Olson dismisses differences in style between Reagan and Trump as unimportant, but to do so is to miss the point about how presidents manage to lead in difficult times. Where the Gipper showed optimism, stoicism, and good humor, Trump whines, complains, and threatens, exhibiting a smallness of spirit that would be reprehensible in a small-town mayor, much less in a president.
Where Reagan told Americans he believed in them, and would guard them during dangerous times, Trump divides Americans into enemy camps. Abroad, he alienates U.S. allies and antagonizes multiple enemies in every direction—except, of course, for Russia—then outsources the explanations and reassurances to “his” generals and a cadre of sour, defensive spokesmen.
Reagan took a vote of faith from the electorate after years of military defeat and economic stagnation and built on it, creating a movement and legacy. Trump took a minority win in the Electoral College and has, in less than a year, pared his support down to the bare minimum of the base that will never leave him no matter what he does.