In the Truthout article “Trump’s Remarks on Andrew Jackson Was a Dog Whistle for White Nationalists,” Alexander Reid Ross discusses President Donald Trump’s praise for former US President Andrew Jackson, as well as how the embrace of Jacksonian policies by the Trump Administration has the potential to lead the US down the road toward Fascism. On May 1, 2017, President Donald Trump stated that if “Andrew Jackson been a little bit later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” as well as expressed his admiration for the seventh President of the US. Amid criticism of the factual inaccuracy of Trump’s comment, many have also pointed out that Trump’s praise for Jackson offered proof of how contemporary white nationalist narratives continue to shape the Presidents view of the world.
A favorite of white nationalist and fascist political groups, Andrew Jackson set up a legacy for the expansion of the US and the slave-owning South and implemented Classically Liberal economic policies that directly contributed to the Depression of 1837-43, which began less than two months after his successor, Martin Van Buren, assumed office. When Van Buren rejected Texas’s admission to the Union to avoid upsetting the balance between slave states and non-slave states, Jackson withdrew his support for Van Buren in favor of James Polk, a slave-holding president whose support for the annexation of Texas strengthened the hand of slaveholding states in the South. The continued expansion of the slave-holding territories in subsequent presidencies would set the stage for the Civil War. In accordance with this broader white nationalist reverence for Jackson, Trump has sought to present himself as a modern-day Andrew Jackson. For example, Trump paid a visit to Jackson’s home and grave and hung several portraits of Jackson in the White House.
Many of Trump’s actions as President also betray a resonance with the actions of Jackson. Jackson was infamous for his backhanded words regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to defend the Cherokee’s right of place, n used the powers of the executive to contravene the checks and balances of the constitutional system and displace the Native American tribes based in the Southern region of the US. The ensuing “Trail of Tears” that decimated the population of the Cherokee by upward of a third came to mark the policy of “Indian Removal” and Jackson’s presidency. Trump has echoed this sort of unilateral provocation in his own immigration policy proposals and more recently in his May 2, 2017, tweet stating “our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix the mess!”
Another interesting thing to note regarding President Donald Trump’s comments regarding Andrew Jackson is that they came about at a time in which many of his supporters started to declare a “second Civil War” amid confrontations with anti-Fascist protestors that continue to this day. Members of the “Alt-Right” frequently promote the notion of a second Civil War. For example, several Alt-Right organizations have retweeted an article by conservative columnist Dennis Prager that envisions a civil war between the left and the rest of the US over freedom of speech. Trump supporters have been quick to follow the lead of the “alt-right,” suggesting that the second Civil War will occur if the Democratic Party retakes Congress in the 2018 Midterm elections.
Fascists in the US have long identified Jackson’s legacy with their identity as a defeated and subjugated group. Jackson serves as the driving figure of US history for fascists such as the post-war US organizer Francis Parker Yockey, who identifies Jackson with the beginning of “the great epoch of the history of the practice of government in America.” The battle over the legacy of the Civil War and Andrew Jackson is currently taking place in New Orleans, where Fascist Trump supporter and KKK leader David Duke has taken it upon himself to defend historical monuments to the legacy of the Confederacy, including a statue of Andrew Jackson. Duke’s successful manipulation of populist politics, which earned him a seat in the Louisiana state legislature in the 1990s, has been likened to Trump’s own appeals to the white working class. As such, Jackson’s legacy today represents the fulfillment of many of the most violent fantasies underpinning US independence, particularly the white nationalist fantasy of removing all non-whites from the US. For this reason, as well as on account of Jackson’s unilateral approach to sovereignty, white nationalist Trump booster Jared Taylor has described Trump as a “kindred spirit” of Jackson’s.
Despite their similarities, the comparison of Trump to Jackson has always been somewhat out of context. While Jackson melded the brash pose of violent militarism with the persona of a backwoods Southern country boy, Trump entered into his role as US President without spending a day in military service. Despite these differences, Trump has appropriated the identity of Jackson, the founder of both the modern political party system as well as the American Conservative movement who earned his reputation as the “Napoleon of the woods” by defeating British forces during the Battle of New Orleans. Andrew Jackson never met Napoleon Bonaparte, but idealized him, and shared much in common with him. Both Jackson and Bonaparte gained the support of the conservative countryside and the business class through militant nationalism. The Jacksonian legacy is one of a jingoism similar to the support by many Bonapartists of the Confederacy in the Civil War, and its xenophobic objectives gained parallels with Bonapartists who supported the radical-right populism of 19th Century French and German politicians. Considering these factors, it is no surprise that Trump has drawn comparisons to Bonaparte from many different news outlets.
What binds Trump and Jackson runs deeper than a tacit class alliance and something so simple as Trump’s support for Jackson’s policies. It strikes to the core of sovereignty and how it is used. A true sovereign requires not just an “other” that can constitute the political “outside,” but the potential brought about through a suspension of political order itself. The sovereignty desired by the far right would use the specter of the “outsider” as leverage to supersede checks and balances on executive authority and perpetuate its power through aggressive manipulations of nationalist sentiment in the interests of “rebirth” and “national rejuvenation.” As Trump’s most avid far-right supporters move toward creating a violent, autonomous base of power amid what they identify as a “Civil War,” his quest for unchecked sovereignty furthers their unrestrained efforts to liquidate the left in the name of anti-antifascism.
The author concludes by stating that Trump’s invocation of Jackson evidences Trump’s tacit proximity to fascist narratives both in the US and abroad. At the same time, the President’s own quaint regard for a slavery-supporting perpetrator of genocide who set the stage for the Civil War reveals how deeply white nationalism is engrained within the social and historical fabric of the US and how violently it is defended by its proponents.
Here is a link to the full article: