On a personal level Reagan and Trump have a lot in common. Both had notable heads of hair. Both were long-time Democrats before switching parties. Both were media personalities. Reagan was an entertainer who became a corporate spokesman (for General Electric); Trump is a business man who became an entertainer (appearing for years on a program for NBC, which, when it first aired, was a subsidiary of General Electric.)Share
Reagan, like Trump, divorced and re-married (Reagan once, Trump twice). He was the first divorcee to occupy the White House. He made much of religion and its role in public life but rarely went to church. This sounds like Trump. As Governor of California, Reagan signed one of the most liberal abortion laws in the nation, although later embraced the cause of life. He campaigned actively for John F. Kennedy in 1960 only to ardently support Barry Goldwater in 1964. Trump’s views on social issues and politics have also evolved in similar kinds of ways. Neither had Washington experience; both were considered interlopers by the power elite.
Both led insurgencies against the GOP establishment, which loathed them. Reagan was branded lazy, too old, not terribly bright, a warmonger and a danger to the Republic in an effort to bring him down. Trump is also the object of much contumely generated by well-paid establishment spin doctors specialized in character assassination.
Both were “big picture” guys who did not pretend to be policy mandarins. The U.S. presidency combines the roles of head-of-state and head-of-government in one office. Reagan was always more plausible as King than Prime Minister; he always had strong chiefs of staff who managed the day-to-day affairs of government while he concerned himself with the far bigger task of setting the strategic direction and engendering public support for it. Trump, I suspect, would govern in much the same way.
Thus, Trump’s personal history and political evolution find lots of parallels in Reagan’s career. Republican politicians who suggest Reagan would be appalled by Trump are whistling Dixie: they may be right, but there is no evidence to prove that they are, and plenty to suggest they are not. (Read more.)