Trump to pay homage to Andrew Jackson, an unlikely idol

By contrast Trump was never drafted into the military and the presidency was his first elected office.

Donald Trump plans to visit Nashville next week to rally supporters and perhaps pay homage to predecessor and unlikely political idol Andrew Jackson, America’s first populist president.

Trump plans to hold a campaign-style rally in the city on Jackson’s 250th birthday Wednesday and, according to the Tennessean newspaper, could visit the nearby Hermitage — the final resting place of America’s seventh president

Since coming to office in January, Trump aides have sought to draw comparisons between the bare knuckle Democratic president and Trump.

A portrait of Jackson has been introduced to the Oval Office and Trump’s top strategist Steve Bannon described his boss’s populist inaugural address “Jacksonian.”

Not so fast, says Jackson historian Daniel Feller, of the University of Tennessee.

“I can understand fully why Trump wants to portray himself as the second coming of Andrew Jackson. I don’t see much similarity myself,” he said.

“The narrative of Andrew Jackson is that a great popular hero came in and overthrew the existing establishment in Washington, that he was an outsider, that he was not taken seriously.”

That is exactly the image Trump has tried to cultivate — despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by three million votes.

Where Jackson pledged to speak for the common man and spoke of “cleansing the Augean stable,” Trump talks of “draining the swamp” in Washington.

But historians say Jackson’s story is more subtle.

Born in the backwoods in 1767, he was orphaned in his early teens. He gained a reputation as a fighter: As a young man he was cut with a sabre for refusing to polish a British soldier’s boots and once killed a man in a duel.

He gained fame as a military hero for defeating the British in New Orleans.

– ‘Trail of tears’ –

Jackson’s reputation has been somewhat tarnished in recent years, with criticism focused on his temperament and the forced removal of Native Americans from their land.

The Treasury Department recently decided to replace Jackson’s image on the $20 bill, with civil rights hero Harriet Tubman.

But for the White House, comparisons with Jackson help place Trump inside the pantheon of US presidents and within the mainstream of American political history.

Trump’s critics have painted the polarizing mogul as an aberration and his views as antithetical to the American democratic tradition.

“Part of the mystique of Andrew Jackson is that he came from nowhere and he came to bust up Washington,” said Feller.

“But Jackson had been a very different outsider, Jackson had been a public servant, he had been in the employment of government in military or civilian capacity almost his entire adult life.”

By contrast Trump was never drafted into the military and the presidency was his first elected office.

Still, taking up Jackson’s mantle could be good politics for Trump. A key factor in his electoral victory was the ability to pick up votes from disgruntled Democrats.

Where Democratic presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy invoked Jackson, his anti-elite views are reflected today by only the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic party.

Trump is more than happy to steal the Democrat’s thunder.

© Agence France-Presse

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