President Donald Trump has placed a painting of President Andrew Jackson in his Oval Office, in a symbolic affirmation of the populist similarities between the newly elected president and the former chief executive famed for his anti-establishment message in the 1820s.
President Trump has praised Jackson before. Only last week a Trump spokesman said the President feels Jackson was “an amazing figure in American history” and “very unique so many ways,” the Hill reported.
Jackson essentially created the Democrat Party in 1828, which lasted until the arrival of progressive President Barack Obama in 2009.
Presidential adviser Stephen K. Bannon has also likened Trump to our seventh president, saying that the president’s inauguration speech delivered a vision of “Jacksonian” populism to the American people.
Indeed, Andrew Jackson was known as the champion of the common man during his campaigns for the White House starting in 1824.
He lost his first contest to John Quincy Adams after winning the popular vote but failing to gain a majority of Electoral College votes in the three-way contest between himself, Adams, and Kentuckian Henry Clay. Because of the deadlock, the final vote was thrown to the House of Representatives, which chose Adams instead Jackson, the winner of the popular vote. The former Tennessee Senator later came back for a smashing landslide victory in 1828, leading a popular revolt of the electorate. His campaign led to major changes in the way Americans vote for president.
Jackson was the first self-made man without family or connections to become president after the six university-educated easterners won the top office of the land. Like Trump, Jackson was most decidedly not of the same elite group to which our other national leaders belonged.
Backed by tens of thousands of “common” Americans whom many elites of the day felt weren’t capable of casting informed votes, Jackson was excoriated as having instituted “mob rule” by taking power from the Washington establishment and wielding it for the people instead of the elite classes.
Arthur J. Stansbury, a journalist and author who wrote an important treaty on the U.S. Constitution in Jackson’s day, penned a description of Jackson’s arrival in Washington that might sound quite familiar to today’s elites so shocked by Trump’s ascension to the White House.
“No one who was at Washington at the time of General Jackson’s inauguration is likely to forget that period to the day of his death,” Stansbury wrote disgustedly. He went on:
To us, who had witnessed the quiet and orderly period of the Adams administration, it seemed as if half the nation had rushed at once into the capital. It was like the inundation of the northern barbarians into Rome, save that the tumultuous tide came in from a different point of the compass. The West and the South seemed to have precipitated themselves upon the North and overwhelmed it. On that memorable occasion you might tell a ‘Jackson man’ almost as far as you could see him. Their every motion seemed to cry out ‘Victory!’
With voices such as these decrying the arrival of the common man in 1828, it is no wonder President Trump finds President Jackson so appealing as a role model.
For nearly 100 years after his time in office, Andrew Jackson was one of America’s most popular leaders. His presidency didn’t start losing its luster until the modern, more liberal era of educators began to attack his legacy over his military record and his interactions with Native Americans.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.