Donald Trump invited us to view him through the lens of Andrew Jackson. We have gone him one better, or perhaps one worse. We now see Andrew Jackson through the lens of Donald Trump.
Both President Donald Trump and his severest critics touted his resemblance to President Andrew Jackson, although for nearly opposite reasons. While the president and his acolytes celebrated Jackson’s swaggering nationalism and insurgent populism, opponents condemned his chauvinism, xenophobia, bigotry, and racism. Thus Jackson became the vehicle to propagate dueling images of America’s historical legacy and national character. Yet neither portrait bore much resemblance to the real Jackson. Looking at Jackson’s actual record can restore some balance to our understanding and some humility to our judgments. Further, pondering how and why our recent debate distorted Jackson for contemporary ends can provide some cautionary lessons about the uses and misuses of history.