Is Trump’s Embrace of Andrew Jackson a Problem?

The arrival of a column by National Review founder William F. Buckley was almost always of some intellectual and literary significance. With his high command of the English language, Buckley would explore a vexing question of public policy or pillory an unsuspecting political opponent. He often made quick work of arguments that were logically defective and employed witty repartees with the skill of a gold medalist fencer.

The columns of the current editor of National Review, Rich Lowry, are something of a different nature. Though Lowry does see problems within the conservative movement and he seems sincerely to want to find solutions, his columns lately tend to slide into gauzy sentimentalism and thinly-veiled anti-Trumpism.

After all, the infamous “Against Trump” issue of National Review, whose only virtue was to show the world just how little pull the magazine has outside the elite conservative bubble, was Lowry’s brainchild. So it’s natural that he might feel as though he has something to prove.

Lowry’s analysis got marginally better once Trump became president, but he still offers banal but predictable assertions that fit the acceptable and conventionally respectable Beltway pundit narrative.

His post-inauguration columns typically go something like this: “Trump might be right, but—dammit—he’s Trump, so still a fool!”

In a recent column for USA Today, for example, he noted that the so-called “best and brightest” who comprised the 2016 Republican presidential candidate offerings foolishly thought that invoking Ronald Reagan endlessly would have the same effect upon Republican leaning voters that Dr. Pavlov had on his dogs when he rang a bell. As Lowry nicely put it, “The conventional Republicans in the 2016 primary race hewed to Reaganism as a creed frozen in amber circa 1981.”

align=”left” But this analysis misses the significance of Trump’s political message about returning the power over government back to its rightful master: the people. Who better to appropriate in this manner than Jackson, a man who was always skeptical of internal improvement projects and other government-backed ventures which too easily became the crony capitalist schemes of his day.

But Trump, of course, couldn’t be right on the matter. His “heterodox mix of policies” are simply a “jumble” of disparate aims with no underlying principle holding them together. Oddly, Lowry then ended his column by bemoaning Republicans who “have fallen hard for something else” (i.e., Trump) and hoped that “Reaganism…will emerge again.” Why Lowry suddenly thought reviving the Reagan Mystery Cult is the needed strategy for winning a national campaign when he so eloquently bashed that very idea earlier in the same column is incomprehensible to this reader.

Lowry’s latest op-ed in Politico is no better. That column, with the unintentionally satiric title “The Party of Lincoln,” is full of bromides and asides that are better left to late-night dorm room conversations. Lowry argues that Trump is trying to revive the legacy of Andrew Jackson à la Lin-Manuel Miranda’s attempts at recovering Alexander Hamilton.

If the scale of this comparison doesn’t seem quite right, well, that’s because it isn’t.

Yes, Trump put Jackson’s picture up in the Oval Office and visited The Hermitage, Jackson’s estate in Tennessee. He also recently invoked Jackson in a thought experiment about how to keep our nation together at a time of disruption and disharmony, but our illustrious journalist class was happy to pretend that Trump was ignorant of Jackson’s death before the Civil War. Lowry, piling on and wearing his credentials well, writes as if Trump mused about Jackson randomly and with blanket approval, without giving the conversation a proper context.

Lowry then turns to his main argument, which is that by citing Jackson with approval in this way, Trump is kicking the legacy of Abraham Lincoln to the curb.

align=”right” Trump’s invocation of Jackson in this limited way is intended to allow his anti-ruling class message to resonate with voters. And why this can’t be done without coming at Lincoln’s expense is a mystery. After all, though they certainly had disagreements, Lincoln and Jackson agreed that the principle of government by consent is the keystone of just government.

But this analysis misses the significance of Trump’s political message about returning the power over government back to its rightful master: the people. Who better to appropriate in this manner than Jackson, a man who was always skeptical of internal improvement projects and other government-backed ventures which too easily became the crony capitalist schemes of his day.

Trump’s invocation of Jackson in this limited way is intended to allow his anti-ruling class message to resonate with voters. And why this can’t be done without coming at Lincoln’s expense is a mystery. After all, though they certainly had disagreements, Lincoln and Jackson agreed that the principle of government by consent is the keystone of just government.

There is no zero-sum game in honestly appropriating past politicians and statesmen who agreed on principles for political purposes after their deaths. And there is no doubt that Jackson and Lincoln both would be appalled at the current state of our regime and the lack of obvious connection between the laws that govern the lives of Americans and their consent.

Further, Lincoln himself appropriated Jackson’s legacy on certain occasions for political gain, a point not missed by Lowry in his piece and yet, somehow, still lost. In light of sectional fighting in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, Lincoln happily told an audience how “General Jackson” swiftly “put an end” to the “Calhoun Nullifying doctrine.” After the Supreme Court’s infamous ruling in the Dred Scott case, Lincoln noted Jackson’s efforts to maintain the idea that each branch has a duty to understand the Constitution independently of the Supreme Court’s interpretation.

Finally, Lowry’s contention that by using Jackson in this manner, Trump is casting off Lincoln as the standard-bearer of the modern GOP is the height of irony. This might be news to Lowry, but the Republicans did that themselves a long time ago. No help from Trump was required.

How Lincolnian is it to continually oversee the expansion of the administrative state (but, says the movement conservative, at least it’s at a slower rate!), increase the federal government’s role into affairs originally left to the states, spread “democracy” abroad thus violating the sovereignty of the people of other countries, and bow obsequiously to the idea of judicial supremacy? What would Lincoln think of a Republican Congress’s inability for years to pass an actual budget? And what would he think about Republican office holders clothing all the above in rhetoric fetishizing the Founders and himself?

Calling the modern Republican Party the Party of Lincoln is about as inapt as calling the modern day Democratic Party the Party of Jackson and Jefferson (that is, when the Democrats aren’t denouncing them as a racist deplorables). Lincoln wouldn’t recognize the Republican Party of today anymore than Jackson would the modern Democratic Party.

Living up to the standards of Lincoln is a lofty goal indeed. But by invoking Jackson, Trump is not doing damage to that legacy. In contrast, he is highlighting aspects of Jackson which Lincoln shared in order to re-orient our politics back toward the people’s interests and not those of the ruling class. Certainly, Lincoln and Jackson can both be cited and recommended for understanding this project.

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About Mike Sabo

Mike Sabo is a writer living in Cincinnati, Ohio and a graduate of the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College.

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47 responses to “Is Trump’s Embrace of Andrew Jackson a Problem?

  • Without Lincoln, we would not have the expansive federal government that we have today.

  • Is Trump’s Embrace of Andrew Jackson a Problem?
    No.
    It’s his complete ignorance of American history that’s a problem.

    • Actually, President Trump has an amazing grasp of true American history. His only mistake in the interview in which he invoked Jackson is that he said “the” civil war instead of civil war. The threat of civil war in America predated Lincoln by many, many years. Incidentally, Lincoln was a war-protestor. If he were alive today, he’d make a good Democrat.

      • Now THAT’S funny!

        This is the genius who just claimed an unprecedented first 100 days (must have been a helluva shock to FDR), who thinks Frederick Douglass was still alive (“somebody who’s done an amazing job”) and who seemed eager to spread the news that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican (“Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that!”).

        “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War — if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

        Seriously?!? “People don’t ask that question”?!?! For more than a hundred years, Civil War scholars have been asking and answering that question!

        Last week, in an interview with Reuters, Trump suggested there was really no reason for the Israelis and the Palestinians to have been fighting for all these decades.

        “I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians. There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — No reason whatsoever! You know, besides the whole claim-to-the-very-same-holy-land thing. Minor details.”

        The only “amazing grasp” this imbecile has is those tiny little hands on some unsuspecting woman’s pu$&y.

      • Frank, it’s good that you stay in your bedroom with your Oui magazines, because you would only get your ass kicked out in the real world. And, thank you for projecting that you have small hands. We needed to know that.

      • “Oui Magazines” Do they still publish that? What are you, like 80?

      • Frank, you are being disingenuous. You’re saying b/c the CW has been debated, that it’s settled… I’d wager that more than 80% of folks under 40 have had a seriously retarded education about it. Unless they are interested in it on their own or they take college history on it, it just is barely covered. Are you seriously saying that had Jackson been alive 30 years later, that the CW was inevitable?.. Someone can’t postulate the question?; That doesn’t make him ignorant. ..

      • I agree with your 80% statistic. But no that was not my point, that it’s been debated and so it is settled. My point is that Trump is so ignorant of history that he doesn’t realize it’s been debated. He never knew before that Lincoln was a republican. HE just found that out. And he wasn’t postulating on what would’ve happened if Jackson had been alive 30 years later, he thought he WAS alive 30 years later! He is the single most uneducated and ignorant man ever to occupy the oval office

      • Ok, got cha. Your point is Trump is stoopid. Got it. Well, we just don’t agree. Hillary would have been better, and too bad Trump won then. You are going to be miserable for the next 8 years.

      • Well, one thing is for sure — your understanding of Trump is even less than Trump’s understanding of history. Make of that what you will.

      • To begin with, none of the examples you cited indicate that Trump is an idiot or is ignorant; he didn’t suggest Fredrick Douglass is alive, you inferred that. Take a national poll of Americans these days, and they’ll tell you that Lincoln must have been a Democrat because he freed slaves — something that is utterly ridiculous, if you do understand history. And the only reason that the Israelis and Palestinians keep carrying on is that dead Israeli children are more important to Arabs than living Palestinian ones.

        Second, I’m not saying it’s particularly easy to fully grasp Trump’s peculiar speech patterns; but as someone smarter than both of us pointed out, his supporters took him seriously but not literally, while his detractors, in which camp you are obviously comfortable, took him literally but not seriously. That’s something I think you should consider, and I mean no direct insult or disrespect when I tell you that.

        Finally, it’s clear to me you (and so many others) didn’t understand or place the “pussy-grabbing” nonsense in context. He was not bragging about his prowess or any other such thing, he was marveling at what unprincipled gold-diggers the women he was talking about were — what they will let him get away with because of his power and money.

      • With no disrespect meant in return, I think you’re deluding yourself.

        From his statement it is clear that Trump thought Frederick Douglass was a living person. No interpretive gymnastics needed to come to that conclusion. I have no doubt you’re correct about Lincoln — most people don’t know or care that much about history or politics, especially if they’re under 40. But the fact that our 70-year-old “Party of Lincoln” president just learned Lincoln was a Republican — again, no special powers of inference needed, read the quote! — that’s just appalling.

        Your statement about the Palestinian/Israeli problem is just bumper-sticker bull that I’m not even going to address.

        To finish with the “pussy-grabbing nonsense”…

        Let me question your interpretation: Do the women he refers to allow such behavior because they’re “unprincipled gold-diggers”? Or because they’re intimidated by his power and money? How many of the women on Fox News stayed silent for so long because they were gold-diggers? How many because they feared for their jobs and their reputations?

        Careful how you answer the question. The answer you’ve suggested puts you very close to blaming the victim for her victimization.

        But more importantly, he wasn’t just “marveling” at the situation. He was bragging about it, bragging about taking advantage of it, preparing to take advantage of it in a few moments!

        “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her.”

        What kind of sick pig does that?

        Your president.

      • Who’s deluding whom? Neither of the quotes you specified give any solid indication — especially if you understand and recognize Trump’s speech patterns — that he believed Douglass was alive or Lincoln wasn’t a Republican. If there are other quotes that better reinforce your point, you should supply them; as it is, you’re either just reaching because you think he’s stupid and you want others to think so too, or you’re repeating talking points.

        You may find my “bumper sticker bs” regarding the Israeli/Palestinian problem appalling, but Palestinian behavior speaks for itself. Israelis don’t blow up civilians and don’t strap explosives to their own kids. Many Arabs live in peace in Israel, but no Jews do so outside it.

        Whatever is going on at Fox News isn’t part of the question here, and anyway, I seriously doubt the official version of events. The idea that you think I’m “blaming the victim” here tells me you don’t actually know what a gold-digger is and the type of woman we’re talking about here. And if they’re putting it out there for him to take advantage of it as the context suggests they did, it says more about them than it does about him.

        But you know what? Enough about this president. If you defended Mr. Cigar back in ’98, then you helped get us to this point. Character doesn’t matter, indeed. And I find it very hard to get worked up about Trump’s alleged sins when the alternative was another grifter with American blood on her hands. You can carry on all you wish about how stupid Trump sounds to you and how little you think he’s achieved in his lifetime, 0 but if “57 states” didn’t make you roll your eyes, and if someone who did nothing except self-promote at public expense doesn’t worry you, then I don’t really care about your indignation.

        Meanwhile, if you’re an American, or in the USA, he’s your president too, since — horrors!! — he actually won, something thought unthinkably impossible. It might actually turn out well for you.

      • Oh FFS. Excusing your vote for Trump because of Bill Clinton’s “character” is the height of hypocrisy. And idiocy. Let me turn it around for you — If you have no problem with Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, you have no moral leg to stand on — none! — going off on Clinton for an ill-advised but mutually consensual sexual encounter.

        Go curl up in your little misogynistic safe place and leave the rest of us alone. And if you have sons, keep them the effing-EFF away from my daughter. You and your right-wing ilk have forfeited all moral authority in the service of politics. Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave.

      • Oh, puh-leeze. I’m pleased to have voted for Trump because he’s the only candidate who talked of going into the temple and kicking over the tables. No one else came close. I don’t need to “excuse” my vote for him, to you or anyone else, and given that the choice was between him — who might have groped a few gold-diggers and a woman who belongs in the Supermax prison for trafficking in national security information, my conscience is clear and I sleep soundly with that vote. Trump’s moral character wins next to any Clinton, any time.

        The trouble with Bill was the fact that he was a perjurer, anyway, but never mind that — the depths to which the Democrat party swam (heh — geddit — swam?) to defend the Kennedys and Clintons, among many others, makes any sort of moral outrage over anything Trump said on that tape laughable, and nothing but a political calculation. But, that’s what I’d expect from a party that seeks power by any means necessary and nothing else.

        If you really are a Democrat voter, you and your daughter have much, much more to fear from your party and its policies than from my sons.

      • So, you’re a troll, singing a one-note samba, and don’t actually care anything for women. Gotcha. That’s sort of what I suspected all along.

        Yeah, we’re done here.

      • Just for the record one can infer JFK held the same position as Trump by reading Profiles in Courage which features two of Jackson’s lieutenants that opposed the K-N Act. To me the biggest difference between Trump and Jackson is that Jackson had giants like Sam Houston that stood in awe of him and continued his fight long after he was dead.

    • Nice way to stay classy Frank. Cause everyone is so awesome on Am Hist. Like Hillary or Jeb!

    • Do you mean like the “Jewish Problem” as in the case of Germany and the “the Indian problem” in the United States?
      I’d take my own advice bud.

      • What the hell does that even mean? Are you saying I’m being racist against Trump!? lol

  • Having grown up on National Review, I clearly remember my great dissapointment when hearing Mr. Lowry speak at Hillsdale in 1997. It was not the content, but the form. Not the opinions, but their shallow and lazy nature. I associated National Review with intelligence back then and I could not understand how this fellow became its editor. The magazine reflects the man. He can be congratulated I suppose for nurturing a readership which has by 2017 sunk to the level of the magazine.

    This is why Trump is the intellectual superior of a man like Lowry (which is not saying much): Donald Trump is a citizen who is expert in matters pertaining to real estate and enterprise in general. The essence of American democracy presumes that any citizen of such background may embody republican virtue at some level.

    I read President Trump’s speech about Jackson and was thrilled. As a Jacksonian Democrat who voted for Trump I was sick and tired of the Democratic party rejecting its legacy and happy to see a President embracing it. I certainly agree that Lincoln was Jacksonian in high degree. Any historian or political scientist could quarrel with Trump’s view of Jackson – but that would be unwise. The President is not engaged in academic debate but in the political task of recovering a legacy. He should not be academic about Jackson, he is rightly Jacksonian about Jackson.

    Meanwhile Mr. Lowry, though we might expect more intellectual weight from him, continues to dissapoint. I don’t read National Review, mind you. I stopped around the time of the Iraq War, having returned once or twice in 2016 to see that it has remained as alien to my sensibilities as it had become at the turn of the century.

    That a reality TV star and real estate mogul does a better job of conserving the American heritage than a magazine supposedly founded as a platform of the best that intellectual American conservatism has to offer tells us how terrible a state intellectual conservatism is in right now.

    • I agree with you about recovering “Jackson’s legacy”. One of the reasons liberals have abandoned Jackson is that he is the alpha male among alphas! So the American giant Sam Houston rushed to his death bed and wept because he was in such awe of his mentor. Jackson wanted territory to make America great so he took it! He defied the timid establishment and then tasked lieutenants like Polk and Houston to continue his legacy. He was not like Napoleon or Hitler with absurd and evil ambitions but ambitions based on solid strategic reasoning–a nation stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

      • Jackson took land from the colonial powers in order to secure land for a republican power and a democratic people. His drawbacks, which President Trump acknowledged as most sensible people do, were likewise the drawbacks of his times. His love for his wife and rugged charm were the stuff of American greatness and his faith in constitutional self-government wonderful. Modern liberals reject even Wilson and FDR. Henry Wallace would find himself an outcast amongst progressives today. What a mess the Democratic party is…

      • Alpha Hell! I’m a Alpha male. He was a cold blooded killer bound on mass extinction. I can’t believe that you could even think that let alone pander your ignorance in public. GENOCIDE WAS an IS JACKSON’s legacy of outright thievery. It is one that continues to this very moment as see by the ignorance of treaties and bastardization of the American Constitution.
        His strategy was to kill as many aboriginal Peoples so he could expand his criminality via slave trade.
        Normally I wouldn’t say anything but you appear to have snoozed through this entire past year. What we witnessed at at Standing Rock was straight out of Bull Conners 1960’s South. This is exactly what these two gentlemen have in common.
        What is this?
        Willful ignorance?

  • Rich Lowry was born inside the beltway and he’s lived and worked there all his life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rich_Lowry
    So too, Washington Free Beacon editor, Matthew Continetti. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Continetti
    Both have been thoroughly marinated in Establishment thought & lifestyle. Maybe they really do believe that federal government bureaucracy is what makes America great. Whatever. Even the young “conservative leaders” have been corrupted by nearly unlimited money, luxury & power. Drain The Swamp.

    • Just as 8 years of Obamacare has transformed many heretofore free market conservative adherents into believers that big govt has an essential role in healthcare after all, they have transmogrified into establishmentarians no longer mindful of our Founder’s immutable tenets of freedom. Rich Lowry wishy washy analyses clearly prove his mutation.

  • In 1832, after Chief Justice John Marshall ruled against Jackson in Worcester v. Georgia, Jackson allegedly said, ““John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it”. Perhaps Trump is on the right track in his admiration of Jackson.

    • I’d be wholeheartedly in agreement with you if we were to hear from Trump a similar sentiment, with “John Marshall” replaced with that schmuck from Hawaii; but I don’t see any such executive vigor in the cards.

  • Ahhh… in Mr. Sabo I believe we have another trump apologist.

    I think both Messrs. Lincoln and Jackson… would be deeply offended, indeed insulted, with any comparison of a ‘trump’ to themselves. Jackson might even call trump out on a duel… and would certainly reject trump as a 20th century draft dodger.

    Seems the 19th and early 20th Centuries were much more possessed of Honor, Ethics, and Integrity. REAL Presidents Jackson and Lincoln would be appalled with a liar like donald trump in office.
    HB

    • And being a Trump apologist is bad? You have no idea what Messrs. Lincoln and Jackson would think about Trump. We call this by the psychological term, projection, or wishful thinking. Your NeverTrumperness blinds you. One of the reasons I started to support Trump was the clear irrationality of NeverTrumpers. They made me a Trumpster! MAGA!!!

      • Yep… the more pretentious fingers pointed at Trump and his supporters the more validated he becomes. Trump is blessed by his attackers. Historybuff mentions Honor, etc… yeah, he’s right… totes shoulda voted for Hillary. Good grief.

  • I can’t stomach National Review now (I was a subscriber for 30 plus years). They are so predictable, so establishment, so consistently missing the forest for the trees. They now stand athwart history yelling, “KEEP GOING!!!!”

  • Great article Mike, but misleading headline, whoever assigned it. Should be The Dissembling of Rich Lowry. or somesuch. heh. I am hoping that Trump leads an effort to keep Jackson on the $20. All he’d have to do is say leave it up to the folks. I’d wager that %10 want it changed. Should be argued on the what it will cost to change it. We don’t have the extra money to spend on SJW’ering our currency.

    I hope all this talk about Andy Jackson will kindle some interest in youngers to learn some history of the man to fill out their Trail of Tears indoctrination from their 7th grade history.

  • Lincoln clearly “admitted” he was wrong about Jacksonian westward expansion by embracing the transcontinental railroad…Lincoln trampled over Native Americans just as the presidents before him. Every prominent Jacksonian alive in 1861 supported the Union and a member of the Kitchen Cabinet helped found the Republican Party. The Democrats are free to reject Jackson but Trump is correct to embrace him.

    • I don’t think that Lincoln was known as the Indian killers. But perhaps Presidents were who Trump was referring to when he said “killers, lots of killers”
      Do yah think?

      • Lol, Lincoln was known as the white person killer! Have you heard of the Civil War genius???

        Lincoln was also very respectful of the Native Americans, Chinese, and Irish as he built the transcontinental railroad…NOT!

  • Lowry’s a nitwit, as proven with last years NR special edition. And yes, Lincoln was our best, or second best president after Washington.

    But Lincoln was a high-tariff pro-corporate regulator, he introduced the draft and the income tax. Jackson was a racist, but not a fan of the Supreme Court’s overreach or the unconstitutional Federal Bank.

    If Trump wants to be smart, he should praise Grover Cleveland and Andrew Jackson for their use of the veto, and Ronald Reagan for winning WWIII.

  • this page is acting up and I’m annoyed, so I’ll cut it short
    So this “grad” guy, who I’m sure ” knows his stuff”, has COMPLETELY IGNORED Jackson’s Real legacy and one that this administration is persuading.
    So smart guy, what was Jackson’s nickname?
    If you want some hel figuring the answer to this question I recommend reading some of the papers by the well known Vice Presidential candidate, Protector, Economist Winona Laduke whose writings include not only the issue of “slavery” but of extinction. Or what the disgusting Supreme Court labels “extinguished” But what the rest of the free world calls GENOCIDE!
    Otherwise, a pretty good article for a white boy. You just need to get out more.
    I’m too old to run and hide so I’ll just have to stand up and dance – izopnyde

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