From the Right



In Defense Of Reagan


Presumably, Donald Trump will never produce the dark secrets promised about Ron DeSantis' past. But his team thinks it already has one -- the Florida governor once was a Reagan Republican.

"There's a pre-Trump Ron and there's a post-Trump Ron," someone in the Trump camp told Axios. "He used to be a Reagan Republican. That's where he comes from. He's now awkwardly trying to square his views up with the populist nationalist feeling of that party."

In his CPAC speech doubling down on "MAGA," Trump said, "We are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush." He didn't mention Reagan, but the inclusion of the Gipper in the hall of shame was heavily implied.

This way of thinking in a Republican primary is something new. Once, pretty much every Republican wanted to be a Reagan Republican. If the Trump camp gets its way, Reaganism will have gone from passé in 2016 to an affirmative vulnerability in 2024.

There are layers to this intra-Republican debate. It is certainly true that conservatives became overly obsessed with identifying themselves with Ronald Reagan and when something becomes an -ism, it is likely to be simplified and ossified.

Then, there's the sheer passage of time. Reagan left office 34 years ago. As of 2020, more than half of Americans were under age 40, meaning they have no real memory of Reagan.


Neither the pro- nor anti-Reagan side tends to do justice to the real, historical political figure.

Reagan was a free marketeer but wasn't doctrinaire. He accepted the fact of the New Deal.

He was a free trader, yet acted to protect American automakers and Harley-Davidson from Japanese imports.

If he was hawkish on foreign policy, he was always prudent. He was cautious about deploying U.S. troops overseas and contemplated eliminating nuclear weapons at a summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.


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John Deering Daryl Cagle Bill Day Randy Enos Ed Gamble John Cole