Who someone admires tells you a great deal about them and their guiding principles. It’s why I am so disturbed by President Trump’s admiration for Andrew Jackson.
Jackson was a bully, to put it mildly. He believed in force, physical and otherwise, as a means of exercising power; he bought and sold slaves; he decimated native Americans such that they suffer to this day from the remnants of his policies; he instituted the system of civil patronage positions that remains the bane of our governmental bureaucracy; he punished by way of tariffs; he set himself up as an authoritarian, dictatorial President who destroyed his opposition while accumulating great personal wealth. Andrew Jackson was a bad President who stood for much of what Americans have come to find repugnant.
This is President Trump’s role model of choice?
I was neither for nor against candidate Trump. Mostly, I was appalled that both he and Hilary Clinton were the best we could come up with in a nation of 350 million people. And I posted my perspective, here, more than once. But once elected, I believed that respect for the Office of the Presidency warranted a period of grace to allow for fact-based evaluation of the man’s ability to act in the best interest of the nation. I want our President to succeed at moving the country in a better and more prosperous direction.
I simply don’t want us to achieve that end at any price.
With the disclosure of President Trump’s admiration for Andrew Jackson, I am deeply concerned that the price we may pay for more “prosperity” will be an almost total disregard for what originally made America great: the throwing off of the yoke of privilege, the rejection of kingship and the adherence to a system of checks and balances that made public servants accountable to each other and the People.
In 2016, enough of the country was desperate for a new direction and the resurrection of national pride that we voted into office a man who was unapologetically in support of both. But desperation causes people to act without first thinking through the ramifications of their choosing. Similarly, in 2008, half the country wanted Barack Obama as President but did not care what his guiding principles were, either. They bought a slogan “Hope and Change” without questioning what change meant to the individual touting it.
Words can mean different things to different people and actions based upon those differing definitions have corresponding consequences.
Candidate Trump promised to “Make America Great Again”; but, greatness can be defined differently depending upon your vantage point and the use of one’s greatness depends upon one’s guiding principles.
Andrew Jackson defined greatness as a means to decimate, control and bestow favor based upon his personal predilections, prejudices and lust for control and personal wealth. He is an astonishingly poor choice for a role model.
It is unlikely that now, having gone public with his admiration for Jackson and recent laying of a wreath at Jackson’s gravesite, that President Trump will change his mind about who he venerates. So it is now the job of us, the citizenry, to keep a close vigil upon our President’s definition of greatness as well as his use of the means at his disposal for getting us there. It is just possible for the price of “greatness” to be more than the nation can afford to pay.