Close window  |  View original article

Trump, The New Jackson

Donald Trump may have history on his side.

By Petrarch  |  September 2, 2015

It's exceedingly rare that the liberal mainstream media agrees with Fox News about anything, but Donald Trump can lay claim to being just such a uniter.  With one voice, every established media outlet is squealing about how horrible and unpresidential The Donald is.  He's gauche!  Uncultured!  Rude!  Aggressive!  Sexist!  And on and on down through a laundry list of vivid politically incorrectness, most of which are also good explanations of why ordinary people do like Donald Trump very much indeed.

In belittling The Donald, the media are betraying complete ignorance of history, for we have been here before.

Our first few presidents were very great men, but they were all members of what today would be called the 1%.  All of them were the equivalent of millionaires many times over.  This doesn't mean they didn't care about common people, but they never pretended to be among their number.

This prevailed for the first six presidents, but by 1824, the American people were ready to try something new.  Enter General Andrew Jackson, an uncouth, backwoods barbarian.

Jackson did one thing and did it well: warfighting.  He was a bona-fide war hero and a world-class leader on the battlefield.  Otherwise, well:

Jackson had scanty qualifications as a statesman, with only brief and undistinguished service in Congress and as a territorial governor. Where all Presidents since Washington had served extensive administrative and diplomatic apprenticeships, Jackson had never held a Cabinet post or even been abroad. He spoke no foreign languages and even wrote English roughly.

In his first presidential campaign, Gen. Jackson did far better than anyone expected, throwing a divided minority election into the House of Representatives for resolution.  The established politicians held an advantage there, of course, and John Quincy Adams emerged with the Presidency.

By 1828, Gen. Jackson was ready.  He'd watched President Adams' every move and, using surprisingly modern publicity techniques, blasted allegations of corruption and overspending.  Most Americans of the day were as disgusted by political theft and insider deals as they are today, and Gen. Jackson rounded up support from all sides.

The Adams campaign wasn't entirely stupid: they knew of the fundamental divisions between Jackson's supporters.  All they had to do was nail down Gen. Jackson on one side of a disagreement, and he'd lose the other half of his supporters.  They failed: Gen. Jackson was a lot smarter than he looked.  He artfully dodged all the questioners, stayed vague, and kept everybody happy.

Then the Adams side started throwing mud, but that didn't stick any better.  Everybody already knew that Gen. Jackson was an uncouth, hard-drinking, hard-living, and no doubt hard-swearing military man, and his supporters had already allowed for that in their decisions.

The Jackson side returned fire, making similar allegations of sleaze against Adams.  Most were false if not ridiculous, but it didn't matter: Adams' established persona as a New England Puritan mandarin couldn't stand up to the slightest hint of mud.  Gen. Jackson won in a landslide and during his inauguration ball, his supporters actually tracked literal mud into the sacred White House precincts, so much so that it took months to get things back in order.

In the view of ordinary Americans, one of their own was finally in the White House, responding to their needs instead of catering to the whims of the elite.  President Jackson followed through on his promises: he dismantled the tariff regime of the "American System" and vetoed the renewal of the charter of the Bank of the United States.  His re-election was just as much of a triumph; at the end of eight years he retired to great honor and adulation all across the country.

Like Gen. Jackson, Mr. Trump has had one failed run at the White House and he's clearly learned from the experience.  Like Gen. Jackson, Mr. Trump's non-political exploits have earned him nationwide name recognition.  Mr. Trump shares with Gen. Jackson the distinction of having his very own unmistakable label - as with Gen. Jackson's "'Ol' Hick'ry," "The (one and only, there is no other) Donald" needs no introduction or explanation.  He needs no focus groups or branding consultants - he's already a national brand.

Like Gen. Jackson, Donald Trump has been wildly successful in an arena that has nothing directly to do with politics, although real estate is as inextricably entangled in politics as is the military.  Like Gen. Jackson, Mr. Trump appears to be a thoughtless, unscripted verbal loose cannon but is actually a brilliant, though unorthodox, debater who thinks on his feet and isn't afraid to take calculated risks.

Like Gen. Jackson, Mr. Trump revels in the contempt of the elites, and is more beloved by ordinary Americans every day because of it. William Shakespeare seemed to have summed up voters' attitudes toward both party establishments when he wrote, "A plague on both your houses." (Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, scene 1, 90–92)

We can't know if Mr. Trump will follow in Gen. Jackson's footsteps all the way to the Oval Office, but only an ignorant fool or someone hopelessly partisan would dismiss him out of hand.  Are the journalists who try and fail to dis "The Donald" ignorant, partisan, or perhaps a bit of both?  Time will tell.