The moment it looked like the Americans were serious about electing their new President Donald Trump, I could not help making comparisons with one of his more recent predecessors, that former Hollywood B-Movie actor, Ronald Reagan (January 1980 to January 1989 ).
Reagan was a former Democrat who defected to the Republican Party in 1962. Trump was briefly a Democrat in 2001 before registering as a Republican in 2009, all the while making donations to Republicans and Democrats.
Reagan wasn’t born into money like Trump. Also, between his Hollywood days and the White House, he had first a PR career as spokesman for General Electric on TV and then a political career, where he was Governor of California from 1967 to 1975.
While Trump was also famously a TV personality, with regards to a political history, Trump has more in common with his presidential colleague in the Gambia - Adama Barrow, a successful property developer who has never held public office and has defied the odds to score a shock victory in the elections.
Also, where Reagan provided amnesty to more than three million illegal aliens that resided in the United States, Trump looks like he will be deporting such people.
However, to my mind, at least, the similarities seem more striking than the differences. Though not quite in the same class of oratory, Trump has clearly discovered a way to make speeches with a passion that got at least half of the US public to agree with him enough to propel him to the Oval Office.
Both men were seen by the voters as “Washington outsiders” and both were dismissed as inconsequential candidates who could never win and confounded pundits by doing exactly that.
Both have had messy personal lives with divorces and suggestions of womanising. Reagan divorced the actor Jane Wyman, and after that, 17 women testified that they slept with Reagan when he was married to Wyman. Reagan married another lesser known actor, Nancy, in 1952.
Trump has had two previous marriages. He was first married to Ivana Trump and then to Marla Maples in 1993, before he divorced her and married First Lady Melania in 2004.
Reagan was a great practitioner of what the Trumpians are calling alternative facts. He denied all knowledge of the Iran Contra affair, even though it was later proven he knew all about it.
Trump’s “Make America great again” slogan featured heavily in Reagan’s campaign materials. It remains to be seen if he will score a second term in four years, spark a new arms race (this time with China rather than Russia), and conduct any “secret wars.”
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