Ronald Reagan v. Donald Trump On Immigration

How times have changed, and not for the better.

Donald Trump’s race-based tirade against four Democratic Congresswomen, which seems at its core to be as much about his attitude toward immigrants in general, is causing many to draw comparisons between the current President and one of his predecessors.

Ronald Reagan — April 4, 1980:

“Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit, and then while they’re working and earning here they pay taxes here? And when they want to go back, they can go back, and they can cross. And open the border both ways by understanding their problems.”

Ronald Reagan — January 19, 1989:

“Well, no, America’s freedom does not belong to just one nation. We’re custodians of freedom for the world. In Philadelphia, two centuries ago, James Allen wrote in his diary that “If we fail, liberty no longer continues an inhabitant of this globe.” Well, we didn’t fail. And still, we must not fail. For freedom is not the property of one generation; it’s the obligation of this and every generation. It’s our duty to protect it and expand it and pass it undiminished to those still unborn.

Now, tomorrow is a special day for me. I’m going to receive my gold watch. And since this is the last speech that I will give as President, I think it’s fitting to leave one final thought, an observation about a country which I love. It was stated best in a letter I received not long ago. A man wrote me and said: “You can go to live in France, but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan, but you cannot become a German, a Turk, or a Japanese. But anyone, from any corner of the Earth, can come to live in America and become an American.”

Yes, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors. It is that lady who gives us our great and special place in the world. For it’s the great life force of each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America’s triumph shall continue unsurpassed into the next century and beyond. Other countries may seek to compete with us; but in one vital area, as a beacon of freedom and opportunity that draws the people of the world, no country on Earth comes close.

This, I believe, is one of the most important sources of America’s greatness. We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation. While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever closed the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.”

Video:

Donald Trump July 14, 2019:

Donald Trump July 15, 2019:

” “They can leave. And you know what? I’m sure there will be many people that won’t miss them. “

Donald Trump July 16, 2019:

Donald Trump July 17, 2019:

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kit says:

    why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems

    Reagan was effectively speaking a foreign language as far as today’s conservatives are concerned. Problems? Understanding? Baked into those words are parallel concepts such as respect, win-win, compromise, and (worst of all) solution.

  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Reagan was a piece of shit. He was a homophobe. And his policies have been decimating the middle-class for over 30 years.
    But the idea that the people who fawn over Reagan have become full-fledged members of the Dennison Cult is hilarious.
    It’s like people who support flying the Confederate Flag, a symbol of treason, claiming to love this country.
    They are diametrically opposed and you CANNOT support both.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    It’s like people who support flying the Confederate Flag, a symbol of treason, claiming to love this country.
    They are diametrically opposed and you CANNOT support both.

    You should see the # of pickups running around out here flying both. MAGA heads are a little cornfused.

  4. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I don’t believe they think of themselves as confused at all.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I will give Reagan credit for only starting one pointless war and keeping it small. Otherwise Reagan’s big accomplishment was putting a smiling, avuncular face and a pleasant actor’s voice on conservatism. Without Reagan we would not have had W and Trump.

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  6. MarkedMan says:

    Doug, I get what you are trying to say here but I think the takeaway shouldn’t be “In the Reagan era the Republican Party was so much less racist”. While true, it misses a fundamental point. There have been three inflection points in the Republicans open embrace of racism, white supremacy and Christian identity. The first was when the Javits contingent lost in 1964 and party officials decided that by becoming the anti-civil rights party they could attract white Southern Democrats. They would lose the black Republicans, but the math was straightforward and resulted in a net gain.

    The second was the Reagan era. As Senator Javits told us, the Southern Strategists claimed that the embrace of racists was only temporary, needed if Goldwater and the congressional Republicans were to have any chance, but to be discarded at a future date. Basically, “We can use this heroin only once and then never again.” By 1980 the racists had become a significant bloc, and casting them out could have been difficult. But there were still a lot of decent Republicans left in the party at that point. There were even Republican politicians that talked with pride about marching with civil rights advocates. Reagan was running as the genial man of common sense and if the party was ever going to be able to show they could win without catering to the racists, he was the guy to do it. Instead we got Lee Atwater, Philadelphia Mississippi, and Welfare Queens.

    The third inflection point is Trump, of course. The geniality is gone. The pretense is gone. For 50 years the great Republican feat was to keep their candidates walking the tightrope above the cess pool of racism, misogyny and xenophobia that grew every year. In 2016 Donald Trump leaped down from that tightrope right into the filth and said “Come on in boys! The water’s fine!”

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  7. grumpy realist says:

    @MarkedMan: Based on my own experience, I think that a certain percentage of the US has been gently led into being more and more racist. It’s so much easier to blame your problems on “the ethnics” or “those black people” rather to man up and admit you didn’t get the desired job because you didn’t offer that much to the employer. Add to that the swash of propaganda trickled out into the internet ecosystem by Russian trolls and other trolls “looking for the lulz” and we’ve got tons of people who now are addicted to having chips on their shoulders and looking for “news stories” which confirm their own beliefs. The friend of mine who has gone down the Trump rabbit-hole has mutated from a hard-hitting newspaper reporter who never believed anything without getting two independent sources to someone who now gullibly scarfs down any “publication” on the far right and dismisses anything from the Washington Post or NYTimes as “fake news”.

    It’s pitiful. I deal with him as little as possible.

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  8. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I think that a certain percentage of the US has been gently led into being more and more racist.

    You may be right, but don’t underestimate just how innate racism is. I have friends and close colleagues from outside the western nations and when it comes time to shooting the breeze the default is that “group x has these characteristics”. Koreans are X, Japanese are Y, Chinese are Z, East Africans are A, Ivorians are B, Togoese are C. And I’ve had Chinese and African friends weigh in on groups of people that they literally had no personal experience whatsoever, whether it be African Americans in China or Jews in Ghana.

  9. Joe says:

    I don’t think that Doug is trying here to lionize Reagan, Daryl and his brother Darryl and MarkedMan. He is just saying that the Republican party leader in the ’80s could and would say these things and not be looked at strangely by other Republicans. That is a thing, and it’s worth noting.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    In 2016 Donald Trump leaped down from that tightrope right into the filth and said “Come on in boys! The water’s fine!”

    And they did, and have mostly found that he’s right.

  11. Modulo Myself says:

    All of this comes as immigrants have become more popular. In 1986 around 42% of Americans thought that immigration should be kept at its present level or increased. In 2019, 64% think it should be kept at its present level or increased and the numbers on the increase go from from 7% to 27%. I think you can see the rage and fury of the GOP in these numbers. These are the people who believe in a silent majority of normal real Americans, and now they’re this seething pile of shit led by a guy who cares nothing about America, all because they can’t handle common decency. It’s too threatening.

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  12. MarkedMan says:

    @Joe:

    He is just saying that the Republican party leader in the ’80s could and would say these things and not be looked at strangely by other Republicans.

    Fair point.

  13. Gustopher says:
  14. Jen says:

    Reagan’s position was that of the business community, which was largely supportive of the Republican party on tax and trade issues.

    Trump has blown all of that up–he doesn’t care if business wants to hire workers from Mexico and Central American countries (even his own golf courses), because he’s too busy trying to score points with his base.

    A smart immigration strategy would be exactly what Reagan outlined–note the “open border both ways” at the end of the first statement excerpted above–with lots of work permits and a much shorter application process. Fixing the process would do a lot to stem the tide of undocumented workers who come here solely to earn a living doing work that Americans refuse to do (like working in those poultry processing plants in the Midwest).

    It will not, however, help the asylum-seeking people. For that to abate, their countries must be stabilized. Some of them are fleeing because farming conditions have gotten so bad; these are the first of the climate change refugees and we’d better figure out how we’re going to handle them, because this is just the first trickle in that coming flood.

  15. Blue Galangal says:

    @MarkedMan:
    @Joe:

    Agreed; I didn’t think it was lionisation of Reagan either, just a juxtaposition of what was a conservative view point 30 years ago versus now.

    With that said – and also not lionising Reagan – wow. Watching that video, they did not call him the Great Communicator for nothing, did they. And I believe that he was already suffering from Alzheimer’s? Holy cow, how can the GOP look themselves in the mirror every frickin’ day when Trump can’t get a coherent sentence out at any given moment? (Not to mention “PEOPEL” and “ALCAIDA.”)

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  16. Hal_10000 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    He was a homophobe. And his policies have been decimating the middle-class for over 30 years.

    Reagan was from Hollywood. He was no homophobe. His failure was an unwillingness to stand up to the bigotry that consumed the entire country at that time (a bigotry only worsened by the AIDS epidemic). And he sure decimated the middle class — by moving them into the upper class and freeing them of the 70s stagflation. How awful.

    It doesn’t take much to reveal that the hatred of Trump is just a new veneer on the pathological hatred of all things Republican. I can’t wait until the next Republican presidential candidate who, no matter what he or she does or says, will inevitably be called “worse than Trump.”

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  17. An Interested Party says:

    Reagan was from Hollywood. He was no homophobe. His failure was an unwillingness to stand up to the bigotry that consumed the entire country at that time (a bigotry only worsened by the AIDS epidemic).

    Ohhh…so, in other words, everybody hated gay people…

    And he sure decimated the middle class — by moving them into the upper class and freeing them of the 70s stagflation. How awful.

    Oh really? Do you have some figures to show how the middle class has done so well since his presidency?

    I can’t wait until the next Republican presidential candidate who, no matter what he or she does or says, will inevitably be called “worse than Trump.”

    Well, a party that would support Trump would support any level of deviancy, dishonor, and disgrace…

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  18. Modulo Myself says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Republicans are chanting Send Her Back and you’re getting angry about how liberals are so unfair to Republicans. What is wrong with you?

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  19. Hal_10000 says:

    @An Interested Party:

    “Ohhh…so, in other words, everybody hated gay people…”

    Gallup’s first poll on wether homosexuality should even be legal was taken in 1987. 57% thought it should be outlawed. You can imagine that percentage was even higher among Republicans. And anti-gay attitudes got a lot worse when AIDS made its appearance. A lot worse.

    ” Do you have some figures to show how the middle class has done so well since his presidency?”

    Here is just one example. Bottom line: middle class is shrinking because more people are moving up not because more people are moving down.

    Getting ahold of stagflation was a huge deal. It cause a brief bad recession. But inflation and unemployment hit the middle class extremely hard.

    Republicans are chanting Send Her Back and you’re getting angry about how liberals are so unfair to Republicans

    I’ve expressed my contempt for Trump numerous times. But one of the best insights into his appeal and rallies was from someone on our site who described them as a WWF event (which Trump was part of). He has people he casts as the heel and himself as the hero. Clinton was the heel. Then it was the press. Now it’s Omar. Tomorrow it will be something else. Disgusting? Yes. Dangerous? Possibly. Trump has become the embodiment of every vile thing the Democrats said about Republicans for years.

    But one can simultaneously note that there’s a boy who cried wolf problem here. When every Republican for the last 40 years has been described as an extremist racist turd. When every utterance has been cast as some kind of bigoted slur, the appearance of an actual bigot (and one who inflames bigotry in others) is a lot harder to get across to people who aren’t political junkies. I have spent the last few days talking to Trump supporters I know. And every last one has said, “Yeah, that’s what they always say.”

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  20. Andrew says:

    @Hal_10000:

    People usually like taking it in the butt, as long as they got a say in who it is.
    Who knew so many people wanted a moronic, criminal, child raping, America hating, con man as their sugar daddy/pimp?
    I can only the imagine the sorts of STD’s the President has had.
    No wonder his kids came out off. I blame the syphilis in the womb. From all the paying hookers for sex and not wearing a condom.

    Good for your Trump buddies, though. Hopefully they are up on their shots.

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  21. DrDaveT says:

    @Hal_10000:

    And he sure decimated the middle class — by moving them into the upper class and freeing them of the 70s stagflation. How awful.

    Whoa.

    Hal, you’ve said many reasonable, sensible, evidence-backed things in this forum over the past few years. This was not one of them.

  22. Modulo Myself says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I have spent the last few days talking to Trump supporters I know. And every last one has said, “Yeah, that’s what they always say.”

    Almost like you’re an absolute idiot and your comrades are obvious liars and pigs.

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  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Modulo Myself: Whoa. Where did that come from? Agree with him or not, Hal was making a cogent argument for his position.

  24. Modulo Myself says:

    @MarkedMan:

    What’s his argument? That racism wasn’t part of the picture until Trump came around? Republicans used to defend their own obvious racism by saying racism was becoming weaker in America. But apparently, it was also getting worse. It’s just idiotic.

  25. wr says:

    @Hal_10000: “It doesn’t take much to reveal that the hatred of Trump is just a new veneer on the pathological hatred of all things Republican. ”

    And here we see how even a “sane” business-oriented Republican will come to justify not only voting for Trump but becoming a full-on MAGA. It’s all the fault of those mean Democrats who still don’t love Reagan — they’re forcing him to worship Trump!

  26. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: “Where did that come from? Agree with him or not, Hal was making a cogent argument for his position.”

    And that arguments boils down to “Because you correctly called us out for a long series of racist policies, we are now immune to being called racists. Because you objected every time we transferred yet another huge chunk of the nation’s wealth from the broad populace to the richest of the rich, we don’t have to listen to you when we do it again. Oh, and because you complained when we fought for the right of white men to shoot and kill any minority they liked, we don’t have to listen to you whining now that we’re simply putting them in concentration camps. How dare you correctly describe our actions!”