With the passing of Nancy Reagan, the partner and as such most significant link to the last president that really did make America great again through his action has left us. Hate him or like him, Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan. He does not talk like him, he does not act like him and with his trademark facial scowl, he certainly does not look like him.
I came of age in politics during the years Reagan was president. And as I have written in the past, I had the honor of being part of maybe 200 college-age students who in 1980 made their way to Detroit for the sole and specific purpose of supporting candidate Reagan at the national convention.
In the years to follow, I became an officer of the New York Chapter of Citizens for Reagan, which was a grassroots organization that supported the programs and policies that we believed would and did make America great again.
There were protests back then, in fact, more than a few. But they never seemed predicated on or in response to a perception of hate. Contemporaries claim that Reagan did not have a mean bone in his body. Even when he made strong, provocative statements like calling the Soviet Union an evil empire or firing all the air traffic controllers in the United States, we considered it an expression of policy reflecting philosophy.
I suspect Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. The real question is, can Trump become a Republican president? Much has been written about all the new Republican primary voters. It’s true there has been a large increase. It is equally true that, even with the increase, the total number of individuals voting in the Republican primaries is but a small fraction of the normal general election day vote. Fortunately for the Republican Party, Hillary Clinton is a weak and flawed Democratic candidate who does not excite Democrats or appeal to many independents. Left to her own devices, she would have a problem drawing out large numbers of minority voters and young people.
She is clearly depending on Donald Trump to elect her president. And last week in Chicago she was given hope. Trump’s style of leadership, heated statements and explosive behavior seemed to ignite several very large groups to protest him at a rally. Many say it was long in coming and should have surprised no one.
Of course, they had a right to protest, but not a right to disrupt. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Trump, he has the right to free speech and maybe even more so as a candidate for president. In the end, Donald Trump probably wisely canceled to avoid further violence. But, as became obvious almost immediately, the protestors felt they had won a great victory and declared it so.
Now I am sorry to say that we can expect protests and violence at many points in the coming months of the campaign. The success of Chicago from the protestors’ perspective guarantees it. In fact the national convention in Cleveland this July could be a real flash point.
It is a risky game and requires a troubling strategy but it might be exactly what Hillary Clinton needs to bring energy into the Democratic ranks with a resulting large Democratic turnout. Ironically, from where Hillary sits, Trump may very well be making America great again – but for Democratic candidates. She may feel if he keeps it up and does not know how to turn it off, he will in fact help her get elected president.
And she will owe it all to Donald Trump.