President Trump has moved a portrait of President Andrew Jackson into the Oval Office, prompting a comparison from which some intriguing similarities emerge.
While campaigning, Mr. Trump referred to Mexicans as possible “murderers” and “rapists”, and proposed a one thousand, nine hundred and thirty three mile wall between the two nations – which he still insists Mexico will pay for.
In Jackson’s time, nearly two hundred years ago, most of the Southwest had been ceded to Mexico by Spain. President Jackson wanted more land for white settlers and more border security for the new American nation, so he offered to buy Texas for 5 million dollars.
Insulted, Mexican leader Santa Anna ordered his army to attack the Alamo, slaughtering one hundred and eighty eight defenders. Sam Houston then rallied a volunteer force to “Remember the Alamo” and defeated Santa Anna. Texas became an American territory - and eventually a state.
Another parallel seems to be patriotism with an iron fist. Barely into his first term, Jackson dispatched the USS Natchez, an 18 gun sloop of war, to the waters off Cuba to confront pirates menacing commercial American shipping - claiming it was to protect “…the honor of our flag” – and reminding me of how, in the second week of the Trump presidency, the U.S. “served notice” on Iran for test firing a ballistic missile, by imposing stiff sanctions on that troublesome country.
Both men have been called racist: President Trump for his treatment of Muslims - and President Jackson for having tens of thousands of Native Americans “removed” from their ancestral lands in the east, on a march that became known as the “Trail of Tears”, and upon which some four thousand Native Americans died.
Charges of sexism have also followed both into the White House. Jackson was accused of marrying his wife Rachel before her divorce became final, resulting in her being called an adulteress and bigamist for the rest of her short life. President Trump’s attitudes towards women range from the now infamous Access Hollywood tapes to critical Miss Universe tweets.
It is true that both men share an affinity with the so-called common people. But while President Trump’s core supporters can be characterized as such, Jackson was actually one of them, while the wealthy and privileged President Trump... is not.