I am a firm believer that it is going to be critical in judging the relative success or failure of Donald Trump’s presidency that a person pay far less attention to what he says and far more attention to what he does. Trump is known for bluster and braggadocio; and whether you think that is part of his grand master scheme to play the media and misdirect the public, or you think it is simply his raging incontinence of the mouth and Twitter fingers, it is far too easy to get drawn into futile debate over the rationality of irrational Trump musings.
That said, some comments are just too irritating and foolish to overlook. Take for instance, Trump’s apparent man-crush on nineteenth century madman Andrew Jackson:
“President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!”
As both a student and teacher of history, I find this comment intellectually absurd. Jackson was firmly entrenched on one side of the slavery issue. Given the fact that he was a notoriously abusive slave master to over 100 of them, I’ll give you one guess which side that would be.
But beyond that, consider that far from “never letting it happen,” Andrew Jackson’s authoritarian leadership style almost started the Civil War in 1832, a full 29 years before the shots on Fort Sumter.
When Jackson was elected in 1828, the people of South Carolina anticipated that he would take action to reduce the northern-imposed tariff that was crushing the economies of the South. Jackson didn’t do it, and in a spectacular confrontation with his boss, Vice President John C. Calhoun moved to promote the Ordinance of Nullification in his home state of South Carolina. The ordinance declared the tariff unconstitutional and unenforceable within their borders, and stated that they would resist any federal efforts to execute it after February 1, 1833.
A month later, Jackson pushed the Force Bill through Congress, which authorized him to use military force against South Carolina. The seeming imminent conflict was only avoided when South Carolina was appeased by Congressional adjustment of the tariff. Had that not occurred, Mr. “Would Never Have Let It Happen” would have undoubtedly torched the state of South Carolina three decades early.
But beyond the historical error, there’s a larger point someone should have made to Donald Trump. President Andrew Jackson is one of the vilest, most contemptible men to ever hold the office of Chief Executive. Besides his slave mistreatment, this is a man who intentionally bankrupted the country through his foolish attack on the National Bank, thus ushering in the Panic of 1837. Worse, this is a man who ordered nothing short of Native American genocide along the Trail of Tears, unconstitutionally ignoring a Supreme Court decision in the process.
Jackson has long been an embarrassment to the Democrat Party – an albatross of racism and bigotry hanging around their virtue-signaling necks as they outrageously attend their swanky Jackson-Jefferson fundraising dinners.
As a President who constantly has to fend off accusations of racism and bigotry himself, Donald Trump could have used the Democrat’s worship of Andrew Jackson as an effective weapon to undermine the credibility of such attacks. But instead of rightly marginalizing miserable Old Hickory, Trump embraced him as a personal hero.