The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Are Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson Soul Mates?

President Trump has hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the oval office. Several of Trump’s spokespeople have heaped praise on Jackson, so Trump has picked Old Hickory as his populist role model.

Really? Did anyone on Trump’s staff even read the Cliffs Notes about Andrew Jackson? Here is the surface view:

A presidential candidate who strikes a wide range of observers, including leaders of his own party, as dangerously abrasive, arrogant, and racist. Partly because of those qualities, the candidate appeals stylistically to common-man voters who feel threatened by change, despite his being one of the super-rich himself. While this is Donald Trump in 2016, it also describes Andrew Jackson in the 1820s.

According to Benjamin Studebaker, when Jackson was elected, the accepted view was America needed strong economic growth to compete with Europe. Most thought the country needed to be industrialized quickly to turn us into an independent power. Tariffs should protect infant American industries from their established British competitors. Infrastructure investments should be directed towards transportation.

Jackson was uninterested in industrialization. He won the election because of slaveholding, agricultural states. The southern states had not industrialized, and they hated tariffs. Tariffs made British manufactured goods expensive, and made the price of Southern cotton uncompetitive. South Carolina attempted to nullify the tariffs, which led to tough talk and threats by Jackson to invade. But, ultimately, he signed legislation to reduce the South’s tariffs.

At the time, Jackson was praised for averting a violent confrontation, but his compromise left the issue of nullification unresolved. This eventually led to our Civil War.

The Second Bank of the United States (created by John Q. Adams, Jackson’s predecessor), was designed to stabilize prices and facilitate commerce. Jackson refused to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the US. Public monies were then directed to state banks, called “pet banks” since they were located in states that were Jackson’s core base of support. This deprived the industrial northeast of the investment funds it needed to grow.

The favored state banks began lending the new money feverishly, inflating land prices, and exposing the banks to undue risk.

Jackson blamed the resulting inflation on paper money, so he issued the “Specie Circular”, an executive order requiring all land purchases from the federal government to be made in gold and silver. This destroyed the value of the country’s paper currency, causing land prices to crash.

Executive orders can come back to bite you, Donald.

There is supreme irony that Jackson waged war on the Second Bank of United States, but he is on our $20 bill. Jackson found support for his economy policies among white men who felt threatened by changing from an agrarian to an industrial economy. But his war on the Bank, and the Democrats’ commitment to limited federal government helped propel the country into a four-year depression after the Panic of 1837.

Jackson created the spoils system. Thereafter, newly elected presidents would purge the civil service and hand out government jobs to friends, supporters, and even relatives. Jackson fired 10% of the federal workforce, replacing experienced hands with his buddies and lackeys. This practice continued for decades, ensuring that the federal government was consistently full of incompetents.

Jackson drained the swamp, and then recharged it with camp followers. Just like Trump!

Many on the right revere Jackson for the same reason they admire Donald Trump – he acts like a badass. Jackson killed people in duels. He spoke his mind. He may have rolled over on tariffs, but he used the word “treason” to describe South Carolina before he compromised. That made him seem tough.

The Right lets Jackson’s tough manner obscure the reality, that often he had little notion of the consequences of his actions. He sank the country’s economy for a decade, and handed its civil service over to generations of mismanagement.

A reappraisal of Jackson’s presidency forces us to look at the now-infamous policy of Indian Removal, whereby Jackson approved the confiscation of Native lands and then forcibly evicted them to the far West. He ignored John Marshall’s Supreme Court ruling that his Removal policy was unconstitutional.

He thought those in the abolitionist movement were traitors. His Postmaster General suppressed their mailings, and his party passed the Gag Rule in 1836 suppressing all antislavery petitions and discussion in Congress.

Trump’s new Gag Rule on Abortion limits the funding of global family planning providers if in any aspect of their work, they recommend, discuss, or even mention abortions to clients.

In most ways, it’s a fool’s errand to compare Trump to Andrew Jackson. Although there are gross similarities, Trump isn’t Jackson. Jackson was a military hero, but a failure at national policy. Trump has no heroic resume, and the jury is out on the success of his national policy.

For one thing, Trump confuses military school with military service.


Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 24, 2016

(Mr. Wrong and Ms. Right are in Bordeaux. Next, we visit the Normandy Beaches)

RIP Prince. “When Doves Cry” was a personal favorite:

COW Doves Cry

Wrongo didn’t appreciate when Prince was so popular, how gloriously filthy some of his mainstream songs were when you watched MTV, or heard them on the radio. The web has few Prince live performances because of his tenacious control over his artistic product. Check out this video from his 2004 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Apparently, the guitar that Prince used in the video was a cheap Telecaster knock-off. The Diminutive One tosses it into the audience as he finishes. Rolling Stone reports that it almost didn’t happen: George Harrison’s widow, Olivia, wanted the performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to be limited to people who knew George — unlike Prince, who later claimed he had never even heard the song before it was sent to him to learn for the performance.

Obama of Arabia meets up with his homies:

COW Whats New

Tubman on the $20 bill gives new meaning to new money:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Irony anybody? A 2-term President who was a soldier, a lawyer and served in Congress both in the House and Senate, and a Democrat, is replaced by a pro-Lincoln freed slave who worked for the US Army and was a Republican? And the guy responsible for it is a Democrat!

Trump and the GOP get ready to play delegate football:

COW Lucy

Trump told the GOP he was gonna be a new man in the General Election:

COW New Trump




Is Trump Our Next Andrew Jackson?

(This is our second column about how the history of a progressive Democratic President has meaning today. You can read the first here)

From Politico:

America has never seen a presidential candidate like this before. Detractors point to his lack of political experience, his poor grasp of policy, his alleged autocratic leanings and his shady past. They believe this man without much of a political platform (but with interesting hair) has neither the qualifications nor the temperament to be president. Yet in defiance of conventional wisdom, he is leading his three main rivals in the race for the White House, and party bigwigs are at a loss how to respond.

No, it’s not Donald Trump. It’s Andrew Jackson, and the year is 1824.

We think of Jackson as the quintessential American populist, a president who took on the banks (well, one bank, the Second National Bank, yesteryear’s Fed). Jackson was a general in the Army, the guy who won the Battle of New Orleans against the British. He was a lawyer, elected into the House of Representatives, and a Senator from Tennessee, all before he was a two-term President.

So, not quite the same resume as the Short-Fingered Vulgarian.

Jackson was born in the backwoods of the South, his father died before he was born, and his mother raised him with the collective support of her family. He was the first member of his family to be born in the New World. He lost one brother in combat during the Revolution; another died as a POW. His mother died while nursing American prisoners. Jackson was, by today’s standards, a child soldier.

He was also the greatest war hero of his generation. And he once took a musket ball in the chest before killing a rival in a duel.

Can you picture Mr. Foul-Mouthed Comb-Over participating in a duel?

Jackson ran for president three times, winning a least a plurality of the popular vote each time. But in his first try in 1824, the election was decided in the House of Representatives, and the presidency went to John Quincy Adams.

Jackson was a fabulous campaigner. Tens of thousands flocked to see this charismatic outsider who positioned himself as a steadfast defender of the Republic. Jackson’s rallies dwarfed those of his rivals, yet he had plenty of baggage.

Jackson was, his rivals believed, more of a celebrity than a serious candidate. They learned a tough lesson, as are Trump’s Republican rivals today.

The dominant political party in 1824 were the Democratic-Republicans. It was the party of Thomas Jefferson. Founded in the 1790s, it believed in an agrarian-based, decentralized, democratic government. The party opposed the Federalists who had authored and ratified the US Constitution. By 1830, the Democratic-Republican Party had been split in two. Adams, in league with Henry Clay, favored modernization, banks, and federal spending for roads, which the Andrew Jackson faction (the Democrats) opposed.

We see a similar party split looming on both sides today. And there are other parallels. The 1820’s were a time of discontent, financial panics, threats of rebellion, and outbursts of violence. Both the agrarian and new industrial classes felt that the central government was either hostile, or indifferent to their needs. They felt that equal rights for all had been replaced by a plutocratic class who kept most of the benefits to itself.

Today, Jackson is less likely to be portrayed as the champion of the working class than as a big-time slaveholder and Indian fighter. His infamous policy of Indian Removal supported the confiscation of Native American lands and their eviction west of the Mississippi. This led to the “Trail of Tears” the forced removal of nearly 125,000 Native Americans from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida.

There is a similarity between Jackson’s Indian Relocation act and Trump’s proposed “deport all illegal Hispanics” policy. A big difference between Trump and Jackson is that Jackson was pro-immigrant; he enjoyed political support in the cities of the North, particularly among the Irish immigrants who had recently arrived in the US.

Jackson started out with very limited resources, whereas Trump has inherited wealth. Jackson took on the greatest army in the world at the time, and won. Trump led pranks at his military high school.

Jackson worked his way up the political ladder and had considerable experience in government at local, state and national levels, while Trump ran one losing campaign, and is now embarked on a second.

Jackson was opposed to big banks, whereas Trump owes his success to the big banks.

2016 shapes up as a change election, like 1932, 1860 or Jackson’s in 1828. As in 1828, the Establishment Republicans may finally see what 40 years of promising their base one thing, and then doing exactly the opposite reaps.

That same threat is facing the Democrats.