In an interview with CBS This Morning on Tuesday, former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich called President Trump a “remarkable” and “historic” figure, comparing him to the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson.
“I think Trump is a remarkable figure,” Gingrich said, responding to questions about the president veering off course and antagonizing his own party ahead of a major budget and tax reform battle. “I think he’s a historic figure, he’s certainly probably the biggest change agent since Andrew Jackson in the 1820s and 1830s.”
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) October 10, 2017
Despite the fact that it was intended to be complimentary, the Trump-Jackson comparison is unfortunate. Jackson, a historic figure with a number of military achievements under his belt, admittedly shares certain similarities with the current president, including his anti-establishment legacy and, as one onlooker at the time put it, the “rabble mob” he brought with him to the White House after his inauguration in 1829.
But the seventh president is also notorious for a number of troubling, inhumane reasons: Jackson was a slave-owner who offered rewards to anyone who gave escaped slaves especially cruel beatings. At the time of his death he owned approximately 150 slaves, though it’s been estimated that, over the course of his lifetime, he owned over 300.
Jackson is perhaps most famous for engineering one of the worst genocides in American history. A longtime proponent of removing native tribes who were taking up what he considered to be valuable land meant for white settlers, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, eventually forcing nearly 50,000 indigenous people off their lands and into the West. In the winter of 1838 alone, some 4,000 Native Americans died along the Trail of Tears.
In certain ways, the Trump-Jackson comparison seems depressingly fitting: since his own inauguration in January, Trump has become laser-focused on the removal of certain populations of people from the United States, including undocumented immigrants and their children, as well as on banning travelers and immigrants from several Muslim-majority nations. His antagonistic views toward social justice movements meant to draw attention to the deaths of minority populations, such as Black Lives Matter, has also drawn criticism. And as ThinkProgress’ Josh Israel pointed out in March, “Jackson, like Trump, preferred to ignore federal courts rather than enforce constitutional protections for all people.”
But, given Gingrich’s praise on Tuesday morning, it’s clear that many don’t view these comparisons negatively — quite the opposite, in fact.
Trump himself has touted those similarities in the past, using them to prop up his own legacy and play himself off as a change-maker. During a speech this past March at Jackson’s Nashville estate and plantation, The Hermitage, Trump noted, “It was during the revolution that Jackson first confronted and defied an arrogant elite. Does that sound familiar?”