Donald Trump vs. Andrew Jackson
By Richard Elfers
Many Americans are appalled that Donald Trump seems to be progressing toward winning the Republican nomination for president. But Trump is in many ways much like a former president, Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), who invigorated the American public to vote for him because he promised to give power back to the masses and to take the power from the political and economic elite.
Jackson gained his fame by fighting Native Americans in Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama. He also defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. This made him a national hero to many Americans. His nickname was “Old Hickory” because of his toughness.
Trump, on the other hand, has won his fame by his economic successes and by being a master negotiator, amassing billions of dollars in real estate wealth. Also a gifted showman, Trump gained a wide following by hosting his popular show “The Apprentice,” where he portrayed himself to be a tough and effective boss. So Trump is a captain of business — a general in corporate America, the country’s modern corporate battlefield.
Jackson had marital problems because he married his wife, Rachel, before she divorced her first husband. In a duel, Jackson killed a man who had insulted his wife’s reputation, calling her an adulterous. Trump, married three times, is also criticized for his marital difficulties.
Jackson’s appeal during his run for the presidency was to the “common people” who felt they were not listened to or respected by the political elite of the day. He spoke out against the moneyed interests in America that had corrupted the country’s values.
Trump has done the same thing with the Republican elite, who he has flaunted and criticized. He has ignored this group in his appeal to those who feel threatened by the changing demographics in the nation, as whites move toward more racial diversity. Trump, like Jackson, has appealed to people’s fear and hatred of racial and religious minorities.
For Jackson, the minorities were Native Americans. Not only was he famous as a vicious Indian fighter, but he also ignored a Supreme Court decision protecting the land and rights of the Cherokee Indians in Georgia by forcibly removing them to the Oklahoma Territory, causing the death of at least 3,000 tribe members during their march.
Trump has spoken harshly about immigrants and has spoken out against Muslims as being a threat to national security.
Jackson, once he became president, appointed “plain businessmen” to cabinet positions rather than party favorites. Trump, on the other hand, has verbally sliced and diced Republican Party favorites on the field of the televised debate floor. His cutting criticisms have been as sharp as any of Jackson’s saber cuts to his enemies.
Jackson was called “King Mob” for his reckless populism by his enemies because he appealed to the uneducated classes, much like Trump has been able to do. Jackson was an authoritarian and so is Trump. Jackson brooked no disobedience, and neither does Trump. Jackson ignored the rules, or twisted their interpretation of the law to his own advantage. Trump has done the same thing with cultural standards and more to gain his following.
Jackson was a bully and so is Trump. Jackson was beloved by his supporters, but hated by his enemies for his plain and rather vulgar language. Trump plays the same game. The political elites hated Jackson, but were unable to stop his ascendance. Republican elites hate Trump and are trying to thwart his nomination for the presidency.
In spite, and because of this hatred, Jackson’s popularity propelled him to the White House. It is very possible that Trump’s forcefulness and his distain of the Republican leadership might also propel him to the Oval Office.
For Republican leaders, Trump must be a nightmare. Republicans have pushed for and touted small government; however, if Trump wins, he, like Jackson in his time, will see the rise of a more powerful presidency, far stronger and more willing to ignore the Constitution than all the Republican accusations against President Obama’s “illegal acts” while President. History may repeat itself if Donald Trump is elected.
Richard Elfers is a columnist with the Courier Herald in Enumclaw. He also teaches at Greenriver College.