Real Republicans Should Vote for Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Real Republicans Should Vote for Joe Biden

To exorcise Donald Trump, and return the Republican Party to the principled conservative party it was under Reagan, real Republicans must vote for Joe Biden.

General Motors once ran an advertising campaign in the 1980’s to update the image of their Oldsmobile car line.  The slogan they came up with was “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.”  It was a disaster– older Oldsmobile owners were offended, and younger buyers were unpersuaded – but it seems appropriate for the Republican Party.

Donald Trump

Also back in the 1980s, the Republican Party was dominated by President Ronald Reagan, a man of firm conservative views.  Journalist Sam Donaldson, then a White House correspondent, once commented that what he liked about Ronald Reagan was that you knew exactly where he stood on any issue.  And what were some of Reagan’s core political positions?

Reagan believed in a small government that protected people’s freedoms but did not interfere with their day-to-day lives.  He supported a strong national defense posture because he believed the Soviet Union was an existential threat.  When his advisers warned him that his spending plans would cause the deficit to balloon, he pointed to his large tax cuts. Putting extra money in people’s pockets would, he hoped, generate additional economic activity that would pay for the tax cuts and the extra defense spending.

The current Republican party of Donald Trump shares nothing with Ronald Reagan except his support for tax cuts. During his first two years in office, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, Trump’s only legislative accomplishment was a tax cut in December 2017, one largely benefiting corporations and the wealthy. He even bragged to patrons at Mar-a-Lago (who pay $750,000 for the privilege of membership), “You all just got a lot richer.” Actually, come to think of it, he had two legislative accomplishments – the second was raising the national debt.

On every other element of the Reagan philosophical and political agenda, however, Trump is the polar opposite. First and foremost, Reagan firmly believed in U.S. global leadership.  He once said of the NATO alliance, “We cannot shirk our responsibility as the leader of the free world, because we’re the only one that can do it… the burden of peace falls on us.”  Trump sees the alliance as only transactional, has said he would not necessarily honor Article 5 of its founding treaty, and has even hinted that as president he might withdraw from the alliance altogether. 

Whereas Reagan once described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” Trump, it seems, never runs out of good things to say about America’ adversaries, whether it is ChinaNorth Korea, or Hezbollah. Trump’s handling of Russia is however the most egregious of all examples. Trump embraced the current Russian government and its leader, Vladimir Putin, a Soviet-era KGB agent. He routinely praised Putin, never challenged him, sought a personal relationship with him, and sided with Putin over the American intelligence community at the embarrassing summit in Helsinki in July 2018.  Most distressingly, Trump has a pathological hatred for Ukraine and effectively supports Russian aggression against it. Republicans used to have a word for that sort of behavior – appeasement.

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull once said Trump was in awe of Putin. No one ever described Reagan as being in awe of the Soviet leaders. And Reagan only had good things to say about Gorbachev after he realized that Gorbachev was sincere about ending the Cold War and liberalizing the Soviet Union.

Further, Reagan understood the value of bipartisanship and prized it. Trump, needless to say, does not.  Since Democrats controlled at least one branch of Congress throughout Reagan’s presidency, he understood the importance of compromise for governing a democracy. Trump rejects the concept itself. Reagan had a cordial relationship with House Speaker Tip O’Neill and depended on Democrats to pass his tax cuts and defense-spending increases. Trump had no working relationship with any congressional Democrats, which explains why he also had no significant legislative accomplishments after Democrats won back the House in 2018.

Reagan’s former Navy Secretary, John Lehman, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Reagan would not be supporting Trump’s election. That’s clear to anyone who remembers Reagan. But in my view, given Trump’s glaring deficiencies, not only would Reagan not vote for him but would likely have returned to the Democratic Party, which he had supported until the 1960s. Reagan would certainly have an easier time winning the Democratic nomination today than the Republican.

Joe Biden

In his first inaugural speech in January 1981, delivered with defeated President Carter behind him, Reagan declared that the American “orderly transfer of authority” was “nothing less than a miracle.” And in many ways, it is just that – a miracle – but also one that is necessary for any functioning democracy. But as was on harsh display in January 2021, Trump does not accept this most fundamental of democratic ideals.  That is the most-stunning evidence of why Trump and his followers are not the descendants of Reagan. And why the “real” Republicans need to perform a political exorcism.

To exorcise Trump, and return the Republican Party to the principled conservative party it was under Reagan, real Republicans must vote for Biden.

About the Author: Tom Davis 

Tom Davis is a retired colonel in the United States Army and a former defense industry official. While in uniform, he taught economics at the United States Military Academy.

All images are Creative Commons.