Without question, former President Ronald Reagan is an icon of the conservative movement, and his presidency is widely seen as a benchmark for conservative governing.
Nevertheless, a major conservative organization and think-tank recently announced that President Donald Trump surpassed Reagan in his first year in terms of implementing a conservative agenda.
The Heritage Foundation reported that a review of Trump’s first year in office revealed that the president had already implemented, or was in the process of implementing — by way of the budget, executive actions, legislation and regulatory changes — about two thirds of the roughly 334 policy recommendations included in the Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership.”
“President Trump had an extraordinarily successful first year,” stated Thomas Binion, the Foundation’s director of congressional and executive branch relations. “He put a conservative on the Supreme Court and he enacted historic pro-growth tax reform. This analysis demonstrates the lesser-known policy success that his administration has been fighting hard to enact.”
According to The New York Times, that 64 percent success rate in implementing conservative policies outperformed the 49 percent rate achieved by Reagan in his first year.
“There is so much noise in this town that I think it obscures the real work that’s being done,” explained Foundation president Kay Coles James to The Times. “This administration is doing quite well in terms of advancing a conservative agenda — clearly, quite well.”
One aspect of the Trump presidency that may be key to his success in terms of the agenda thus far is the fact that he is an outsider businessman with a can-do attitude who isn’t wedded to the tried-and-failed tactics of career politicians and bureaucrats.
“‘Hell, why can’t we do that? Let’s try it. Let’s make it happen,’” said Heritage founder and former president Ed Feulner, imitating Trump. “In some respects, Trump the non-politician has an incredible advantage, even over Ronald Reagan. Because Ronald Reagan knew there were certain things government couldn’t do.”
According to Heritage, the policies contained within the “Mandate for Leadership” that apparently have guided Trump’s first year were developed during the 2016 campaign season and focused on several important principles: free enterprise, individual freedom, limited government, respect for traditional American values and a strong national defense.
The fact that no less than 70 former Heritage employees who are familiar with those principles either worked on Trump’s transition team or are part of the administration may help explain why so much of the conservative agenda has been successfully implemented thus far.
The first “Mandate for Leadership” was developed in 1981 and was adopted by Reagan’s administration. The booklet was also distributed to Reagan’s cabinet to help guide them.
“As President Reagan did in the 1980s, President Trump has embraced the comprehensive recommendations made in the ‘Mandate for Leadership,'” stated Binion. “These achievements have led to economic growth, a stronger national defense, and a restoration of the rule of law.”
Numerous examples of what Heritage would consider policy “wins” by the Trump administration were included on their site.
“So, say what you will, I think the other side of the aisle would be salivating to find their version of a Donald Trump — someone who came in, kept their promises and did what they said they were going to do,” surmised James to The Times, before she added, “Even though they are unhappy about tweets or language or unforced errors.”
To be sure, there have been a number of comparisons made between Trump and Reagan since the president first stepped into the political arena in 2015, some of which were a bit of a stretch. But this comparison is based strictly on numbers and achieved outcomes, and there is little arguing with that.
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