In 2016, Donald Trump was constantly compared to Ronald Reagan. As one of the most successful businessmen in the world, a television personality, and a former Democrat, it seemed as if he was blossoming into a duplicate of the beloved conservative idol that is Ronald Reagan. Don’t let these meaningless comparisons fool you, because Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan.
For starters, let’s talk a little bit about Reagan’s childhood. Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on the second floor of a commercial building in Tampico, Illinois during the year 1911. His father was a salesman and a local storyteller whose grandparents were Irish Catholic immigrants. His mother was known for her kind heart, and was very active in their local church, and often led their local Sunday school.
As he grew older, he decided to become a lifeguard. He attended Eureka College where he would study economics and sociology. He was described as “an indifferent student.”He graduated with a C average. He was dubbed the “jack of all trades,” excelling in campus politics, sports, and theater. He was a member of the football team and captain of the swim team. He was elected student body president and led a student revolt against the college president after he tried to cut back the faculty. The President later resigned.
After graduating college in 1932, he relocated to Iowa where he was a radio announcer for many stations. He then became a sports announcer for the Chicago Cubs. Five years later while he was travelling with the Cubs in California, he scored a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers Studios. He starred in many movies, and successfully worked his way up the Hollywood chain. He was also indirectly involved in the discovery of famous American icon Marilyn Monroe.
Reagan also served many years in the United States Army, and was even an undercover FBI informant during the McCarthy age. He sought communist sympathizers within the Hollywood community, and reported them to the FBI.
Reagan began his political career as a proud Democrat. He even considered FDR “a hero” and would vote for him all four times. His shift to right wing politics came after he realized that Communists were much more powerful in America than he had thought. He discovered that the Democratic Party wasn’t really stopping Communism, and felt as if the party had abandoned the American values of freedom and liberty. This is when he began to support Eisenhower for President in 1952 and 1956, and later on he would support Nixon for President in 1960.
He was then hired by General Electric (GE) where he hosted a weekly TV drama series. He also traveled around the country to speak to GE workers, which is when he developed his core conservative values of free market capitalism, anti-communism, lower taxes, and limited government. This is where his passion for conservatism ultimately became his new political identity. He quit his job at GE, and registered as a Republican for the first time ever in 1962. His first famous political quote developed in a speech shortly after, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me.” He registered as a Republican to fight the socialist and communist values that the Democrats began to hurdle towards. Reagan said that if his listeners did not write letters to prevent it, “we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don’t do this, and if I don’t do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” This is also where he became an NRA member, and would remain one for the rest of his life.
One of his first speeches focused around pure politics would be made on the campaign trail for Barry Goldwater in 1964 titled “A Time For Choosing.” He said, “The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing…you and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream—the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order—or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”
This speech gained massive attention from the Republican Party, and he would later throw his hat in the race for Governor of California in 1966. He defeated former San Francisco mayor George Christopher in the Republican primaries, and would continue to campaign on welfare reform and conservative values. Pat Brown, the current Governor, had been a major critic of Reagan, and considered him inexperienced. He claimed while he had been serving the public, Reagan had been filming the 1951 movie “Bedtime for Bonzo.”
But Reagan had a different approach that the people of California loved. He didn’t resort to attacks on Brown, but talked about how he was just another citizen tired of excessive taxation and a poorly run state government. The public also reacted well to Reagan’s personality, in particular to his apparent genuineness, affability, and self-deprecating sense of humor. When asked by a reporter how he would perform in office, Reagan replied, “I don’t know. I’ve never played a governor.” He later on defeated two-term Governor Pat Brown by nearly one million votes, and was sworn in as California’s Governor on January 2nd, 1967.
Later on, Reagan began campaigning for President of the United States. The 1980 election left the Democrat Party vulnerable. With President Jimmy Carter failing to resolve the Iran Hostage Crisis, and high inflation rates, high interest rates, high unemployment rates, and a worsening recession, Carter had almost no chances of winning the election. Reagan and Bush campaigned against Democratic incumbents Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale on a platform promising steep tax cuts, increased defense spending, a balanced budget, and a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
With Reagan’s character, honesty, and grace he was able to sway the American public into a landslide election where he won 44 of 50 states. He would later win the 1984 election where he lost only the State of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. He resolved international conflicts that Carter failed to help and he brought America out of a bad recession and rebuilt the economy, strengthened our military, and much more. This led to a worldwide respect for America, and even resulted in the end of the Cold War under George H.W. Bush.
After his Presidency he retired to his home in California where he would later write his autobiography, and live his final years modestly with his wife Nancy.
Donald Trump on the other hand was born in Queens, New York City. Trump is the son of Freddy Trump, a successful real estate developer and Mary MacLeod Trump, who was originally from Scotland and legally immigrated to the United States in 1930. She was a philanthropist in New York City.
Trump spent the majority of his adult life creating a new image for his father’s business that revolved around luxury and the most expensive of taste. He began investing in luxury hotels and casinos in the 1970’s and made a fortune off of his business. He lived in the largest, most luxurious homes, and even had his own show.
While Trump would publicly talk about his support of the Democratic Party here and there, his support for the party dwindled after Barack Obama became President in 2008. In 2010 he stopped donating to the Democrat Party completely, and became a Republican voter. In 2012 many speculated Trump would run for President after his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but instead he endorsed Mitt Romney for President.
On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President under the Republican Party. He focused his campaign around illegal immigration and also spoke about losing American jobs to other countries, the Obama Administration’s doubling of the national debt, and the power of radical Islamic terrorism.
The 2016 Presidential election was one of conflict and hate. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both worked as hard as they could to energize their bases and both used them to attack one another. Neither of them shared the self deprecating humor, or the kindness and honesty that former President Ronald Reagan was so famous for. This is why neither won in a landslide. The election essentially came down to just a small handful of states.
Donald Trump has maintained a relatively low approval rating throughout his Presidency, but has managed to build a booming economy, has diminished ISIS’ presence in the middle east, has begun the construction of physical security on the southern border, and has brought North Korea to the negotiation table with the U.S. and South Korea.
While Trump has his good qualities as President, he cannot compare to Ronald Reagan at all. Ronald Reagan united the American people, and he is one of the big reasons so many look back to the 80’s as one of America’s best eras. He didn’t put his party first; he put all of the people first. His speeches drew Americans to tears, brought the world to its knees, and his messages of strength and unity eventually ended wars and toppled governments. That is something that Donald Trump has yet to touch.
Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan.