According to the biography on the website for Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson fought in the American Revolution at age 13 and rose to become the general who helped win the War of 1812. President Donald Trump received five draft deferments — including one for bone spurs in his foot — and avoided military service… but did call the sexual encounters of his single years his “personal Vietnam.”
So when Trump became the first president since Ronald Reagan to visit Jackson’s Tennessee home on Wednesday, his attempt to tie himself to the populist but stained legacy of the seventh president was not a totally believable one.
Trump’s team has often attempted to connect the Republican to the nation’s first president from the renamed Democratic Party. The reason is that he, like Jackson, was an outsider who won against the political establishment with a populist message. Like Jackson, Trump ran on his opposition to powerful banks, federal spending and corruption.
Trump has been less overt about the obvious ties between Jackson — a slave owner whose “Trail of Tears” removed Native Americans from their homes and whose attempts to exterminate the Cherokee and Creek tribes earned him the nickname “Sharp Knife” — and his platform of mass deportation, Islamophobia, and racist attacks that go far beyond dog-whistle. Jackson, like Trump, preferred to ignore federal courts rather than enforce constitutional protections for all people.
Trump’s appeals to bigotry are sincere, but unlike Jackson, his populism is not.
Jackson focused his presidency on economic efforts to help the “common man.” He warned that “[t]he agricultural, the mechanical, and the laboring classes have little or no share in the direction of the great moneyed corporations.” Trump is pushing for corporate tax cuts, has endorsed the reverse-Robin-Hood Trumpcare health insurance bill that would shift funds from the poor to the rich, and has backed massive deregulation that would hurt consumers and help the corporate establishment.
Jackson took on the banking infrastructure. Trump — who slammed big banks like Goldman Sachs during the campaign — has loaded his administration with Goldman Sachs executives and has backed massive deregulation that would hurt consumers and help Big Banks.
Jackson took on the “states’ rights” movement that sought to pick and choose what federal laws applied and to nullify the rest. Trump has embraced “states’ rights” in its effort to allow local schools to discriminate against LGBT students (though he has taken the opposite view on marijuana decriminalization).
So when Trump tweeted on Wednesday that his wreath-laying at Jackson’s grave was a reminder that his administration will “build on [his] legacy,” so far it has only done so in the worst possible ways.