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Craig Shirley: Trump Has Not Replaced Reagan

Updated: May 17, 2021

There’s an old saying in journalism that writing editorials is like wetting your pants in a blue

serge suit. No one notices but it gives you a nice, warm feeling all over.


I was reminded of this reading an opinion column by Al Hunt, an outspoken liberal formerly of Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, in The Hill Wednesday morning. The piece, written in regard to Liz Cheney’s ouster from Republican leadership, falsely postulates that the GOP has completely abandoned the principles of Ronald Reagan in favor of Donald Trump.


Al is a nice guy who I actually liked long ago when I lived in Washington, but I have to say a few things about his piece.


He does get a few things right to be fair. He’s right that Reagan personified forward-thinking conservative and that contrarily Donald Trump personifies rank negativism. He’s also correct that, unlike Reagan, acknowledging any mistakes is about as foreign to Trump as the sun is far from Pluto.


But things inside the GOP are a lot more subtle than the picture Al is painting. Al is an out and out liberal who didn’t much like Reagan when he was president and likes Trump even less by the look of it, and what’s more he’s a journalist who hasn’t ever worked in politics. So how would he really know?


So, as with any column, his words need to be taken with a grain of salt. Including his slobbering over fellow liberal reporters Lou Cannon and Karen Timulty. Lou is a very dear friend of mine and has written some very good books. Timulty’s ethics are questionable as she wrote a fawning column over Biden’s campaign manager who at the same time was supervising Timulty’s child. She is also a hard core liberal, so her judgement on anything, much less Nancy Reagan, could be called into question.


First of all, Al writes that hearken back to Reagan’s positive attitudes more than his actual policy or governance, which is not entirely true, but it’s a common mistake when trying to define the modern phenomenon of “Trumpism.”


What many liberals call “Trumpism” is a blanket term incorrectly applied to many long standing conservative values. I’ve written on this before, but essentially both liberals and Trump call things like lowering taxes, strengthening the border, and individual liberty “Trumpism.” In reality, Reagan and many conservatives before him embrace these tenants, while the true “Trumpism” as it were is Trump and his adherents’ hyper-aggressive pursuit of them.


Reagan won in two landslides because in part he made these time-honored conservative values look good with his sunny attitude. Trump lost the popular vote twice because he wouldn’t know what a sunny attitude is if it snatched his red hat and ran off with it. Don’t get me started on Reagan’s Electoral margins versus the Trumpster.


Moreover, while Al is also correct that the Republican leadership has embraced Trump either because they drink his Kool Aid or out of fear, Reagan certainly hasn’t been replaced as the party’s icon. This is because, quite simply, despite all their proclaimed loyalty to Trump, the people in charge of the GOP secretly hate him.


Mitch McConnell has been estranged from Trump since before January 6, and the Republican senators have more leeway to defy him generally given their longer terms.


But Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and soon Elise Stefanik don’t love Trump. Oh, they pretend to in order to keep the Freedom Caucus and primary voters happy, but you don’t get into leadership by giving into the base’s worst impulses. McCarthy and Scalise have been exhausted by the constant battle of running interference for Trump, and they’re biding their time while they appease Trump voters to stay in office.


That, in the short term, is not good for the country, but here’s the kicker: Trump won’t be around forever.


We saw from the CPAC polls that his children aren’t popular enough to hold high office themselves, and when Trump is no longer a factor that’s when the party will see a surge of Reaganism. Of conservative principles. The GOP leadership is just waiting for the day Trump disappears and another leader like Reagan rises. Yes, the Trump voters will still be there, and yes Trump’s style won’t vanish completely.


But for all its flaws, Republican leaders know they can’t win big if they fully double down on Trump. That is why Reagan was, and will remain, the “glue” that holds the GOP together. And Al Hunt needs to set aside his bottomless biases.


  • Ronald Reagan

  • Donald Trump

  • 2020 Election

  • Republican Party

  • Conservative Movement

  • Liz Cheney

  • Al Hunt

  • Trumpism

  • Reagan electoral margins

  • Trump children

  • Trump legacy


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9 Comments


There is something left out (and others have adequately covered the faults in this editorial). Reagan and Trump existed at different times and different realities. Sure the left hated Reagan (and still does). And even the GOP showed some resistance to Reagan. And yes, the press was biased against Reagan and conservatism in general. But in Reagan's day, they still played by some rules. Spinning the truth was a well developed art by then, but the truth still mattered. In Trump's era, the left hates Trump to a white hot degree never seen since the civil war. The establishment GOP hates Trump almost as much as the left does. Press bias? Gone; it has become full blown political advocacy. Rules?…

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Mr. Viguerie, if you know what's good for your column, I wouldn't let this idiot write ever again a piece of rubbish to be offered to be read by apparently a loyal conservative audience who appreciates truth.

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rosie16
rosie16
May 17, 2021

I know all the old Reaganites want to measure all Republican candidates against St. Ronald, but I beg to differ. Trump is no Reagan. Then again, Reagan was no Trump. In fact, Trump is one of a kind, and about time for the Republicans to come up with someone who does something other than make promises to the voters then make excuses for not keeping their promises. Trump is the kick in the pants that the right needed, and still needs...and will forever need. It's true that Trump won’t be around forever, but if we're lucky, Trumpism, and the fighting spirit that that entails, will. Also, I'm not forgetting that Reagan was the one who, stupidly, opened the souther…

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Replying to

You're partly right. Trump is the kick in the pants that's needed. However, Reagan did not open the southern door wide. He made a bargain with Congress that would have cut off illegal migration if Congress had kept up its end of the deal. He was lied to by the house speaker Tip O'Neill.

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Pamela Dunn
Pamela Dunn
May 17, 2021

Sorry but the writer of this load of BS column is full of it and it is plainly seen with this qoute :

"Donald Trump personifies rank negativism" ; Sorry you moron, but TRUMP was as great for this country as was Reagan and NEITHER of them reflected so-called "negativism" and BOTH had a tremendous positive effect on the country and BOTH were entirely interested in improving the government and the country.

PS: I voted for Reagan twice as Gov of CA and twice as President and voted twice for Trump as President only to see leftist liberal dimocrap fraud steal it away from him.

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Randy Harod
Randy Harod
May 17, 2021

President Trump woke everyone up that they can still believe someone will actually keep their election promises--and we will not be subdued again. The GOP Establish is half of the problem in the US today. They hide in the tall grass unless they are on the current bandwagon, cower to the media and Democrats, and are totally out of touch with the regular American people. Trump seems very negative to the Establishment in both Parties because he called out all the corruption and wrongs of the media and everyone regardless of Party, especially those who want more illegals, more war, higher taxes to line their pockets, and more voter fraud to get reelected. They fear, and therefore, hate Trump becau…

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