Vail Daily column: Trump brags he’s Reagan’s reincarnation — really?
Donald Trump “clearly needs to change in order to win” (the presidency), declared Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., KY.). “My hope is that he is beginning to pivot and become what I would call a more serious and credible candidate for the highest office in the land,” Sen. McConnell recently told a New York TV station.
Trump sounds, however, as if his political feet are glued to a prior conviction from which he doesn’t want to pivot. Trump insists he’s the new Ronald Reagan, bragging he inherited this political mantle from our 40th president.
Trump claims his presidential quest runs parallel to Reagan’s, both finding their identity as Republicans after wandering in the Democratic Party wilderness for many years.
Trump claims fate prevailed. Consequently, he was born into the Democratic Party because its stronghold is New York City. He swears his heart was always Republican, however, because of his admiration for the Constitution. Then the Donald plays his trump card. “You know who else was a Democrat?” he asks. “Ronald Reagan. He switched, and I switched years ago, when I began to see what liberal Democrats were doing to our country. Now I’m a conservative Republican with a big heart. I didn’t decide to become a Republican. That’s who I have always been.”
Yes, Reagan and Trump were Democrats who switched to the GOP. Such coincidental parallelism proves nothing. It’s like saying a red fire hydrant and a red Cadillac share affinity because they are painted the same color and are made of metal. That both are red is coincidental, not a straight-line equivalency.
Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan denies Donald Trump is Reagan re-incarnated. She detests Trump’s habit of making himself Reagan’s protege. Such shallow comparisons puff Trump and diminish Reagan, says disgusted Noonan.
“Trump’s supporters should be able to make an affirmative case for their candidate,” Noonan declares, “without diminishing Reagan or anyone else. You shouldn’t cut down a man you know was great to make him fit your candidate’s size. It is poor political etiquette. It’s also historical parallelism gone mad. Mr. Trump isn’t Reagan … ”
Reagan fondly described the Republican Party he held together as a three-legged stool. It consisted of fiscal conservatives who advocated low taxes, national security conservatives who wanted to militarily spread democracy over the globe and social conservatives who supported traditional marriage and are anti-abortion.
Trump cuts the legs from under this Republican Party’s stool by breaking Reagan’s 11th commandment not to criticize colleagues who paddle political canoes in different directions. He slammed former president George W. Bush, Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts’ governor Mitt Romney for having lousy political skills. Moreover, he ridicules the do-nothing Republican congressional majority. Trump offends the GOP’s wealthy donor-base because he’s proud of self-funding many campaign expenses. Trump says he doesn’t need Republican elites’ support to win the presidency, but they desperately need his can-do magic.
Trump discredits fiscal conservatives whose chamber of commerce enthusiasm supports free trade agreements. He rejects Republican orthodoxy on trade, as expressed in the 2012 convention party platform that stated: (free trade agreements) are “crucial for our economy” and a path to “more American jobs, higher wages and a better standard of living.” Trump’s budget favors the rich getting richer. It hikes the federal deficit. Trump doesn’t want to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits, so how will he pay for a budget proposal that hikes the national debt?
He angers GOP hawks who approved of the war in Iraq. It was a huge mistake, says Trump. He claims Saddam Hussein slaughtered terrorists. He’s wrong because Hussein made Iraq a safe haven for terrorists who plotted to overthrow the U.S.
Trump kicks away the third leg of the Republican stool that social conservatives want to preserve. He’s not upset about gay marriage. Although Trump holds firm against abortion rights for women, he doesn’t make a big deal of it on the campaign trail.
He pushes his agenda like a real estate tycoon cinches big deals. He lacks patience that governance requires. The Donald rules. He intimidates opponents who block his goals and cares less about numerous enemies he bullies.
Reagan understood the value of compromise. In his biography, “An American Life,” he reflected on strengths he cultivated when taking office as California’s governor in 1967. “I’ve learned while negotiating union contracts,” Reagan admitted, “that you seldom got everything you asked for. And I agreed with FDR, who said in 1933, ‘I have no expectations of making a hit every time I come to bat. What I seek is the highest possible batting average.’”
“If you got seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, you take it and fight for the rest later, and that’s what I told these radical conservatives who never got used to it,” wrote Reagan.
Biblical morality says “don’t lie,” (Exodus 20:16) even if shaving the truth gets you ahead. Trump has dismantled Reagan’s three-legged stool that previously bound together conservatives.
Trump is not Reagan. Really.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries.