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Trump Reminiscent of Another Populist Outsider American President

  • Catherine Maddux

From left, President Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, President Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States.

During his first full week as president of the United States, Donald Trump has revoked several of his predecessor’s executive orders, signed a few new ones, met with members of the U.S. intelligence community, continued to actively use his Twitter account, and chosen a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson to hang in the Oval Office.

Given the comparisons made between the two during the campaign, Trump’s choice of office art comes as no surprise.

President Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, is shown in an undated portrait.

President Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, is shown in an undated portrait.

After narrowly losing to John Quincy Adams in the contentious 1824 presidential election, Jackson became the seventh president four years later, soundly defeating John Quincy Adams in what history has recorded as an unusually negative campaign season.

The similarities are clear: Both men campaigned as populists. Both are political outsiders and staunchly conservative. And both are known for having strong personalities.

Jackson, like President Trump, was stubbornly independent, stating that he alone would define his administration’s policies. Part of their inaugural addresses have been examined and deemed eerily similar.

“Trump is extraordinary in that we haven’t had a populist like him elected before, even though the contours of his populist-conservative message draw upon many familiar themes stretching from Andrew Jackson to … George Wallace,” said Margaret O’Mara, an associate professor of history at the University of Washington.

Some obvious differences between the two: Jackson served two terms in office, from 1829 to 1837, and was a Democrat, which was the conservative party at that time in American history. Trump, who used to be a Democrat as well as an independent at one time, is now a Republican.

“They were alike in some ways,” said author Richard Dean Young, who wrote an article debunking the argument that Trump is today’s Jackson for The Federalist. “But not in all the ways that have been mentioned. Historical comparisons are tricky,” added Young, a retired minister, longtime writer and author of the book The Last of the Apaches.

First off, Jackson had a strong military background, having fought skirmishes with Native Americans and, later, successfully resisting the British invasion of New Orleans, according to Young.

“ 'The Donald,’ by comparison, is a city boy with absolutely no experience in military matters." Young said. "Jackson was ‘one of the people,’ definitely not a city boy.”

While Jackson served two terms in office, we don't know if Trump will even run again for a second four-year term.

And while the president has already made a place for himself in the history books, there is a lot we don’t yet know about Trump’s presidency, other than his unorthodox campaign and widely unexpected win.

"It is too soon to make judgments about his place in presidential history. That will depend on what he does, how he does it," O’Mara said.

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