The Jackson Model

People have been concerned lately about POTUS’s lack of knowledge about the Andrew Jackson & the Civil War. I would agree, it’s concerning. A nation’s leader should know about that nation’s history. However, I’m more concerned about his hero worship of Andrew Jackson, whose picture now resides in the Oval Office.

Many commentators have covered the obvious racism of Jackson and I would not deny the parallels – the Trump’s campaign, and administration, is built largely on populist rhetoric, racism and an anti-immigrant (vs the historical anti-Native American) stances. He even has a wife that won’t join him at the White House. I suspect Trump sees himself as a modern Jackson and is somewhat patterning his presidency after Jackson’s.

What tends to be overlooked in the conversation on Jackson is the what contemporary voters thought Jackson’s problems were. Here are some cartoons from his time.

The administration was so shot through with corruption that lots of people were forced to resign or tried to flee. This is also true of Trump’s administration.

This is a Jackson trampling on the Constitution, after abusing his power of vetor. Again, this could be cartoon could easily be of  Trump.

And then there’s this. This is an aspect that doesn’t get covers. Jackson’s love of the spoils system.

Before 1829, most presidents kept civil servants from one U.S. president to another. There were a modest amount of appointees, but nothing over the top. Andrew Jackson’s supporters had been lavished with promises of positions in return for political support. Much like Trump. These promises were honored by an astonishing number of removals after Jackson assumed power. Much like Trump.

The Jackson administration tried to explain this unprecedented purge as reform, or constructive turnover, aimed at creating a more efficient system where the chain of command of public employees all obeyed the higher entities of government. Sound familiar?

At the beginning of Jackson’s administration, fully 919 officials were removed from government positions, amounting to nearly 10 percent of all government postings. In case you were wondering, at least 30% of announced positions have gone to Trump family members, campaign workers and their relatives, or persons related to donor’s.

So, while I agree the POTUS doesn’t know his history, I would venture to say the press could spend more time looking at the Jacksonian playbook. If Trump thinks of himself as a modern Jackson, look to Jackson’s record. Recent noise about reforming the banking community is straight out of Jackson’s time.

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