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Donald Trump versus Ronald Reagan: Contrasts and Parallels

American conservatism has lost its way and its values, as we can see by comparing Ronald Reagan's vision and words to Donald Trump's. I am creating this page on the 30-year anniversary of Ronald Reagan's farewell address to the American people, which he delivered from the Oval Office on January 12, 1989. Today it is January 12, 2019 and the American people recently heard Donald Trump's first speech from the Oval Office. It is hard to imagine two Republicans more different than Reagan and Trump. I will begin with excerpts from Reagan's generous and optimistic farewell address, then compare the two men and their messages.

compiled by Michael R. Burch, an editor, translator and publisher
of Holocaust, Nakba and Trail of Tears poetry

Reagan's Farewell Address to American People

"It was back in the early Eighties, at the height of the boat people, and the sailor was hard at work on the carrier Midway, which was patrolling the South China Sea. The sailor, like most American servicemen, was young, smart and fiercely observant. The crew spied on the horizon a leaky little boat—and crammed inside were refugees from Indochina hoping to get to America. The Midway sent a small launch to bring them to the ship, and safety. As the refugees made their way through the choppy seas, one spied the sailor on deck, and stood up and called out to him. He yelled, 'Hello, American sailor—Hello, Freedom Man.' A small moment with a big meaning, a moment the sailor, who wrote it in a letter, couldn't get out of his mind. And, when I saw it, neither could I. Because that's what it has to—it was to be an American in the 1980's; We stood, again, for freedom. I know we always have but in the past few years the world—again, and in a way, we ourselves—rediscovered it. It's been quite a journey this decade, and we held together through some stormy seas. And at the end, together, we are reaching our destination."

Sadly, today we seem to be heading in the opposite direction.

"I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace—a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still. How Stands the City?"

No so well today, we fear.
"And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the Pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home."

Today we are turning the Pilgrims away and sending them hurtling back toward the darkness. Even the children, even the babies.

Here are what I see as major differences between Ronald Reagan and his brand of American conservatism, and Donald Trump and his brand of un-American conservatism ...


They both entered politics after spending time in the entertainment world.
They both started as Democrats before governing as Republicans.
Reagan was the oldest president ever elected, until Trump's election.
They were both divorced and had "complicated" family lives.


Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator: a marvelous speaker and a fine writer.
Donald Trump is the Great Alienator; he has a very limited vocabulary and struggles to write grammatically correct tweets.

Ronald Reagan was a gentleman.
Donald Trump is a bully, a boor and a serial sexual abuser of women.

Reagan served a cause bigger than himself.
Trump serves only himself, his ego and his "brand."

Ronald Reagan was able to inspire and unite Americans with his generous spirit, geniality, warm humor and likable personality.
Donald Trump has alienated the majority of Americans, according to polls that show him consistently underwater.

Ronald Reagan grasped the vast moral difference between the free world and repressive regimes.
Donald Trump disdains democracy, sees a moral equivalence between the US and Russia, and embraces "strong man" dictators like Putin.

Ronald Reagan articulated a central strategic premise that the security and prosperity of the United States is enhanced by the expansion of freedom around the world.
Donald Trump foolishly wants to "save money" by abandoning NATO and our allies, while leaving them to the not-so-tender mercies of nations like Russia and China.

Ronald Reagan was a globalist.
Donald Trump is a localist and an isolationist.

Ronald Reagan recognized that there are no “winners” in an every-country-for-itself system.
Donald Trump foolishly thinks the US can always "win" while other countries always lose, in a zero-sum game.

Ronald Reagan was a consistent conservative with a clear vision of what he thought the federal government should do and not do.
Donald Trump also has a clear vision, called "Trump wins," and he uses the US government for personal gain.

Ronald Reagan signed a bill giving amnesty to millions of undocumented workers in 1986.
Donald Trump regards undocumented workers as a dangerous plague, except when he hires them to save money.

NAFTA was Ronald Reagan's brainchild.
Donald Trump deplores NAFTA and once said the only thing he wants from Mexico is a giant border wall.

Ronald Reagan had an optimistic view of Americans of all sexes and hues, and of people in general.
Donald Trump has a deeply pessimistic view of women and darker-skinned people in general.

Ronald Reagan was a firm believer in personal freedom which extended to all people, regardless of sex, race, religion or other characteristics.
Donald Trump seems to think only white Christian men rock. 

Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot.
Donald Trump seems intent on helping Russia win the Cold War.

Ronald Reagan pointed out the evils of the Soviet Union.
Donald Trump praises Russia and Putin, while condemning NATO, the EU and our other democratic allies.

Ronald Reagan worked to reduce nuclear weapons.
Donald Trump wants to radically increase American nuclear stockpiles.

Ronald Reagan had served as governor of California for eight years before becoming president.
Donald Trump had run a fraudulent "charity," a fraudulent "university" and a number of failed businesses.

Reagan wrote the Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican."
Trump has broken the entire tablet.

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