Men of the People: Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump

Men of the People: Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump

Tommy Conroy, Staff Writer

President Donald Trump has thus far stood upon a political platform with the foundation built from pure American populism. Even more so, he’s proclaimed himself to be a man of the people; a political outsider who looks to “drain the swamp” of corruption and break the status quo. Andrew Jackson, our seventh President, took a similar stance almost two hundred years ago. Many have draw parallels between Jackson and Trump and their rises to power.

President Trump’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon even made the connection himself. “Like Jackson’s populism,” he told the Hollywood Reporter, “we’re going to build an entirely new political movement.”

Also, The New York Times reported that President Trump is hanging a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office.

However, are the two men really that alike?

Jackson and Trump both rallied against political corruption in Washington. An important event in Jackson’s political career was the so-called Corrupt Bargain of 1824. Four men were striving to the presidency that year: Jackson, John Quincy Adams, William Crawford, and Henry Clay. Jackson won the popular vote, although no candidate won a majority of electoral votes, and thus the election was to be decided by the House of Representatives. The House had to chose between Jackson, Adams, and Crawford (Clay was ruled out due to having the least amount of electoral votes.)  Shockingly, the House of Representatives would chose Adams to be our sixth President.

Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House at the time, was then named Adams’ Secretary of State, a position that historically is a stepping stone to becoming president (Every president between the two Adams’ had been Secretary of State before becoming president.) The American people called foul, believing Clay had convinced the House to elect Adams to consolidate his political power.

The Corrupt Bargain heavily contributed to Jackson’s win in the Election of 1828, where he defeated John Quincy Adams in a landslide, as there was a tangible basis to his claims of corruption in Washington. At his Inaugural Address, he even claimed he would seek reform, “which will require particularly the correction of those abuses that have brought the patronage of the Federal Government into conflict with the freedom of elections.”

There are many frightening parallels between Jackson’s Indian Removal policies against the Native Americans, and Trumps ban on immigration from some Muslim countries.

Jackson was also renowned for his short temper and unpredictability, similar to Trump. On the surface, the two men seem near identical. However, there are a few key differences.

Donald Trump was born into wealth and status. Andrew Jackson made his own. Jackson is the quintessential self-made American man. Born poor and orphaned at 14, through his own merit he became a general, lawyer, judge, Congressman, Senator, and wealthy plantation owner (with hundreds of slaves) before becoming President.

Jackson also was a thorough 1800’s Southern gentlemen when it came to women. He dueled and killed Charles Dickinson because the man had insulted his wife. His mother was a saint; his wife an angel. Some of Trump’s comments (in particular the infamous boasts to Billy Bush) have indicated that he has a few disparaging views on women.

Whether or not Trump is a modern day Jackson is open to interpretation. However, what’s important to consider is that when Jackson said he was a man of the people, his life leading up to becoming President supporting this claim. The same can’t be said for Trump. So, how similar can the two men really be?

Of course, there are certain crowds who would say that, just like Jackson, President Trump displays and perpetrates blatant racism, condescension towards women, an alienating personality, and a blind and dangerous sense of nationalism. Some other crowds might even agree with them.

But, that’s neither here nor there.