Donald Trump’s rise to the Republican Party presidential nomination is a triumph of the Jacksonian American tradition over its rivals.
American political thought can be categorized as Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Wilsonian and Jacksonian. No individual fits completely into any of these thought boxes because individuals often harbor beliefs from more than one tradition. By nominating Donald Trump, the Republican Party will choose the most completely Jacksonian candidate for president in its history.
Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, has been removed from his place on the $20 bill in favor of Harriet Tubman. I honor and respect Harriet Tubman. But let’s talk about Andrew Jackson and his newest political progeny, Donald Trump.
Andrew Jackson rose to prominence when he defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1814. This battle was one of the most decisive battles of the nineteenth century because it kept the British from controlling the Mississippi. President Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase was saved from foreign intrigue.
More importantly, Jackson’s victory espoused American values. He made the wealthy political class fight on the barricades next to working Americans. He pardoned the pirate Jean Lafitte because he helped the cause. Free blacks fought next to whites.
Libertarians fondly remember President Jackson because he vetoed the charter of the second Bank of the United States. He set up an independent Treasury, keeping tax dollars out of banks. Jackson left the federal government debt free. No one else to this day has.
Trump says Treasury bond investors might need to take a haircut because of the national debt. Then he says, “Oh well, they can just print the money.” Trump is signaling he might have some Jacksonian banking reform ideas himself.
General Andrew Jackson was sent to Florida, then a Spanish colony, where he promptly hung two British citizens as spies. He then simply took Florida from Spain, too weak to stop him. Trump says, “Take the oil. I always said, if you go in, you have to take the oil.” Like all Jacksonians, Trump wants to use military force only when it brings something tangible back. Jacksonians don’t wage ideological wars.
President Jackson sent the Cherokee Nation on a forced ethnic cleansing, known as the Trail of Tears. Jackson believed that since Indians did not follow the rules of civilized warfare, they had no rights. Trump talks about defeating ISIS because “They behead people, they drown them in cages.” That makes them outlaws to Trump, and as in the Scottish Highlands, any means to kill them is lawful.
“Free, white and 21” is an old Jacksonian saying. The Scots Irish immigrants who fled British rule to come to America are the backbone of the Jacksonian tradition. Trump does very well with white workers, and many blacks and Asians could support him. Obviously, he has burned some Latino bridges. As for women, well, Carly “Cruella” Fiorina is kind of mean looking. Many women dislike Hillary too.
Jacksonians distrust intellectuals, politicians and the media. They believe simple solutions often solve complex problems. They are always looking to cut the Gordian Knot. Jacksonians are everywhere, as Donald Trump’s surprising vote counts demonstrate.
Those who want to understand Donald Trump need to understand the Jacksonian tradition. President Jackson was a strong willed political outsider who overturned the rule of the “silk stocking” landed gentry. Trump is a strong-willed outsider who wants to overturn the corrupt Hamiltonian-Wilsonian political establishment to “Make America Great Again.”
The 2016 Presidential campaign comes down to how Donald Trump the Jacksonian will fare against Hillary Clinton the Hamiltonian-Wilsonian.