Friday, February 17, 2017
When Donald Trump began his run for the Presidency, I thought to myself that he reminded me of Andrew Jackson a little. Not completely like these pundits currently have been suggesting, but just a little. I said this even before most made the comparison. Maybe it was my bias of Jackson in my view being the greatest President (for destroying the Second National Bank) ever and for being from Tennessee. But I also said that he had attributes of another southern politician that I admired - Huey Long, who was elected as Governor of Louisiana in 1928.
In simple terms from a surface perspective, Trump is nowhere close to the seventh President of the United States. However, like Jackson, he was an outsider buttressed by the common persons vote to take on the political establishment. To prove his recognition of this I suspect this is why immediately upon taking residency in the Whitehouse Trump hung up a portrait of ‘Old Hickory’ in the Oval Office.
Like Trump, Jackson was a populist, but was the son of a poor farming family with the key word being poor. Trump has never experienced being poor. Nonetheless, from what I have read, in disposition and temperament - seeing he was described as rash, impatient, rude, volatile, hot-headed and defensive, he could be a Trump twin. Comparably, he was considered a mean-spirited bully and equally as being unfits to serve as president. I would even go on a limb and assert that if it were acceptable, like in Jackson’s day, Trump would challenge any and all of his naysayers to duels. This was something Jackson did on occasion,even killing a man as a result of one. Jackson never mentioned “America first”, but his actions and campaign rhetoric said everything synonymous with the concept.
One could also postulate that the manner in which Trump disemboweled his opponents during the Republican primary was an act reflective of Jacksonian effort. I mean one cannot help but read how Jackson depicted John Quincy Adams (as an elitist European in American attire) could have fit the way in which Trump described, Rubio, Bush, and the other GOP hopefuls. Then there were the parades and barb-Q’s that Jackson used in the same manner as Trump did with his massive rallies. Other than that, it ends there. Not only was Jackson (in my view) America’s greatest general, he also closed out the War of 1812 with a dramatic victory at the Battle of New Orleans where he was out numbered 2 to 1 by most estimates. Jackson had also served as the attorney general for the state of Tennessee, as a judge, a congressman and a senator. Trump hasn’t had any experience in government or politics ever in his life.
The other part that makes the Trump political hybrid in my opinion is Huey Long. Long really had more in common with Jackson than Trump, both being southerners and from poor farming families. He also had a career in politics after first having had a successful career in law. Long had a nickname too – the “Kingfish.”
Like Trump and Jackson, Long was either loved or hated and viewed as being either a populist breath of fresh air on the one side or an autocratic tyrant on the other. All three were able to come into power by taking advantage of sentiments against the widespread public dissatisfaction with years of corrupt government activities and anti-elite sentiment. Like Jackson and Trump, when it came to disposition, Long was their equal. Historians note that it was common for Long to bully and curse at other lawmakers until he broke their will and got his way. This started from when he was first elected Governor of Louisiana in 1928 and continued until his death via assassination in 1935. Once in office, he put his supports in positions of leadership valuing proficiency over political cronyism.
His policies were Trump-like equally, as well as Jacksonian. Long focused his attention on the common farmers and workers of all races and on improving infrastructure in the form of bridges, roads, hospitals, and schools as well as social services. He also revised the tax codes. All three had better than popular support. Likewise they had the ability to speak directly to and influence regular citizens (their supporters) in a way that allowed them to overlook their personality failing’s and all entered into office at a time of social and economic upheaval.
For Long it was the start of the great depression, for Jackson it was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and Trump the economic conundrum proffered by an advancing age of technology and reduced utility for humans in manufacturing. All spoke to people whom felt as if they were being left behind. All were bedbugs to the established political elite albeit Long was still prone to the dirty and corrupt politics of Louisiana at the time. But most of all, each was extremely patriotic.
All came to power with support from ordinary people of ordinary means. Equally, Jackson, Long and Trump vowed to clean up corruption in Washington. Similarly, all three made direct links with the voters by speaking plane and directly to them without the filter of mainstream news outlets or the political elite, vowing to serve as the defender of the people against large special interest collectives. As well, they all expanded the scope of their executive power; Trump with his rapid pace of executive orders, Long with his unorthodox political arm-twisting and Jackson (like Trump) by implementing policies through a private bevy of advisers referred to as the "Kitchen Cabinet." Huey Long passed an inordinate number of laws that enabled him to enact his programs within the first year of becoming the governor of Louisiana. One thing for sure is that all of these men believed the federal government should be simple and reachable by the people.
Although it has been said Trump is a racist, he is likely the less racist of the three. Jackson is well documented in history for his belligerent Indian removal policy and Long for accusing a local judge in Louisiana of having "coffee (Black, colored, mulatto or negro)" blood. A racist slur which according to accounts caused the judge's son-in-law to shoot Long down in the state capitol eventually leading to his death at a time when he was considering running for president as a populist, third-party candidate. Some historians have asserted that he would have been likely to have defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt from winning reelection in 1936.
I do not see Trump as being exactly in the mold of Jackson, or of Long, but I must admit they all have/had powerful personalities. Maybe Trump will have an outcome like Jackson. If you recall, Jackson was quick to kick folk out of his cabinet who did not do what he said. In two terms for example, Jackson went through four secretaries of state and five secretaries of the treasury alone. Still, they all had detractors that considered them to be tyrants, with Long even being described as the ‘dictator’ of Louisiana. The state house of representatives even voted to impeach him but it failed. They are trying to impeach Trump now. The only commonality in my mind is that all three voiced populist resentments to the wealthy and evinced an I don’t give a fuck if I hurt your feelings attitude, I am here to do a job.