Much to the media’s chagrin, a “Trumpian” presidency has happened before, beginning in 1981 with Ronald Reagan as president.
The major difference between the two men are their personas. Reagan’s optimism and Trump’s harshness are complete opposites, yet attract support in a similar way.
“Both have marketed the same brand of outrage to the same angry segments of the electorate, faced the same jeering press, attracted some of the same battlefront allies (Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Phyllis Schlafly), offended the same elites (including two generations of Bushes), outmaneuvered similar political adversaries, and espoused the same conservative populism built broadly on the pillars of jingoistic nationalism, nostalgia, contempt for Washington, and racial resentment,” said Frank Rich in a New York Magazine feature piece.
Reagan also faced radical biases against him. It was perceived he was unable to unify the Republican Party, and after the inauguration, it was believed GOP policies were scattered and lawmakers were unwilling to work with Reagan.
“Despite the long months of fierce campaigning and Gov. Reagan’s sweep of the major states, it has not produced any general agreement, even within his own party, about the policies that should guide the American people through the first half of the 1980’s,” said James Reston in a 1980 “New York Times” article.
Reagan’s campaign was marked by inaccurate polls, predicting a win for his opponent. Many polls showed Carter still ahead of Reagan by large margins right up until the election. In 2016, similar skewed polling was portrayed to the nation, predicting a solid win for Hillary Clinton.
“According to a Gallup poll, Carter was getting the lion’s share of the evangelical vote, 52 percent to only 31 percent for Reagan,” said Craig Shirley in his book “Rendezvous with Destiny” about a poll in August 1980.
While all the pre-election polls showed President Carter winning another term in office, Reagan actually won by a landslide. Similarly, all of the major polls just before the election showed Clinton leading, and she was projected to win soundly. The inaccuracy of polling reared its ugly head in 2016, just like in 1980.
“Since the previous Times poll, in August, Carter had gained in every category, every region,” said Shirley.
Even in the midst of the Trump presidency, he has declared the press on his Twitter platform as the “Opposition Party” and that the press is the “enemy of the American people.” Such provocations seem to infuriate the media even further, and some believe these accusations only caused more retaliation. Public trust and interest in the media’s political coverage is said by many to be plummeting.
In contrast, Reagan is recorded in White House history records and U.S. History curriculum as “the great communicator.” He used his skills as a speaker to utilize the media to reach many people groups.
Although a sharp comparison of the two men is not ordinary, the Trump Administration’s confrontation with journalists is a situation often covered in our nation. As the story continues to unfold, it is certain the media will be present to transcribe it.