Donald Trump

About That 1980 Iowa Debate Ronald Reagan Skipped

It wasn't because he thought someone was mean to him, and after the Iowa caucus Reagan realized he had made a mistake.

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Donkey Hotey/flickr

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's Twitter squad is pushing the idea that Donald Trump rage-quitting the Fox News debate because he thinks Megyn Kelly is mean to him makes him as presidential as Ronald Reagan, because Reagan also skipped a GOP debate in Iowa.

For all his faults, Ronald Reagan ran a campaign of optimism and small government in 1980. That campaign ended in a landslide over incumbent Jimmy "malaise forever" Carter. No one would mistake the "Trump train" and its never-ending anger, xenophobia, and even class envy for a campaign of optimism. Sure, Trump, like Reagan, wants to "make America great again," but Trump's vision doesn't include America as a "shining city on a hill" for the world to aspire to. It involves a giant wall.

More importantly, and this ought to be obvious, the context of Reagan's decision to skip the 1980 debate is different than the context of Trump's decision. Reagan was not in a petty feud with the Des Moines Register at the time. His campaign manager simply believed that as the frontrunner, Reagan was above the debate. Only five of the nine Republicans vying for the nomination participated in the debate. That debate was the first Republican primary debate since 1948. It was not planned to be a televised debate—that came later. And after Reagan's loss in Iowa, he pivoted, ignoring his campaign manager's advice and deciding not to skip future debates.

That's very different from the circumstances surrounding Trump's decision. While you can't necessarily expect more from Trump's political supporters (or any kind of partisan fanatics), you should expect more from news outlets than passing off a decontextualized factoid in the course of their reporting.

Check out that 1980 debate below, which has very little resemblance in tone and presentation from debates "these days."

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  1. Trump isn’t optimistic?!?

    I would say many things against him, but accusing the man who said “you’ll get bored of winning” of a lack of optimism.

    1. Maybe even he knows the numbers in support of him can’t be real. I mean, he’s trolling the entire world… right?

      1. Trust me. Trump isn’t ducking out of the debate “because he thought someone was mean to him.”

        No, the smartest man to ever play this political game is not going to the debate because it will work in his favor. It always does.

        Monday his poll numbers will rise and he will win the Iowa caucus by a large amount.

        How many times does he have to prove all of you wrong before you admit that in reality YOU are the dumb asses!

        Please tell me which of the candidates your prefer. You can’t do it, can you? Ha, ha, ha.

        You’re ALL losers!

  2. Well, here’s hoping Trump doesn’t follow through and win.

    I seriously wonder how he gets the support he does… then I take a drink.

    Question: are libertarians the smallest minority in america?

    1. I’m the smallest minority in America.

      1. I knew I should have put the caveat about the individual as a minority not counting for this question.

      2. Webster is the smallest minority in America.

        1. whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis?

          1. Thanks for that. I wouldn’t have got it.

    2. I think the problem is more that libertarians are inherently difficult to organize, and a lot of us probably don’t really even surface in places like Reason comments sections. Think about it; we’re a bunch of people who want to be left the hell alone and don’t want to tell others what to do; even if we’re not hermits, we’re going to highly value autonomy. This is an inherent handicap in modern politics.

      Compare to socialists. There’s tons of little socialist splinter parties out there with slight twists on each others’ names; Socialist Action, Socialist Alternative, etc. They want to organize, but get fractured over precise doctrine questions, who should be in charge, etc. The outcome’s sort of the same, but how you get to the outcome is very different. (I had to use a link shortener below to link to Wikipedia articles because the links had too many characters in them, apparently.)

      http://bit.ly/1UraiE2 Start where I linked and then scroll down to the “Minor political parties” section and scroll through all the socialist parties list.

      Whereas the LP has a more cohesive structure, but has trouble drawing support: http://bit.ly/1SjYvrR

      1. No, we’re all here in the Reason comment section. That’s pretty much it. On good days, there can be up to 3 2 ok, let’s be realistic, 1 female libertarians. We’re growing. One day, we’re going to have a candidate for POTUS that will break that 1% glass ceiling. That is if we all show up at the polls and 99% of the rest of the electorate sit it out.

    3. Yes.

      But, we shall overcome. 🙂

  3. For all his faults, Ronald Reagan ran a campaign of optimism and small government in 1980.

    REAGAN PRAISE ALERT: CONDITION THREE

    Batten down the hatches. We are at a Code Jelly Bean. Reagan has been kind of praised. We are at a Code Jelly Bean. This is no drill.

    1. Just wait until hillary wins. Then Obama will be the first president since Reagan where his party has won the office after 2 terms. It will cement his historical legacy as *barf* a great president.

        1. Hahahahahahahaha. The optimism is strong with this one.

          Trump won’t win. Cruz won’t win. Bloomberg won’t win. It will be a massive vomit of people voting against those buffoons and Hillary winning.

        2. Then just wait until Sanders wins…

          1. Well, economically illiterate Beata economically illiterate war monger, right?

            1. One can only hope.

          2. Clinton leads Sanders by over 20 pts. He’s not going to win. She’s going to be the nom all things standing as they are.

            1. Tone Police said hillary wouldn’t win. The only other option is Sanders. Either way the GOP will find a way to lose and Spencer’s comment still stands.

              1. “Clash of the Fuck-ups”

                Tone Police says many things and is right about fewer things.

        3. If she’s up against Trump then yeah she’s winning. It’s a lock. Even Cruz’s chances of beating her are not great.

          1. a lock? What magical poll do you have that says that?

            1. It’s a Canuckistani poll. He pulls it out of his ass.

              1. Ironically, it’s actually your accusation that is pulled out of your ass.

            2. The one from MSNBC/WSJ that Commodius Spittoon linked to a few days ago. She’s up 10 points on him. Sanders was up 15.

              1. Also, DT’s negatives are EXTREMELY high. He’s toxic.

                1. So are Hitlary’s.

                  1. His are MUCH worse than Hillary’s. Hillary was like -4 or something. He was over triple that IIRC. Go to Nate Silver’s page.

                    1. would that be the same Nate Silver who got pasted by the 2014 Republican landslide?

                      Look, I am about as open borders as you get, but the fact is, the United States public is explicitly not that way. Immigration is not playing well here.

                    2. Nate Silver’s strength is in predicting presidential elections he’s even acknowledged that himself. He’s pretty much clairvoyant ITR.

                      Here, he makes a good case: http://fivethirtyeight.com/fea…..on-voters/

                      His favorability rating is 33 percent, as compared with an unfavorable rating of 58 percent, for a net rating of -25 percentage points. By comparison Hillary Clinton, whose favorability ratings are notoriously poor, has a 42 percent favorable rating against a 50 percent unfavorable rating, for a net of -8 points. Those are bad numbers, but nowhere near as bad as Trump’s.

                      “Immigration is not playing well here.”

                      True. Ragging on minorities and the rest of Trump’s antics play much worse, especially with Millenials. Imagine the material the Clinton campaign can use. RC Dean talks about how Clinton has to expose herself for campaigning but not against Trump! She just needs to play quotes of him being an asshole over and over.

                      Why would anyone think Trump can win? What planet are they in?

                    3. Ragging on minorities and the rest of Trump’s antics play much worse, especially with Millenials.

                      who don’t vote.

                      I am saying that pro-immigration stances are an absolute killer in Real America. Even among recent immigrants, who famously want to close the door behind them.

                    4. “who don’t vote.”

                      They will in this one. They will flock to the polls to stop The Trump.

                      “I am saying that pro-immigration stances are an absolute killer in Real America. ”

                      And the polls say that over 50% of GOP voters favor some kind of quasi-amnesty for illegal immigrants. Reason has made clear that while Americans don’t favor open borders their stance is more nuanced than you seem to think.

                    5. Derp Donald’s general election stats indeed suck, but don’t underestimate the level at which Hillary is an exceptional loser. Every one of Hillary’s schemes – her elections, pet legislation, marriage, even a stupid book tour – blows up in her face.

                      Aside from getting Establishment hand-out Senate and cabinet gigs, Hillary has failed everything she’s tried. Always from positions of strength to weakness, turning large fortunes into small ones, and getting it wrong on every inflection point in her ‘career.’

                    6. You aren’t wrong but she could win by just doing it over and over and getting lucky. If John Tory can eventually make it so can she.

        4. she’s not going to win.

          The Tone Police, they are inside of my head!

      1. I have been mulling things over about Hillary. She is objectively the worst person to run for president since…uh…King George?

        There is something missing that I can’t put my finger on. I never bought the explanation surrounding the video blaming after Benghazi. It didn’t really explain why they acted the way they did. All those shenanigans just to cover Obumbles ass before the election because he had proclaimed victory in the war on terror? He could have taken the hit and still won.

        Do we know yet exactly who the attackers were? What group they belonged t and what side of the ME clusterfuck they are aligned with?

        Then this thought popped in my head: What if that group was attacking our embassy there because Hillary was using it to funnel guns to the good terrorists in Syria and they had discovered that because her email was not secure? What if Putin slipped them that info because he was getting copies of all of her emails? She was trying to depose of Assad, Putin’s ally. He probably had the info and certainly a motive for doing that.

        It would explain all of the behavior we have seen.

        *takes off tinfoil had, leans back, lights a smoke*

        1. they were running guns through the outpost.

          1. By Ambassador Stevens. To overthrow Assad.

            I suppose it could have been revenge for deposing Gaddafi, but the whole thing is just hinky to me. Too many coincidences.

            The email scandal and the Benghazi debacle are probably tied together somehow. My guess is that Putin and the Chinese had everything on that server. Hell, how many people looked at her email address, looked up it’s id? Hell, all they had to do was break in the apartment where it was stored and plug a thumb drive into it. The goddamned thing wasn’t even guarded.

            1. We already know Hillary’s unsecured emails included Stevens’ security and travel plans.

              Pretty short leap to assume it was her carelessness that led to such an effective well-coordinated attack.

        2. “She is objectively the worst person to run for president since…uh…King George?”

          Pleas stop. There’s nothing ‘objective’ about such a ludicrous statement.

          1. What are you, an Objectivist Hilary defender now? Did you smoke too much Peikoff over the summer?

            1. No, he is an idiot savant with a bit of oppositional disorder.

              1. No I’m just capable of thinking and I make sure my statements are carefully crafted and accurate. Unlike some people who lash out when called out for not being accurate or careful.

                1. I made it clear that I was speculating.

                  It isnt your craftsmanship that is the problem, it is your logic.

                  1. “I made it clear that I was speculating.”

                    “I have been mulling things over about Hillary. She is objectively the worst person to run for president since…uh…King George?” -no indication of speculation in this selected text.

                2. No I’m just capable of thinking and I make sure my statements are carefully crafted and accurate.

                  Hilarious!

                  1. Yeah, I was just thinking about the skull-splitting cognitive dissonance he displays regularly.

              2. ^This, except for the Savant part.

                1. Oh brother the lightweights have come to mass against me. It’s like being piled upon by a bunch of smug pillows.

                  1. The Smug Pillows would be an excellent name for a band, but you’re still an idiot.

                    1. Sure I am. That’s why the vast majority of people arguing against me here resort to ad hom or non-sequitors or making stuff up (ex Swedish Rape Epidemic, no go zones, etc). It must be me.

                    2. Real Talk, Cytotoxic: i actually agree with you on a lot of issues – maybe even most, aside from the whole “bomb the shit out of everyone” thing (which is laughably incompatible with your support for open borders). However, even when you’re essentially right, you have a bad habit of making sweeping, evidence-lite assertions and then, when challenged, coming back with variants on NUH UH or STOP LYING, and nothing else. It makes you look really immature and unreasonable, and if you ever get tired of people treating you as such, maybe consider changing how you present your ideas. Self awareness is a wonderful thing.

            2. No I’m not but saying she’d be worse than FDR or Wilson is absurd. Christ maybe you should try living up to Objectivism before pretending to be one.

              1. Me? An Objectivist?

                I think you have me mistaken for someone else.

                1. I was referring to Tone Police.

          2. Stone cold evidence catching her red-handed in felonies is not objective? Caught red-handed lying to the faces of grieving family members about how their loved ones were murdered for her own political gain? I could go on all day about the bitch.

            Good grief Cytotoxic. I am starting to see a pattern.

            1. That’s objective proof that she is awful not that she’s the worst.

              1. *facepalm*

        3. Did King George run for President?

        4. Then this thought popped in my head: What if that group was attacking our embassy there because Hillary was using it to funnel guns to the good terrorists in Syria and they had discovered that because her email was not secure?

          The biggest problem with that theory is zero logistical or physical rationale to smuggle guns into Syria from Libya.

      2. At this point I’m mostly hoping that her bad thyroid doesn’t quit on her after a year or two in office.

      3. I will never get the focus here on the presidential election or, national politics.

        It’s your local ordinances or, mumipal court judge who has much more direct influence on your life. That is where we should be concentrating our debates. You know, your neighbor turns you in for having that 1976 Cadillac Seville sitting in your side yard. And, code enforcement sends a notice that, unless you remove it, your are subject to a fine of $1,000 and the costs of abatement of “the nuisance”.

        This really happened to me. Recently.

        Really folks, what has or can Hillary do that affects you so directly?

  4. I have never seen a collective group of allegedly intelligent individuals so violently miss the point.

    Guess who all media members are talking about ****again****?

    Now it does not matter whether Trump is there or not, because the debate is de facto about him, even in his absence!

    Media members get played easier than Theremins, I swear.

        1. Musicians freak me out.

          Especially those from my own generation.

          It’s like they are on a different planet or something.

      1. I didn’t say play it well….

  5. For all his faults, Ronald Reagan ran a campaign of optimism and small government in 1980

    Phew!

  6. the context of Reagan’s decision to skip the 1980 debate is different than the context of Trump’s decision

    At this point does anyone really expect Trump or his supporters to be honest about anything? Why should they? His support grows when he’s caught in a lie. People are just that angry and ignorant.

    1. You know who else’s support grows when caught in a lie?

      1. Democrats?

        1. That’s not his support growing . . .

      2. STEVE SMITH?

      3. Some chick getting a mustache ride from Pinocchio?

  7. Leave his podium empty.

    1. Put an empty chair there.

      1. No. Empty podium and Kelly can claim all night that he’s in the bathroom.

        “Well, as Mr. Trump is still in the bathroom, I’ll direct this next question to Senator Cruz.”

        1. “Can we get someone to check the bathroom for Mr. Trump. He’s been in there a long time. I’m starting to worry about his… wherever.”

          1. She could offer to have a intern take a tampon to him.

          2. “Can we get someone to check the bathroom for Mr. Trump. He’s been in there a long time. I’m starting to worry about his wide stance.”

        2. Christ, if only they would mock him, just this one time. Trying to be “take the high road” is clearly not working, so just mock the shit out of him, just this once. It would be ‘UUUUUGE!

          1. May as well even just for the lulz.

        3. Excellent.

    2. That would just make the entire night all about Trump.

      1. It already will be all about Trump.

  8. Prediction:

    Trump’s lead is unaffected by his missing the debate. If it moves outside the margin of error, it will be to the upside.

    Those who think Hillary is inevitable are being too pessimistic. Consider:

    (1) Hillary is a terrible campaigner. Her poll numbers move down in direct proportion to how much exposure she is getting. You can’t get to November without a lot of exposure.

    (2) Hillary probably has health problems, and those aren’t going to get better.

    (3) The email investigation isn’t going to just disappear without a trace. Even if she isn’t indicted, there is an assload of negative publicity coming her way on that.

    (4) Hillary’s secret weapon (Bill) has already been neutralized.

    I don’t think she’s a lock for the nom or the general. Let’s not forget: not a single vote has been cast, or delegate committed (as opposed to promised in a non-binding press release).

    1. So you think it will be Sanders? How can they possibly nominate Sanders? The party elites will do anything to keep that from happening, even if it means shuttering the FBI and turning her campaign into Weekend at Bernie’s 3.

      1. Bernie will be sacrificed on the Clinton altar the way hillary was for obama.

      2. Could be that Hillary sails to the nom. Could be she drops out partway through (for health/legal reasons).

        Depending on the facts at the moment, the Dem convention could be the one that’s brokered. Who might get the Dem nom is, I think, very hard to predict right now, because the major factors (Hillary’s health and legal problems) aren’t part of the calculus for winning or losing the nomination.

        1. You just wait, it’s all gonna come up O’Malley!

    2. It doesn’t matter who the dem is, people will flock to keep the trumpocalypse away.

      1. Early polls and all that, but Clinton and Trump are essentially in a dead heat right now:

        http://www.realclearpolitics.c…..-5491.html

        The RCP average has Clinton up by less than 3%.

        1. But Cyto assured me that Clinton is a lock! Could it be?

        2. The poll I saw from MSNBC/ WSJ (I think?) has Clinton leading Trump by 10 and Sanders leading him by 15. That and Trump’s sky-high negatives make it a lock for Clinton. He’s unelectable.

          1. so, on the one hand, you want to use Nate Silver, who does averages of polls, but on the other, you want to hang your hat on one poll. um.

            and RC is right – there has been no campaigning for the general yet. in hypothetical Trump v. Clinton general campaign, the Donald is going to shellac Hilary. She’s abjectly a terrible campaigner. Look at how she lost a lock nomination last time to a total political novice.

            1. “in hypothetical Trump v. Clinton general campaign, the Donald is going to shellac Hilary. ”

              Yeah, Americans sure do love rude boors who scape goat minorities. Such a winner.

              1. actually, yeah, nowadays, they kind of do.

                I don’t think you’re really in touch with Main Street here, man.

                Trump is speaking for a silent substantial minority.

                Look, I am a globalist, open-borders capitalist. I just don’t suffer any delusions that’s how the rest of my fellow Americans think. they don’t.

                1. “I don’t think you’re really in touch with Main Street here, man.”

                  I’m more in touch with it than you are. Again: read the Nate Silver article. The data is with me not you.

                2. Cripes do you also think Corbyn is also going to win the next British election?

              2. You’re wrong, Cytotoxic.

                There are many Americans who believe that Mexican immigrants take jobs away. They also believe that immigrants use a lot of welfare services. Whether these are true, or to what extent they are true, makes no difference. If people believe it, they will vote for the Donald because he knows what they fear better than career politicians. Hell, Rubio has stated that he will add 20,000 Border Patrol agents. Do you think he just pulled that idea out of thin air? No. He understands what most Americans fear. Trump knows the zeitgeist and it’s working for him. He just might win.

            2. “so, on the one hand, you want to use Nate Silver, who does averages of polls, but on the other, you want to hang your hat on one poll. um.”

              One of the few polls RCP is using for averages is the Rasmussen poll. I thought they had a rep for over-estimating support for GOP candidates? I am not sure this is what I heard a while back.

        3. Um…that graph makes it clear that Trump would have an extremely hard time beating her. Look at that trend: he ONCE matches her and for the rest of the time she is higher. What do you think when normies get clued in? When the airwaves are saturated with quotes of Trump being a racist/anti-Muslim asshole?

          Doesn’t Rasmussen have a reputation for showing GOP candidates being stronger than they are?

          1. people don’t really like Muslims here! GET A CLUE

            you’ve had about four years of domestic terror attacks and ISIS. people have Islam fatigue. they’re sick of hearing about how peaceful it is while watching as 99% of terror attacks have Allahu Ackbar as an exclamation point.

            1. And yet, Donald’s numbers still stink.

              People may not like Islam, but many will also not want to identify with bigotry.

              1. you’re taking a data point about the general election and extrapolating it to something that hasn’t even happened yet. I bet you thought Newt Gingrich was going to be the nominee last election too.

                I don’t see Trump’s numbers getting any worse, and I don’t see Clinton’s getting any better, and there’s still a campaign to be had.

            2. perfecto!

    3. Hillary is made of something between Teflon and that repulsion gel from Portal 2. Stuff that should sink her just keeps bouncing off. Maybe it will stick to her before the election but I kind of doubt it, and Trump’s idiot antics will do a great job of making sure no one cares.

      In a normal election, Hillary would be pretty vulnerable for all the reasons you listed. Against Trump, none of those things matter. She will be The Savior who has come to save us all from Trump. The worst part is, that won’t just be a media concoction that’s actually what she’ll be. And it will be enough to secure her the presidency assuming nothing freakish happens.

      1. When Trump wins, are you going to accept your wedgie gracefully, are we going to have to play rough with you?

        1. “When Trump wins”

          Hilarious.

  9. He should send his daughter as a stand in.

      1. Sexist dog!

        How many women vote? They won’t care what Invanka looks like.

  10. I’m not into SciFi and I haven’t seen the latest Star Wars movie. Can someone tell me why this story is illustrated with a pic of Luke Skywalker?

    1. The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980. Duh.

    2. Trump and ‘Episode VII’ are equally shitty, encouraging the comparative illustration.

      1. No Episode VII was good and wholesome. Get over it haters, JJ Abrams rules.

  11. I keep hearing journalists question why Trump would even consider non-participation. Best article I saw today was about an essay written in the 50s by Roland Barthes about the difference between wrestling and boxing. Boxing relies on a logical conclusion, where skill more often determines outcome. Wrestling, on the other hand, is a series of spectacles eliciting strong emotions, where logic plays no role.

    And Trump understands that his supporters and a good chunk of the GOP base want to watch a wrestling match. And so, he moves from one spectacle to the next and wrestles, while his opponents keep boxing. And how do you keep emotions high? By pitting yourself as the last man standing against evil. And has there been anything more evil to the GOP base than the media?

    So we will see. I think it explains Trumps actions perfectly. The question I have is whether or not Ailes also understands we are now in a wrestling match. If they both resolve this before the debate, it’s clear Trump played the public (once again), and FOX played us as well.

    Welcome to the next spectacle.

    1. Time to return to the constitution. Let’s limit the powers of the presidency.

  12. Good news, here is the link

    http://thinkprogress.org/polit…..ilosopher/

    Bad news, you’d have to go to Think Progress to read it.

    I might add that given the less than professional response FOX issued where they goaded one of the candidates, they might be fully engaged in the wrestling match.

    1. Of course, post-structuralism, like the entirety of Continental philosophy, is horseshit.

      1. ^This.

  13. It’s clear that I am much more well-read than many of the people I had though of as at least somewhat intelligent.

  14. Who else but Trump could win a debate by refusing to show up?

    1. Hitler?

  15. I hope they leave an empty podium up there.

  16. I don’t think that this will play well for Trump at all. This may finally be the point where his star starts to fade. Hopefully.

    1. Peak Trump is constantly descending on The Donald and landing on the dwarves

  17. To be fair, Trump is running as a Republican in the 2010s. It’s literally impossible for him to use the name of Reagan any more cheaply and inappropriately than his competition.

  18. Ted Cruz should open the debate by thanking everyone on the stage for not being a GIANT FUCKING PUSSY who’s afraid of being asked tough questions in a debate.

  19. what’s ironic is trump would likely give as intelligible an answer to any question in absentia as he would by being present.

  20. If Trump is making a mistake… don’t tell him.

    Although, at this point, I’m not sure the likely alternatives are any better.

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  22. Strange how you say after Reagan skipped a debate he realized he made a mistake. After he missed the debate he realized he’d won the election.

    1. Not strange. Just politics.

      All the more reason to limit government. They’ve got nothing on the rest of us.

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