybody else. You’re going to have somebody representing you very, very well. Remember that.”
7) Reagan and Trump both used the campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
The Daily Mail Online explained: “Ronald Reagan first popularized ‘Let’s Make America Great Again’ in 1979 and 1980, and Trump was there to see it as one of his first backers.”
A former Trump campaign aide told the Daily Mail Online: “Donald Trump was on the Reagan Finance Committee in 1979-80 when most of the New York financial elite were for George Bush or John Connally. Trump and his father, Fred, were in the room when Reagan announced his candidacy in New York City in 1980.”
8) Both Reagan and Trump picked conventional Republicans as vice presidents to balance their ticket and settle nerves about perceived extremism.
Though he thinks Reagan’s choice was much more impromptu, Richard V. Allen, Reagan’s national security adviser and one who was with him during his vetting of potential VPs, explained: “One conventional view is that Reagan, about to be nominated, recognized that he ‘needed a moderate’ like [George H.W.] Bush to balance the ticket; another version has it that Reagan, supposedly unschooled in foreign affairs, saw the wisdom of naming someone with extensive experience in the field to offset his own shortcomings. Yet another explanation holds that Reagan, a Californian, needed ‘geographic balance’ and got that in Bush, with his Connecticut and Texas lineage.”
Trump’s pick for vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is a staunch and social conservative and evangelical, who is also a veteran among Washington politics (a U.S. representative for more than a decade) and a “personal friend” of House Speaker Paul Ryan. Pence grew up an Irish Catholic Democrat and has ties to the Koch brothers – the financial powerhouses behind the Republican Party.
In one sense, some might say that Pence is the very person that Trump has been attacking as a “career politician” and “Washington insider.” But the truth is that Pence not only balances the Trump ticket politically – from his conservative views to his experience in Washington – but also geographically, originating from a more conservative state than Trump’s New York.
In conclusion, so close are the similarities between Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan that in the New York Magazine article, “What the Donald Shares with the Ronald,” Frank Rich basically concluded: “Ronald Reagan was Donald Trump.”
Whether you agree or disagree, are a supporter for the Ronald or the Donald, or just believe Trump is taking his cues and game plan from the Gipper, you’ve got to admit these similarities are striking and intriguing, to say the least. Though I’m not officially endorsing anyone yet, I find these parallels very intriguing.
(Make sure you see Dinesh D’Souza’s new documentary, “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party,” premiering Friday, July 22, in theaters across our country.)