President Donald Trump has compared himself to the seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, several times. Like Jackson did in 1828, Trump attempted to connect with the average voter, riding a wave of populist support to the presidency. Although there are similarities between their roads to the Oval Office, there are plenty of differences. Trump visited Jackson’s grave on March 15, on the same day he held a rally in Nashville.
In recent years, Jackson’s reputation has taken a hit, especially among Democrats, because of his record on racial issues. His administration forced the “Trail of Tears,” pushing Native Americans west. It’s estimated that between 2 million and 6 million Cherokee people died during the forced relocation.
Here’s a look at what Trump and his team have said about Jackson in the past, and his visit to Old Hickory’s grave.
1. Trump Is the First President to Visit Jackson’s Grave Since Ronald Reagan
On the day of his Nashville rally, Trump laid a wreath at Jackson’s grave at The Hermitage, Jackson’s home in Nashville, to honor what would have been Jackson’s 250th birthday. Although presidents have visited Jackson’s grave in the past, none have done so since Ronald Reagan in 1982.
As The New York Times reports, Reagan visited the Hermitage in 1982 to mark Jackson’s 225th birthday.
In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt visited and was offered a cup of Maxwell House coffee. He reportedly then said it was “good to the last drop.” Franklin D. Roosevelt visited in November 1934, and Roosevelt often spoke of Jackson’s idea that the government belonged to the citizens, not the rich. Lyndon b. Johnson visited in 1967.
“To Jackson, the Federal Union was far more than a league of States,” Johnson said at the time. “It was the supreme political body in the Nation. Jackson-unlike Jefferson and Madison–always used the singular verb form when he referred to the ‘United States.’ He said, ‘The United States is’; not ‘the United States are.'”
2. Trump Called Pulling Jackson From the $20 Bill ‘Pure Political Correctness’
In April 2016, the Treasury Department said that Jackson would soon be replaced by Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Although he thought Tubman is “fantastic,” he blamed Jackson being kicked off the bill as “pure political correctness,” notes CNN.
“Well, Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill,” Trump told The Today Show last April. “I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, but I would love to leave Andrew Jackson or see if we can maybe come up with another denomination.”
He also said that Jackson “had a history of tremendous success for the country,” adding that, “(The $20) really represented somebody really that was very important to this country. I would love to see another denomination and that could take place. I think that would be more appropriate.”
However, as The Associated Press reported last year, many Native Americans refuse to use the $20 bill because of Jackson.
“We’re just thrilled that Andrew Jackson has had a removal of his own,” Becky Hobbs, a Cherokee, told the AP. “The constant reminder of Andrew Jackson being glorified is sad and sickening to our people.”
3. Steve Bannon Compared Trump’s Success to Jackson’s
Steve Bannon, the former Brietbart chairman and current White House Chief Strategist, has also bought into the idea that Trump’s populism mirrors Jackson’s.
“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” Bannon explained in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Bannon said that Trump’s victory was connected to jobs. He told The Hollywood Reporter that Trump’s policies will start an economic boom “greater than the Reagan revolution.”
“It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy,” Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”
But during Jackson’s tenure, the country’s economy took a downturn after he vetoed the renewal charter of the Second National Bank in 1832. He signed other pieces of legislation in 1836 that ultimately led to the Panic of 1837. The American economy didn’t begin to recover until 1841, near the end of President Martin Van Buren’s tenure. Jackson was still so popular that his Vice President, Van Buren, succeeded him as president.
4. Trump Has a Portrait of Jackson Hanging in the Oval Office
Trump admires Jackson so much that he put a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office, as The New York Times reported.
Two days before his inauguration, Trump suggested that his movement was bigger than Jackson’s during a dinner that was supposed to honor his Vice President, Mike Pence.
“There hasn’t been anything like this since Andrew Jackson,” Trump recalled his supporters telling him, The New York Times reported. He said they would ask him what year Jackson was elected in and he would remind them that it was 1828.
Like Trump, Jackson was interested in helping the “common man,” which is how he got support of the electorate. (At the time, the electorate didn’t include women and there were few free African-Americans who could vote.) As Time notes, Jackson, who owned slaves, thought he was a “common man” himself, since he was born in the Carolina backwoods and orphaned at a young age. When he was 13 years old, he was captured during the American Revolution.
The portrait now hanging in the Oval Office was painted by Ralph E. W. Earl in 1835.
5. Unlike Trump, Jackson Had Previous Political Experience
Trump is the first president elected without any military or political experience. Jackson had both when he became president.
He was the first person to represent Tennessee in the House of Representatives as its at-large Representative. The state wasn’t split into districts until 1805. He also had two tenures as a Senator from Tennessee, first from 1797 to 1798, then from 1823 to 1825. In 1821, he was the military governor of Florida.
It was Jackson’s role in the War of 1812 that made him a national hero. At the end of the war, he led the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815. Although the peace treaty was already on its way from Britain to the U.K., Jackson wasn’t aware of that and fighting continued there, as the Americans defended the city from the British.
One reason why some scholars have a tough time buying the Jackson-Trump comparisons is because of the experience. Dan Feller, a history professor at the University of Tennessee, told USA Today that Jackson was not a political outsider when he took office.
“President Jackson was from very humble origins and pulled himself up by his bootstraps,” Howard Kittell of the Andrew Jackson Foundation told USA Today. “President Trump, from everything I’ve read, came from a family that had a good social and financial position that he has built upon.”
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