Has Donald Trump replaced Ronald Reagan?

Donald J. Trump has reversed Republican positions held for decades, and Republicans act as if they have not noticed his evisceration of many of these traditional Republican stances. Their favorability numbers for the President remain at about 90% even though he has implemented policies for which they would have unmercifully excoriated Obama.

Republicans used to inveigh against deficits but have not criticized Trump’s latest budget which doubled the last deficit under Obama and continues to explode the national debt as far as the eye can see. Reagan Republicans used to condemn “picking economic winners” as when Obama subsidized clean energy, but now they say nothing, and even praise Trump for favoring dirty, unhealthy, expensive coal over other alternatives, including shale gas.

Reagan Republicans used to denigrate Obama as “the king” for the number of executive orders he signed. Now they say nothing even though Trump has signed twice as many as Obama did in the same period of his first term.

Reagan Republicans used to warn of the dangers of the “evil empire” but now they barely give Trump a reluctant light slap on the hand despite his fawning relationship with Russia and prickly treatment of our NATO allies. Reagan Republicans relentlessly hound Obama for the ACA (“Obamacare”).

Now, however, they remain silent about Trump, who promised to provide better insurance for all at lower prices right away and has done the very opposite; now threatening protection for insurance companies wanting to disqualify folks with pre-existing conditions. Reagan Republicans used to criticize Obama for incentivizing companies to take plants off-shore.

Now they appear oblivious to the fact that virtually all Trump family manufacturing businesses remain in foreign countries with no prospect of coming state-side.

Reagan Republicans used to mock Obama for his “apology tours” overseas. But now they ignore Trump’s constant criticism of America and characterizing Americans as stupid during multinational conferences and which he did at the Helsinki podium with Vladimir Putin.

Reagan Republicans used to belittle Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama for being deceived by North Korea.

But now they have nothing but praise for Donald Trump who got a vague non-binding joint statement about working toward denuclearization in return for considering ceasing U.S./ally military exercises, reducing or removing American forces from the demilitarized zone, granting Kim Jon Un status on the world stage even as he discontinues nuclear tests he no longer needs and continues to ramp up his nuclear program.

Honestly, I could go on, but you get the idea.

My point is not that Republicans have approved of Trump and promoted Trump policies that conflict with Democratic positions.

It’s not even that they give him a “boys-will-be-boys pass” on his outrageous impulsive, immature, and offensive personal behavior. It is that, in their continued support of Trump and all things Trump, they have rejected the long-held principles and views espoused by Ronald Reagan that have previously defined them and which had constituted the bedrock of their political beliefs.

The illness that’s currently afflicting the Republican Party began before Ronald Reagan with Nixon’s southern strategy.

After Reagan, it got worse with the ascendancy and debilitation of the Tea Party.

Did what we used to know as the Reagan Republican Party finally succumb totally during the Trump/Putin meeting in Helsinki?

We will know whether or not that is so if the U.S. agrees to recognize the annexation of Crimea in return for Russian support against Iran in Syria.

If that happens, Reagan’s dream of a shining city on a hill will go dark and Reagan’s Republican Party will morph completely into Trump’s Republican Party. In that case, Donald Trump will not only replace Ronald Reagan, he will also replace Neville Chamberlain.

Mannello is a retired hospital executive and consultant residing in Williamsport.

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