The Jacksonian Temptation: Trump vs. Cruz
Is America witnessing the re-emergence of “Jacksonian” politics? With increasing regularity, pundits are harkening back to the cultural and political movement that brought frontier General Andrew Jackson to the White House in order to explain the changes taking place in the Republican Party.
The hero of the Battle of New Orleans is more relevant than ever, it seems. Steve Inskeep, a journalist and historian who wrote Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab, claimed that Donald Trump’s campaign was channeling Andrew Jackson in a recent New York Times op-ed.
“Students of history will recognize that Mr. Trump is a Jackson man,” Inskeep wrote. “Consciously or not, Mr. Trump’s campaign echoes the style of Andrew Jackson, and the states where Mr. Trump is strongest are the ones that most consistently favored Jackson during his three runs for the White House.”
Inskeep broadly follows Walter Russell Mead’s thesis on the Jacksonian school of foreign policy. Mead also described the recent resurgence of Jacksonianism, though he was more restrained in making a direct comparison to Trump. Mead called the New York businessman a “blank screen on which Jacksonians project their hopes.”
Inskeep is correct that many regions that sided with Jackson in the 1820s and 1830s are where Trump is currently successful and that they will have a large impact on the 2016 presidential race.
However, he distorts Jackson’s record and creates a liberal caricature of what motivates Jacksonians and conservatives in general. He insinuates that Jacksonianism is little more than cultural impulse and the desire to create “an America for white people.”
This makes a hash of what is an incredibly important american political tradition—which is larger than pure identity politics.
Far from being a cultural tic or simple anger at outsiders, Jacksonianism properly understood has a solid foundation in principles that trace back to the founding—and it has a much larger appeal than the confines of Appalachia.
The Jacksonians had three core principles: the rejection of a crony capitalist alliance between big business and big government, disgust with a permanent political class in Washington wedded to the benefits of those cushy deals, and a belief that they were restoring virtuous, republican institutions guided by the principles of the Founding—with an emphasis on strictly limited government and federalism. Jacksonians had a deep and unrelenting faith in the virtue of the American people to restore their republic to the one the Founders had intended.GO READ THE WHOLE THING.