Why was Ronald Reagan’s legacy so important to the 2016 election?

June 15, 2017

The 2016 presidential election was certainly historic for a number of reasons. As such, it caused some people to look to the past as they envisioned the future, and who they hoped would lead the country in the right direction.

Both conservatives and liberals can agree that President Ronald Reagan was unlike any president who came before him, as well as any who have followed. That may suggest why his name was invoked so frequently during the 2016 election season. Reagan sought to break the political mold, and bring a breath of fresh air to Washington, D.C. Unlike career politicians of the time, Reagan didn't have a deep political background; he built connections with American voters instead of D.C. elites. Reagan relied on his background as a labor leader from humble beginnings to make inroads with America's middle class, an effort that carried him all the way to the Oval Office.

Many have drawn comparisons between Reagan’s rise to presidential power and that of President Donald Trump. Trump, too, ran a campaign focused on the middle class, particularly the segments, like in Reagan’s time, who felt voiceless in an increasingly political correct atmosphere. Respect for religious freedom, investment in labor and a reduction of government overreach were all cornerstones of Reagan’s campaign and later presidency, and they too are issues Trump centered on. Trump's unconventional background as a reality-television star has even prompted some to recall Reagan’s work as an actor.

Conservatives aren't the only ones who raised Reagan’s legacy during election season. Some on the left also sought to use his tough stance on crime, foreign threats and government spending as a comparison to Trump to encourage non-conservative voting. And, like Reagan, Trump has come under intense scrutiny by the left-leaning media.

The references from both sides of the aisle illustrate the power of Ronald Reagan's legacy. Nearly 30 years after his term ended, his positions, policies and even personality are still being looked to as examples of conservative leadership. But, as historian Gil Troy has noted, Reagan sought to transcend party politics — “He acted as president of the United States, not president of the Republican Party,” Gil said — a lesson that politicos of all backgrounds can learn from today.  When you use the Reagan.com private email service you help share the legacy of Ronald Reagan with each email you send.

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