Does the GOP Have to Choose Between Reagan or Trump on the Future of the Party?

(Official White House photo)

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has been hosting a series of speakers in the last few months that addresses the compelling question: Where does the Republican Party go from here.

The series, “A Time For Choosing” — an echo of Reagan’s powerful TV address in 1964 for Barry Goldwater that placed Reagan on the path toward the White House — features Republicans of all ideological stripes, from Chris Christie to Paul Ryan to Mike Pompeo.

Several of the speakers are viable candidates for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

On Monday night, it was Senator Tom Cotton who spoke and framed the ultimate question that Republican voters will face in the 2024 primaries: Does the GOP voter have to choose a path inspired by Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump?

Cotton argues that both Trump and Reagan have their roots in a Jacksonian populism that most Republican voters have embraced.

Wall Street Journal:

“Reagan understood what all Republicans should: We are elected to protect the American people and their prosperity and their freedom,” Mr. Cotton said in an interview ahead of his speech. “Both President Reagan and President Trump, who many people say represent these polar opposites between which we must choose, stood in that tradition.”

The two may be been opposites in temperament, but otherwise, there are remarkable similarities.

They both entered politics after careers in entertainment, were Democrats before becoming Republicans and won the GOP nomination after overcoming opposition from some in the party establishment. They also advanced starkly different trade and immigration policies, and Mr. Reagan was always the optimist, while Mr. Trump often paints the U.S. as divided and headed in the wrong direction.

Indeed, Reagan was a confirmed free-trader and globalist. But before condemning him, perhaps one should look at the world where Reagan was elected president.

It was a bipolar world where the Soviet Union was sliding toward an implosion that would alter world history forever. It was also a world that America bestrode like a Colossus economically. We were just beginning to be challenged by Japan. The EU was a distant dream. China was a third-world country.

It was a very different world than the post-9/11, post-Iraq War world inherited by Donald Trump. And yet, both presidents navigated through the dangers and challenges of their respective worlds successfully.

Reagan’s globalist vision during his time in office was the right one. Trump’s “America First” vision during his term in office was also correct. Two worlds, two visions — both fit well for the times they were in.

Cotton is making the argument that the GOP doesn’t have to choose between the two.

Arkansas Times:

Jackson venerated the common man, like Trump and Reagan, Cotton said. Jackson took on the elites, he said, and now he’s been canceled by woke liberals, and the administrative state, or the deep state, is run amuck. Anthony Fauci should be fired. Shutdowns and mask mandates should be forever banished. The Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech should be venerated in public education and parents should get vouchers to send their kids away from public schools that teach “extremist” curriculum on race and sexuality.

Democrats and some Republicans have adopted the “faddish” idea that the country has an over-incarceration problem. “We have an under-incarceration problem,” Cotton said. “It’s time to declare a new war on crime that won’t stop until the carnage stops.” … Showing resolve like Andrew Jackson did when he tracked down criminals in Florida?

Cotton isn’t on many people’s radar for 2024. But he’s raised some important questions about how Republicans should see themselves. Style has nothing to do with ideas. Trump and Reagan may have had different styles of leadership but both ended up being exactly what was needed for the times they lived.

You can’t do much better than that.



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