Journalist explains why the parallels between Trump and Reagan are much deeper than many think
Many Never Trump conservatives have described Donald Trump's presidency as being a huge departure from Reaganism, arguing that Trump has robbed the Republican Party and the conservative movement of the dignity that they enjoyed under President Ronald Trump during the 1980s. But The Intercept's Jon Schwarz has a very different viewpoint. In an article published by The Intercept this week, Schwarz contends that Trump, for all his crudeness, is a 21st century Reagan.
"There are two words that are never spoken in Showtime's recent four-part documentary series 'The Reagans': Donald Trump," Schwarz explains. "But they don't need to be. 'The Reagans' scrapes off the hagiographic goo that's been spackled over Ronald Reagan since he left office in 1989, revealing the obvious reality underneath: Reagan was Trump's progenitor, and Trump is Reagan's degenerate 21st century descendant. Trump is to Reagan much like crack is to cocaine: cheaper, faster-acting and less glamorous. Still, in their essence, they are the same thing."
Schwarz goes on to describe some parallels between Reagan and Trump.
"Most obviously, both were entertainers before they were politicians," Schwarz recalls. "Reagan was an actor pretending to be a football hero or a war hero. In reality, Reagan wasn't any good at football and remained quietly ensconced in California for all of World War II. Trump excelled in an even cruder, more deceptive medium — reality TV — in which he pretended to be a successful businessman. In reality, Trump companies have declared bankruptcy six times."
Schwarz argues that there was an "ugly" side of Reagan even though he didn't go out of his way to show it.
According to Schwarz, "Reagan's public persona was genial. Yet he had a powerfully cruel, ugly streak that would manifest from time to time. In 1969, police shot dozens of Berkeley demonstrators, killing one. Reagan later snapped, 'If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with'…. In a phone call with Richard Nixon, Reagan referred to African diplomats as 'monkeys.' Of course, this would be just a Tuesday morning on Twitter for Trump, who has the same viciousness but nothing else."
Another Trump/Reagan parallel Schwarz notes is the fact that both of them "were underestimated, at every turn, by America's sputtering Democrats."
"In the weeks before the 1980 election, the race was often seen as a toss-up," Schwarz recalls. "Newsweek prepared three possible covers: one for a Reagan victory, one for Jimmy Carter winning, and one if neither won a majority of the electoral vote and the race were thrown into the House. Reagan then won 44 states. It was the greatest shock to the liberal system until Trump's victory 36 years later."
Schwarz observes that all too often, media figures and historians paint an overly rosy picture of the past — and Reagan is a prime example.
"All but the most anodyne versions of the past are sequestered away from the general public," Schwarz writes. "We engage in a kind of organized forgetting and then forget that we've done it. With just a single exception, reviews of 2020's 'The Reagans' didn't mention 'The Reagans' that had come before."
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