I didn’t turn 18 until December of 1984 and missed my chance to vote for Reagan by a little less than a month—but I wanted to badly. I was infatuated with the man if for no other reason than he appeared to have a reasonable answer for every problem ailing America and ailing me. He was charismatic, expressive, and strong in his words and actions. As a teenager and young American, his positions empowered me. I felt stronger, I felt that I mattered—that I was relevant—America was good, and I was good for America. Even today, I find myself surfing the internet for his speeches, his jokes, and his one-line proverbial remedies for America’s maladies if only to remember for a moment the feelings I had for him and for myself back then.
But the times change, people change, and eventually I changed. I grew older and perhaps wiser and more mature. I grew weary of the republican rhetoric and began to question their positions regarding fundamental values, individualism, supply-side economics and certainly civil and human rights. I suppose it was a Marxian sort of transition too where I moved ideologically and metaphorically—hurtling over the political spectrum from capitalism to socialism and landing somewhere far left of center awakening in a progressive state of mind.
I was talking with a more conservative friend of mine (yes, I still have a few) about Trump. He said that his brother who lives in a Midwestern state and who is in his mid-forties had never voted before—not in a presidential election—not ever. But recently, he had registered to vote, just so he could vote for Trump. It amazed me—shocked me. How could anyone vote for Trump? Trump is not an ideological icon—he’s a buffoon! Is there something in Trump that I am missing? And then I did the unthinkable. I started comparing Trump to Ronald Reagan. Goodness, it’s not the same, is it? I thought about it some more, and I began to feel sick—I could actually hear the faintest thuds of my hero’s body rolling in his grave. I could more easily compare Putin to Reagan than Reagan to Trump. The more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that there is no comparison. And that is where I made my mistake. No comparison exists between Ronald Reagan the man and Trump the man. Reagan had principles in which he believed in completely. Right or wrong, he lived them and was respected for them by the people who supported and ultimately elected him. But then what about Trump did my friend’s brother find so fascinating that he felt compelled to register and vote for him?
I believed that Ronald Reagan was a great man, and still do. Anyone who finds similarities between the two men, in my opinion, is simply wrong. However, I do believe you can compare the relationships. Reagan was a role model to me. I wanted to be like him and emulate him because he made me feel good about myself. When he spoke to America, I believed he was speaking to me. He helped me to believe in myself and gave me a sense of value and belonging. I was an American and that was a good thing. My friend’s brother must have the same feelings for Trump. Trump makes him feel relevant—Trump is a role model to him for sure. Perhaps Trump makes him feel valued—maybe he has never felt that way before. I can understand that—I can even respect that. But good lord, I could never vote for that!