At Liberty, Trump as Reagan

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The Reagans on inaugural day, 1981

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The Reagans on inaugural day, 1981

The Reagans on inaugural day, 1981

The Reagans on inaugural day, 1981

Donald Trump was all but endorsed by Jerry Falwell, Jr. at Liberty University yesterday. The assembled students heard their president tell stories of Trump’s good works and compare him to his late father — founder of the university and of the Moral Majority — as a noble soul wrapped in a mantle of political incorrectness.

“He speaks the truth publicly, even if it is uncomfortable for people to hear,” Falwell, Jr. said. “Yet he treats his friends, his employees, and those in need with the greatest respect, loyalty, and generosity.” But it was a different comparison that mattered.

My father was criticized in the early 1980s for supporting Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter for president because Ronald Reagan was a Hollywood actor who’d been divorced and remarried and Jimmy Carter was a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher. Dad explained that when he went into the voting book, he wasn’t electing a Sunday school teacher, or a pastor, or even a president who shared his theological beliefs. He was electing the president of the United States. Abilities and experience required to lead a nation might not always line up with those required to lead a church or a congregation. After all, Jimmy Carter was a great Sunday school teacher, but look what happened to our nation with him in the presidency.

Like Reagan, Trump is a political outsider, famously successful, famous as a leading man on America’s screens. Just as Reagan promised morning in America, Trump promises to make America great again. Where Reagan marked the 1980 campaign with “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!” Trump campaigns as the guy who can’t be bought. In both cases, it’s the man on the white horse.

After the disappointment of George W. Bush, evangelicals have grown used to voting for presidential candidates who are not one of them: war hero John McCain and, last time around, business mogul and Mormon Mitt Romney. But unlike them, Trump is despised by the Republican establishment.

Reagan was the last anti-establishment candidate to achieve the GOP nomination. Like his father 36 years ago, Jerry Falwell, Jr. may just have put his money on the winning horse.

  • samuel johnston

    Help me Mark. I can’t decide if guys like the Falwell’s (Sr. and Jr.) are just typical cynical crooks (after all everybody does it), or if they really are so imperceptive as to actually believe that God has approved/ordained their special positions of religious celebrity. Trump is much easier to understand- (God loves a winner, and will not tolerate a looser).

  • cken

    Interesting political year shaping up. Hillary is, to be kind, the pinnacle of deception. Sanders is so far left he is scary. Cruz is, well just Cruz, which ain’t good; he is despised on both sides of the aisle. Trump is scary because he shoots from the hip, but I imagine he doesn’t do that when he get down to business. Rubio seems to be the one most solidly grounded in his faith and is center right, but he is a little light on experience. Obama and JFK were light on experience also; so who knows how Rubio might turn out. We blew it when we didn’t elect Romney because he is a Mormon. He was arguably the best qualified candidate since the first Bush. Christians need to get over voting based on one or two social/religious issues and vote for the best person available.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    While some of your comments are spot on, the first one isn’t. There’s been no less than five investigations of Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State and they’ve all come up with bupkis. Of course, you will never hear that on Faux, so your uninformed opinion appears to be the product of being consentually uninformed. Your assertion “We” didn’t elect Rmoney because he is a Mormon again is an assertion without evidence. Mittens did as well in 2012 in right-wing environs like Alabama and western Kansas as John McCain did in 2008 and in some cases better. The number of “Christians” who stayed home or voted for Obama over Romney’s religious affiliation might number a couple of hundred. But Romney was not rejected because of his religion so much as because of his contempt for everyone who was not graced with the spectacular advantages he obtained because of who gave birth to him.

  • cken

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I don’t watch or listen to any of the babel promulgated by the three biased news networks. My opinion of Hillary’s deceit and lack of ethics is simply based her history. So far as finding bupkis goes, she is a very powerful political entity who knows all the skeletons of those investigating her. But hey that is the way political power works and when you are at or near the top of the power pyramid, few if any will risk bringing you down for anything you do.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    Conspiracy theories spotted.

  • cken

    And I guess you believe almost all of our federal government elected representatives are forthright upstanding people who have our best interest at heart.
    There are no conspiracy implications in my statement. You just need to face reality. There are some very bad people in government, and some of the individuals, elected officials, and agencies in it do some very evil things. It is made worse by the fact the media no longer vets people running for office.
    DO NOT TRUST OUR GOVERNMENT!

  • Glenn Harrell

    Fallwell Speaks,
    “Avast there! Welcome to the house of Two Corinthians …Liberty that is.
    I want to introduce to you the roughest, toughest, mean ol’ hombre to ever jump a claim. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, the architect of that Great Again America, Mr. Donald Trump.
    “Thank you very much Mr. Fallwell. I’ve ventured far and wide in my travels, be it by air, land or sea. I’ve been a pirate, a prospector and a gunslinger, to name but a few. North, south, east, and west, it seems no matter where destiny takes me, there he be, the thorn in my side … that rootin-tootin, Trump pesterin, career politician … goes by the name-a-Bugs Bernie.” (altered quote from Yosemite Sam) He continues, “I understand that he too was here in this…what is it you guys do here? Oh yes, this 501c3 religious Harvard of the South. Hey, I don’t know just who is more out of place here, Bernie, me, or a dedicated prayer room for your practicing Muslim students? (unless its Hillary) Go Jesus.

  • Jack

    The premise here is that Trump equals Reagan and the problem is for any serious Christians, the equation is flatly absurd.

    To equate Trump with Reagan simply because both were divorced is to flunk Moral Reasoning 101.

    The character of Trump and Reagan could not be more different. One is arrogant and boastful; the other was humble and self-deprecating. One is cruel and vicious; the other was kind and gentle. One is opportunistic and unprincipled in service to victory; the other was anchored on first principles even if it meant not always winning.

    Reagan had more than his share of flaws — he was a poor father and in many ways a distant person. But as a public figure, Reagan appealed to the aspirational, not the fearful, part of human nature. He spoke in a way that hated what was evil and destructive without hating people who held to those views.

    Jerry Falwell, Jr. should be ashamed of himself.

  • Glenn Harrell

    Amen Preacher Samuel.

  • Glenn Harrell

    And Brother Jack

  • cken

    So striving for victory and not appealing to the aspirational side of human nature is immoral? Hard to see what you base your moral standards on.

  • Jack

    I would suggest that students at Liberty University draft a letter criticizing Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s near-endorsement of Donald Trump as a betrayal of the proclaimed values and mission of that university.

    It should make clear that Falwell’s heaping lavish praise on a figure whose values and comportment are diametrically opposed to those commended in Scripture does not reflect the sentiment of the student body at Liberty. It should say that he speaks for himself alone and not the university.

    They should draft it, sign it, and send it out to media.

  • Trump as Reagan? I doubt. But there is an article out comparing Trump to Nixon, and one to Pat Buchanan. I forget where they are at the moment.