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Two Sides of the Same Coin

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Helena Jamison
Professor Namrata De Roy
English Composition II
May 3, 2019
Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump: Two Sides of the Same Coin
History repeats itself: A claim that is always mentioned whenever a major event happens
in modern times, especially if said event is tragic. The main concern in recent years deals with
our current president, Donald J. Trump, and his ties to nationalist ideologies along with his
somewhat outlandish personality. With the rise of the Alt-Right and the new Neo-Nazis, a lot of
his critics compare his candidacy to that of Adolf Hitler. However, these critics seem to ignore
the fact that America has had its own leader who Trump seems to relate more to. Andrew
Jackson made a massive mark in American history by being the face behind one of the worst
tragedies that has occurred on this land: The Trail of Tears. Many often wonder how something
so appalling can happen on such a wide scale, but they tend to ignore the warning signs that lead
up to such a horrific event. Trump’s critics also seem to ignore these warning signs; however,
they have been prevalent throughout his presidency. Furthermore, these comparisons do not only
apply to warning signs. Although they are two people who have had to face different issues
depending on their respective time periods, the parallel between Andrew Jackson and Donald
Trump can be seen through their upbringings, populism, otherization, and criticism; thus, the
way the history can repeat itself should cause one to be more educated on the past in order to
prepare for the future.
Jackson’s popularity was primarily based on the fact that he appealed to the whims and
concerns of the white working class, who took up a large percentage of the population in the
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early 1800s. He was also recognized for his war efforts against British during the Battle of New
Orleans in 1815. Despite being well known as an adolescent, Jackson grew up in poverty and
knew nothing of the privileged lifestyle that previous candidates were already accustomed to. All
in all, he was considered a “common man” by his supporters, as he broke the traditional
expectation that comes with being a presidential candidate. His humble beginning seems to
contrast that of Trump, who was born into wealth as his father was an affluent real estate agent in
New York. He perfectly represents the expression of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth,
as he can refer to a loan of a million dollars “small”. Rather than being recognized for military or
government experience prior to his candidacy, Trump was mostly known for his reality show
“The Apprentice” where he showed how ruthless he was when it came to business and handling
money. His surname is embolden on buildings throughout New York City, so there is no doubt
he would be considered elite. While comparing this to the upbringing of Jackson, one might
believe that their political disparities would clash; however, this is not the case.
Prior to the late 1860s, white men had only been the ones who could vote legally.
However, the voter turnout seemed to be determined based on class status. Those who had a
higher income, commonly referred to as the “elite” would often dominate elections both in votes
and in running for government positions. Jackson recognized this and often would criticize how
unrepresented southern democrats (or rather democratic-republicans) were in previous elections.
He began his political career in 1812 and used his lawyer status and less fortunate background to
establish his support of populism. Many of the followers who praised his attack of the elite
would show their approval through rallies, where they were reckless and disorderly. This came
as a shock to his opponents as any type of unruly behavior in politics was considered savage.
Even after he was elected, Jackson would continue to discredit the elite. In 1832, Congress had
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issued a twenty year charter to the Bank of the United States and the Second Bank of the United
States. Jackson vetoed the bill in distrust of the amount of power the banks would have over the
country, as he states “[w]e must at least take a stand against all new grants of monopolies
and...against any prostitution of our Government” (“Andrew Jackson”). This veto instilled his
voters’ support throughout his entire presidential term.
It’s no secret that Trump was inspired by Jackson’s populistic ideologies, as he used them
to appeal to the modern working class. The only difference, though, is that the working class in
America is more diverse and entails blue collar labor over white collar labor. Trump’s candidacy
ran on the promise of supplying more jobs for American workers and getting the country further
out of debt through said jobs. Steve Bannon, who was Trump’s former chief specialist,
reportedly “saw a populist kindred spirit—and a suitably rabble-rousing model for the antiestablishment course he hoped Trump would follow. Trump agreed.” (Glasser). Since Trump has
been in office, his promises have yet to be fulfilled as he’s dealing under media scrutiny after the
release of the Mueller report.
Another popular political strategy is creating the idea of the “other” and then swearing
protection from said threat. Jackson was known for his unbridled hatred towards Native
Americans, which was a common phenomenon among southern Anglo-Saxons. On top of his
promise to represent the white lower class, he also swore to gain more land that Native
Americans were occupying. The Cherokees and other tribes that lived in Georgia had assimilated
to Anglo-Saxon ideologies. They practiced Christianity and established their own government in
order to separate themselves from the other “savages”. Worcester v. Georgia was a Supreme
Court case that recognized the natives as their own sovereign nation and advised Jackson to not
remove them from their land. Jackson promptly ignored their requests and passed the Indian
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Removal Act of 1830. Thousands of Native Americans had to travel hundred to thousands on
miles on foot into the west without enough food or water, which resulted in more than fourthousand deaths. Jackson saw this act of cruelty as necessary, and during the State of Union
Address of 1830, he suggested that the Cherokee Indians “would gladly embrace the opportunity
of removing to the West” as an excuse for the turmoil he put them through. It was intentionally
misleading in an attempt to justify the horrors that the Cherokee Indians had to go endured that
many would not see his decision as ruthless.
Trump is no stranger to nationalistic ideologies. His entire campaign was based on
creating false enemies of America and demonizing them,“‘They are not our friend, believe me,’
he said, before disparaging Mexican immigrants: ‘They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing
crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people’” (Reilly). One of his major slogan
during his running years was “Build the Wall!” which was in support of homeland security
through a brick wall placed on the border of Mexico. His supporters are often wearing
merchandise that suggests his ideas will “Make America Great Again” and they are avid in their
attempts to remove illegal immigrants. The most effective thing that Trump has done to further
their removal was to separate families crossing at the border. It is unknown whether or not these
efforts will continue due to a possible chance that he will be impeached in the upcoming years;
however, he still holds the power to do as much damage as he can.
No president ever serves without those who counter every decision they make. Jackson
and Trump are definitely no exception to this accusation. With his stubborn personality and his
failure to abide by the request of the Supreme Court, Jackson was commonly faced with
opposition. Many critics found him to be hypocritical in how he used his political power. Soon
after he was inaugurated, Jackson got rid of the previous political staff and replaced the positions
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with those he knew and liked personally. This was referred to as the Kitchen Cabinet, and
Jackson continued this process throughout his candidacy. “[He believed that] ‘to the victor goes
the spoils’ and the resulting spoils system assigned federal posts as gifts for partisan loyalty
rather than as jobs that required experience or expertise” (Hewitt, 298). Those who opposed him
created the Whig Party, and in 1833, a member anonymously published a photo called “King
Andrew the First” that depicted Andrew Jackson as a king as a way to ridicule his presidency by
interpreting it as a monarchy. In his left hand, he holds a veto bill and while standing on the U.S
Constitution. The words “Of Veto Memory”, “Born to Rule”, and “Had I Been Consulted”
borders the image to ridicule his decision to veto the charter and to continue Native American
removal against the wishes of the Supreme Court. Others from the Whig Party attacked Jackson
by implying that his late wife, Rachel, slept with him outside of wedlock. She died before he was
inaugurated and Jackson accuses his opposers of stressing her to death.
Trump’s presidency is currently exists in infamy, as his campaign primarily focused on
the defamation of immigrants and his proposal to build a wall around the border. Most young
modern voters tend to be more progressive and vote for the candidate with the least
controversies. They saw right through his supposed support of populism when the Republican
voter turnout was predicted to be consisted only of the upper-class. According to the Election
2016: Exit Polls from The New York Times, more than half of Trump’s supporters had an
income of $99,000 and up, meaning a majority of Trump’s support came from the elite that he
was supposedly against. On top of being inaugurated, he immediately request a tax break for the
wealthy which was instantly met with opposition. Similar to Jackson’s cabinet, previously held
political positions were cleared to be filled by those that the president only liked personally, not
based on whether or not they’re fit for the job: “Now more than a year into the Trump
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administration, over a dozen notable members of both the White House and the administration at
large have left their posts” (Stracqualursi). This realization has caused major distrust in his
candidacy as his approval rating is below 50%. More distrust grew as news came out that Trump
cheated on his wife with a known pornstar named Stephanie Clifford, otherwise known as
Stormy Daniels. Though he denies these claims, the reputation as a cheater still follows him to
this day and tarnishes any attempts of him to call himself ‘loyal’ or ‘trustworthy’.
Brutality that happens at fast rates is often ignored until there is mass tragedy at the hands
of a leader. History has shown that there are typically warning signs in these leaders before the
tragedy happens, and these warning signs typically have to do with systematic oppression against
groups of people. While Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump have had to deal with different
problems due to their different time periods, both of these presidents have many similarities that
shows how history is capable of repeating itself. Therefore, being educated on the past can
provide warning signs for what to expect in the future. It would be easy to point at a few
similarities and claim that history is repeating itself through those alone, but it’s not that simple.
Researching history is not just learning about the lives of the past, it’s looking for the same beats.
The same dog whistling that can cause panic and uprise is delivered through the message, not
necessarily the messenger. As one can pick apart these two individuals personality wise, another
can pick up on the signs and strategies they use to cause an uproar. Trump’s presidency is
ongoing as of now, and we might not know what he is planning exactly, but through learning the
signals through past mistakes, we can prepare for whatever may follow next.
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Works Cited
“Andrew Jackson, Veto of the Bank Bill (1832).” Voices of Freedom a Documentary History, by
Eric Foner, Norton, 2011, pp. 193–196.
Glasser, Susan B., et al. “The Man Who Put Andrew Jackson in Trump's Oval Office.”
POLITICO Magazine, 22 Jan. 2018,
www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/22/andrew-jackson-donald-trump-216493.
Hewitt, Nancy A., and Steven F. Lawson. Exploring American Histories: a Survey with Sources.
Bedford/St. Martin's, Macmillan Learning, 2017. pp.296, 327-331
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Huang, Jon, et al. “Election 2016: Exit Polls.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9
Nov. 2016, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/08/us/politics/election-exit-polls.html.
Jackson, Andrew. “State of the Union (1830).” Teaching American History, 2014, pp. 13-15.
teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/state-of-the-union-address-38/.
King Andrew the First. Library of Congress, Weitenkampf, 1833.
Reilly, Katie. “Donald Trump: All the Times He's Insulted Mexico.” Time, Time, 31 Aug. 2016,
time.com/4473972/donald-trump-mexico-meeting-insult/.
Stracqualursi, Veronica, et al. “A List of Officials Who Have Left the Trump Administration.”
ABC News, ABC News Network, 29 Mar. 2018,
abcnews.go.com/Politics/list-officials-left-trump-administration/story?id=49334453.
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