If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. This has proven true countless times, and during our current election it’s certainly proving true again. While Donald Trump has earned more than a few comparisons to Hitler, Andrew Saunders at POLITICO argues he’s actually more similar to former U.S. President Andrew Jackson.
Jackson was responsible for the Trail of Tears, a black mark in our nation’s history. He was borderline illiterate. As colonel, he would execute his soldiers for even the most minor infractions. When he ran in 1824, the major political party at the time – Democrat-Republican – had just collapsed. Jackson had won a plurality, but not a majority, and in a shady back room deal, Henry Clay gave his votes to John Quincy Adams, making Adams the next President.
A brokered backroom deal to choose the next President, because the frontrunner is a maniac celebrity with no experience who would happily relocate people from their homes? Hm. It sounds familiar. And as we all know, once Adams was chosen via Washington elites, Jackson quietly retired from politics.
JUST KIDDING. Jackson actually got his fanbase so fired up – and even acquired new supporters who felt he was wronged by this deal, that he won in a landslide election in 1828. When Jackson’s detractors pointed out his many, many flaws, it only seemed to make him more likable, because he was that much more different from the typical politician.
Jackson’s base was fed-up with Washington elites that chose the President. Americans wanted to choose their own President. It wasn’t even about Jackson’s ability to be POTUS, it was about the American individual’s right to choose. Jackson was a symptom of a larger issue.
A voting base as disaffected and angry as Trump’s won’t take a brokered convention that chooses Cruz or Rubio lying down. It shouldn’t, honestly — the move is incredibly anti-democratic. Trump’s rise has been terrifying. But the answer isn’t to try and stop him by any means necessary. Trump’s ability to lie about his past actions and get his base on board with those lies is a skill unmatched by anyone else in this election, so those tactics won’t work. We have to figure out why Trump’s rise happened, what social forces are at play here, and address those head on.
Like Jackson, Trump is a symptom. We simply have to cure the sickness.