When the Rules Changed: Donald Trump’s Campaign Echoes Andrew Jackson’s 1824 Insurgency
Donald Trump’s insurgent campaign for the Republican presidential nomination marked a dramatic change in how presidential campaigns are typically run.
My book “Tainted by Suspicion: The Secret Deals and Electoral Chaos of Disputed Presidential Elections” chronicles similarities between Trump and the first presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson.
As Tainted by Suspicion says of Jackson:
He was almost the Donald Trump of his day, though not as wealthy. He could also be compared to a class-oriented populist such as Bernie Sanders. Jackson excited the electorate with plain talk. He knew how to channel anger, anger that was largely justifiable toward an out of touch, unproductive elite in Washington.
While in those days, surrogates would generally sling mud in presidential campaigns, the candidates themselves would—gentlemanly—avoid mixing it up, Jackson had no such constraints and called the banks, the War Department and Washington in general, “The Great Whore of Babylon.”
Willard Randall, an award winning journalist and historian, who is the author of 14 books on U.S. history and a professor emeritus at Champlain College, said: “Andrew Jackson would be a very strong candidate today. He would deliver ripping speeches about the 2008 recessions, how the big banks were bailed out, but how the working people lost their homes. It’s the kind of thing Bernie Sanders would also say. Jackson called the National Bank the ‘hydro-headed monster.’ It’s the kind of thing Trump would say.”
Just as Trump has very much been part of the political system in lobbying and donating to establishment politicians, Jackson likewise had been a U.S. senator. Yet both managed to position themselves as absolute political outsiders to a country fed up with Washington. It caught the political class off guard then and now.
From the book:
For the 1824 election, there was an undercurrent of that reoccurring “time for a change” theme that surfaces in every few presidential elections to the current day. To put this in modern perspective, the old Republican guard continued to say throughout 2015 that the 2016 campaigns of outsiders Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, or even Sen. Ted Cruz were doomed to fail. That’s what history tells us, since insurgent candidates on the Republican side always eventually succumb to the frontrunner. Unlike the Democrats, who historically nominates surprises. But the rules completely changed in 2015 leading up to the first primaries. Likewise, the rules completely changed in 1824.
(This post was initially published on the Stairway Press blog.)