It's 2021, not 1981.
Conservatives have spent the past forty years idolizing former President Ronald Reagan. If you ask a dozen conservatives who their favorite President in recent history is, probably over half of them would tell you Ronald Reagan. Publications like the Daily Wire are constantly stressing that the future of the American right is Reaganism. But is this Reagan worship really all warranted? Don’t get me wrong, Reagan was a solid leader, and a very honorable man. He did have some solid accomplishments during his time at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue. He created a then-record 16 Million Jobs. And most notable of all, it was Reagan who laid down the groundwork for the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, and the fall of Communism, which seems to be the only major policy victory for the American Right in the past 60 years or so.
The left seems to get another policy or cultural victory every other week, even at times when they don’t control a single branch in the government. Meanwhile, Republicans may win elections, but see very few cultural results in return. It makes sense that the right would hold onto whatever little recent win they would have. But, that should not be the mentality we have. We should actually strive for more than a remedial policy victory, and should not idolize a past President based off of that fact alone.
It’s important that we examine Ronald Reagan’s record, and especially compare it with Trumpism, which is where the GOP base has been moving in recent years. Republicans need to adapt to solve the problems threatening our nation today, such as globalization, free trade, mass immigration, and increasing corporate and bureaucratic power. However, does Reaganism really seek to solve those problems? Let’s take a deeper look.
Donald Trump in 2016 won a campaign in part, on immigration. He believed that we should withhold amnesty, build a wall on our southern border, and reform our legal immigration system to benefit the American worker. Ronald Reagan, however, took a more neoconservative approach to the issue of immigration. He signed into law the Immigration Control Act of 1986, which gave amnesty for up to 3 million illegal aliens. This action arguably was what gave Republicans a massive electoral disadvantage in California, nearly overnight. Not good.
Trump also won his 2016 election through the Midwest, which was bolstered by his skepticism of unfettered free trade. Reagan on the other hand took a fairly globalist position on this issue. While president, he declared in 1986: “Our trade policy rests firmly on the foundation of free and open markets. I recognize … the inescapable conclusion that all of history has taught: The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides of human progress and peace among nations.” He worked to lower tariffs as he doubled America’s spending in the global economy. Reagan also worked to lay the groundwork for NAFTA with the US Canda Free Trade Agreement. Not good.
It has long been said that conservatives need to support the Second Amendment, which is true. As Governor, he signed the Mulford act which prohibited concealed carry. As President, he signed the Firearm Ownership Protection Act, which contained the Hughes amendment banning certain types of assault weapons. After his time in office, he enthusiastically supported the Brady Bill and the Bill Clinton-backed Assault Weapons Ban of 1994.
Our family unit has been desecrated in recent years. The 1950s style Nuclear Family is long gone, partially because of the ridiculous no-fault divorce laws that have cheapened the institution of marriage. Of course there are other factors, yet this type of system has undoubtedly played a role in the increased divorce rate in our nation. Ronald Reagan was the first governor to pass a no-fault divorce law in 1970 in the state of California, and since then it has been all downhill for the nuclear family, and all uphill for the divorce rate.
The bottom line is that Ronald Reagan is no National Populist. And if he was alive today, I doubt he would have been a fan of Donald Trump. He likely would be a Mitt Romney or even a Bill Kristol type instead. And with a clear realignment brewing in our nation where the right is becoming populist and the left is becoming elitist, it’s time to leave Reaganism in the past and embrace Trumpism.