"History repeats itself," said the father of Communism, "first as tragedy, then as farce." He foresaw what's going on now in a disoriented GOP that still hates his guts.
If Donald Trump stops tripping over himself to win the nomination, the party line would hail him as the Second Coming of Reagan, but the parallels are not the ones they would be selling.
Both candidates were created by TV, Reagan as a pitchman for General Electric (a global corporation that now pays no taxes) and Trump as the fictional business giant who, in real life, keeps losing other people's money and going bankrupt.
Unlike Trump, Reagan's ratings went south. As a former not-quite-movie star and one-time Democrat, he turned to conservative politics the way washed-up contemporaries now flock to celebrity reality shows and roasts, delivering a canned speech about free enterprise with such sincerity that he found himself Governor of California.
But in today's souped-up media-ocracy, no experience is required as presidential apprenticeship: Trump is poised to go directly from what David Brooks calls "Blowhardia" to a White House run with none of Reagan's experience in the government trenches.
Political incorrectness might not stand in the way. Just as Reagan became the first divorced president ever, conservatives may overlook Trump's flamboyant personal life the way many backed a multi-married, cross-dressing, pro-choice Rudy Giuliani the last time around. Desperation for a winner breeds tolerance.
After the bumbling of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, Reagan rode into the White House on public disgust for two soothing terms as a Great Communicator who did little domestically and almost got himself impeached for illegal behavior in the Iran-Contra dealings but is now remembered mostly for his "Morning in America" rhetoric.
With disgust now at the rage level, the Trump boomlet is riding a much stronger current. Unless a plausible Republican stops his momentum, it could carry him to the nomination by default and fulfill the Marxist prophecy with a Groucho Marx farce. But few Americans would be laughing. With the possible exception of Democrats who, other than Obama and Clinton, have held a monopoly on ridiculous candidates over the past half century.
Update: The Trump farce continues as he berates Jerry Seinfeld for pulling out of one of his charities with unpresidential nastiness and to keep the publicity pot boiling promises to reveal "very interesting things" about the search for Obama's birth records.
Anybody here old enough to remember Geraldo Rivera's big buildup to opening Al Capone's safe and finding it empty?