On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan traveled to Germany. After decades of tension in the Cold War, the end was in sight. Standing next to the Brandenburg Gate in West Germany, Reagan called on Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall separating East and West Germany. The speech was bold and daring at the time, shifting the spotlight onto the General Secretary of the Communist party to put an end to communism in the country and begin the dismantlement of the USSR.
Today, the speech, and its poignant phrase, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!,” is known for its historical impact. It represented the end of oppression, tensions between foreign nations and a breath of relief as the threat of global war subsided. The wall did fall five months after Reagan’s term ended and pieces of the wall are still circulating at respected museums, including the Newseum in Washington, DC.
Ronald Reagan has become the face of the Republican party, despite an unusual start. His economic policies left lasting impressions on the state of the United States economy. His foreign relations cracked the icy tensions of the Cold War. Ronald Reagan’s two terms in office ushered in a new wave of diplomacy, stability and innovations, welcoming the 1990s in without the overshadowing loom of the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War. Reagan’s legacy and core ideals envelopes the hopes of the next future Republican party, representing an vision for Republican policy that has remained steady since Reagan left office.
However, the worries of the late 1980s during the Cold War are returning full throttle thanks to Donald Trump and a new wall. As he announced his candidacy in June 2015, Trump stated that he would build “a great, great wall on our Southern border.” Trump continued to say that Mexico would be paying for it, and I think that the President of Mexico is still laughing somewhere.
The lack of political strategy in Trump’s campaign implies that Trump did not knowingly echo the antithesis of Reagan’s 1987 address. It’s undeniable that Trump is far from the typical Republican candidate or party member. While the concept of strengthening the United States’ borders and regulating immigration is one of the core ideals of the Republican platform, Trump has managed to do what Trump does best: take it that extra step too far.
Trump’s typical bombastic rhetoric and incitement to violence are a far cry from the eloquent prose and policy of Reagan. When leaving office, Reagan held on of the highest approval ratings of anyone in office, Democrat or Republican. Trump, if he is lucky enough to be elected to president, can only dream of achieving as successful of a political career.
Trump and Reagan do have similarities, even if they are practically non-existent. They were both:
- Running on a campaign to improve the economy
Okay, okay, unfortunately, they have more in common than you might think. Reagan also came from a non-political background and fought to be taken seriously in the political arena. Reagan’s career focused on acting, both in television and film. He snagged a contract with Warner Bros. studios and is credited as an actor and producer on multiple films, not unlike Trump’s reality show background.
Thankfully, Reagan’s legacy is easily separated from Trump. He held a political position before running for the presidency (he was the governor of California, a position that another actor by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger would hold decades later). Reagan had a proven track record of improving the state’s economy from a government position. When Reagan ran in 1980 against incumbent President Carter, Reagan held 51 percent of the vote, a distant hope for Trump’s flailing campaign.
Like Reagan, Trump is trying to creating a lasting legacy in the Republican party. While Reagan made waves in improving the economy and foreign relations as president, Trump is already making his own tsunami with a tidal wave of racist, sexist and arguably fascist remarks. While many may not like Trump as a candidate or potential president, Trump is the Republican nominee and will leave his impact on the party. Now, he is trying to shift away from the policies that Reagan initiated…he will be destroying foreign relations with Mexico and potentially other foreign nations who do not take Trump seriously or will react negatively to his crude remarks. His focus on the economy is similar to Reagan’s, but he has yet to show a substantial plan to improve the U.S. economy besides continually referring to his company and tax evasion. Trump has ignited a movement within the GOP and his followers and compatriots will change the party, whether Reagan-esque Republicans want him to or not.