Reagan's daughter and a 1988 speech strongly suggest Trump's GOP is no longer the party of Reagan

Ronald Reagan reads a speech in 1988
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/Reagan Presidential Library)

People ask Patti Davis what her father, former President Ronald Reagan, "would say if he were here now," she wrote in an op-ed The Washington Post published Sunday night. "He'd be pretty horrified at where we've come to." While Davis did not mention President Trump by name, she suggested Reagan "would be appalled and heartbroken at a Congress that refuses to stand up to a president who not only seems ignorant of the Constitution but who also attempts at every turn to dismantle and mock our system of checks and balances."

Reagan, a GOP icon, recognized the "difference between immigration laws and cruelty," Davis said. "He believed in laws; he hated cruelty." She didn't mention trade, but Reagan's Nov. 26, 1988, radio address sounds eerily like a posthumous response to Trump's policies, most recently his unilateral tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the EU. Reagan lamented that "the trade deficit has led some misguided politicians to call for protectionism." In free trade, "there are no losers, only winners," he said, continuing:

Today protectionism is being used by some American politicians as a cheap form of nationalism. ... We should beware of the demagogues who are ready to declare a trade war against our friends, weakening our economy, our national security, and the entire free world, all while cynically waving the American flag. The expansion of the international economy is not a foreign invasion, it is an American triumph. [Ronald Regan, 1988]

Political parties evolve, and Trump publicly disagreed with Reagan about trade and foreign policy in the 1980s, too. Reagan likely had incoming House Speaker Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) in mind with his 1988 rebuke, but as today's GOP Congress is doing nothing to stop Trump's self-declared "Trade War," it's hard to see much Reagan in today's Republicans. Maybe the Reagan GOP is "taking a nap somewhere," as former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested last week. Or perhaps, as Peter Wehner argued, it is dead.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us