We vote on Tuesday November 8, unless we voted early (which I did). So to celebrate the end of this LONG election we're going to play a little game. Let's see if you can GUESS THAT CANDIDATE.
And now it's time to play "GUESS that candidate?" I'm going to give you some descriptions of the two candidates up for election and I want you to try your best to figure out which candidate is which.
Who are they?
I know! I KNOW.
And so you're probably like "this is an easy game and I don't know why we're playing it or what the point is. And then you guessed this. Candidate 1 is Hillary Clinton, current Democratic nominee for President and Candidate 2 is that other guy, current Republican candidate for President.
So the other day I'm at a Teach-In about Standing Rock and #NoDAPL and why people should use social media to call attention to this ongoing issue of environmental injustice and someone asks me "so what about the election? What's going to happen? Does Donald Trump have a chance? SHOULD I START TO PANIC?"
And I leaned back in my very Professor-y way and tapped my fingers on the table, then put on my tweed jacket and busted out some chalk and said "let me tell you a tale of two candidates."
Of course, like we established before, the people around the table guessed that these two candidates were "Hillary and Donald, what's the point?" And I said "but it is not! It's John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson! It's the elections of 1824 and 1828! Do you know what students are always saying to me WE MUST LEARN HISTORY SO WE ARE NOT DOOMED TO REPEAT IT! And yet we remember so little as how jerk face mcjerksalot Andrew Jackson even got elected to the Presidency in the first place."
Oh, Andrew Jackson (you buttface):
Andrew Jackson was an "Indian Killer." Like he killed Indians. A mass-murdering delusional person. He championed the extermination of Indian people.
His first effort at Indian fighting was waging a war against the Creeks. President Jefferson had appointed him to appropriate Creek and Cherokee lands. In his brutal military campaigns against Indians, “Andrew Jackson recommended that troops systematically kill Indian women and children after massacres in order to complete the extermination.” The Creeks lost 23 million acres of land in southern Georgia and central Alabama, paving the way for cotton plantation slavery. READ MORE
Andrew Jackson was also constantly going on and on about how many threats there were to America, because you know all the foreign enemies who are bad, really bad (and maybe some he assumed were good people, probably not). In Jackson's campaign speech from 1828 he said:
We were invaded by the British only 15 years ago. The enemy is still in the Canadas agitating Indians to attack us, and waiting for another chance to invade. We have foreign enemies at our every border. Don't forget the Spanish forces just to the south in Florida, and Mexico to the west, and Indians constantly raiding settlements all along the frontiers. These foreign threats are many and dire...
That's right, Jackson was campaigning in part because of all those foreign enemies at our every border. (He did not, as far as I can tell, offer to build a big wall, a great wall, a tremendous wall, because even Andrew Jackson was probably like, that's too crazy and not possible).
Andrew Jackson was a major general in 1818 when he invaded Spanish Florida to chase fugitive slaves so that he could return them to their "owners." This became known as the First Seminole War.
The Seminoles were taking in runaway slaves. Jackson was charged with eliminating this threat and lead a bloody campaign, burning villages and destroying food supplies. He urged that, “Seminole women and children be tracked down and ‘captured or destroyed.’” Victoriously he wrote to his wife, “I think I may say that the Indian war is at an end for the present, the enemy is scattered over the whole face of the earth, and at least one half must starve and die with disease.” READ MORE
He also got real mad when he captured these two British men living among the Seminole and found out one of them had written in support of treaty rights for the Seminole. He used these writings as "evidence" to accuse the men of "inciting" the Seminoles to "savage warfare" against the U.S. He then convened a special court martial and had the men executed.
So pretty much, kind of a turd.
The 1824 Election (because we cannot let history repeat itself)
So in 1824 when Jackson was running against Adams (and some other dudes) there was such strong regional preferences that nobody won enough electoral college votes to become President. Adams won in the New England states, other dudes won the West and Eastern South, and Jackson he had the most success in states throughout the nation.
Andrew Jackson did, however, pay attention, win the most electoral college votes and the popular vote.
But he still didn't have ENOUGH to win outright.
So what happens?
Think, think back to your high school history class, think. It goes to the HOUSE who gets to decide who is President.
Now the guy who is in charge of the house is named Henry Clay which basically means he decides who is President and he hates Andrew Jackson. So the House picks John Quincy Adams for President.
And then a little while later, John Quincy Adams picks Henry Clay for Secretary of State.
And Andrew Jackson is like "BUT I GOT THE MOST VOTES! IT'S RIGGED! It's SO RIGGED!"
Jackson called it a "corrupt bargain."
Four years later Jackson was back and John Quincy Adams was all "THIS AGAIN!"
You know scholars also say that Adams wasn't a very good politician in the sense of being personable or easy to talk to. People thought he was stuck up. And he didn't like campaigning. He was good at negotiations, and he was responsible for important things like the Treaty of Ghent (to end the War of 1812) and the Monroe Doctrine. But people didn't want to drink whiskey with that guy, he was too Secretary of Statey for them. Something about her, I mean him. It was just something.
Anyway, the election of 1828 is cray. Adams accuses Donald Trump (I mean Andrew Jackson) of having a low IQ. He would sometimes misspell words like "devilopment" and "Urope" (Europe) in his writings. The press publishes articles that Andrew Jackson's wife was still married when she married him. People are kinds of scandalized. How can this scandal-laden man be President?
In response Jackson challenges the man who published those articles (Charles Dickinson) to a duel. He planned to let Dickinson shoot him first so that he would have more time to aim and fire. Dickinson shot him in the chest and Jackson looked down and shook the whole thing off and then shot and killed Dickinson.
Jackson liked to duel/shoot people. You know, like he could walk right out to the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and it wouldn't lose him any voters.
The campaign of 1828, people say, was the "nastiest" in American political history. Of course that was written before 2016. But still it was hot and heavy and in the end Jackson won, by a lot, both electoral and popular vote.
And Adams, a one-term President, went "well now you're stuck with him. Good job voters."
What do we do?
This is very much why I teach American Indian history so that we can learn to critique our past leaders and also why I think it's important that we are going to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill (but not entirely because WTF?!). When we heroize Jackson we forget that he is no hero, we then have very little information and are not well informed by the lessons we should have learned over a hundred years ago.
Jackson said he was going to remove Indians and that he believed in the mass killing of Indians. And people went "well you know he says that but the Supreme Court will stop him, Congress will stop him if he actually tried to do that so let's not freak out."
And yet, when it came time and Jackson started readying to remove all the Indians, the Supreme Court told him he couldn't and he went "STOP ME THEN!" He knew that they wouldn't declare war against their own President.
He did this throughout his Presidency: consolidating power to the President, making bad decisions when it came to the economy, giving jobs to people who had voted for him, threatening to hang people who went against him (including his own Vice-President)...
And the thing is, people make the same excuses in our current election, like nothing is really at stake, like it couldn't possibly be as bad as people think. "It's not going to be that bad" or "how much could he really do if he got voted in?" But we've seen it before.
So much so that I'm like 30% convinced that Donald Trump IS Andrew Jackson. Remember how he got shot in the chest and went "meh." That's some vampire stuff right there. He's been biding his time. He's been hoarding his money and he has the same ideas he had back in the 1800s - watch out they are coming over the borders to get you, let's get them out of here, everybody else is elitist, big league, BIG LEAGUE.
I wish I could say for sure that we are not just doomed to repeat ourselves. I really hope not. Because it's easy to be like "yeah, he is a lot like Andrew Jackson and that's crazy and Jackson was a bad dude and that's weird." But when you think about what it really means for people of color, for the continued violence enacted on their bodies, for the policies created to justify their removal, their degradation, their dispossession - that's real stuff. That matters. We have to remember that our elections matter.
Learn your history. Know your stories. Vote.
Here's a lot of videos I use when I teach people about Jackson
PS: Jackson was known for having a very quick temper (hence all the duels and what not). You know, the kind that fires off crazy tweets in the middle of the night because he just can't stand what people are saying about him? Yeah, that kind. I'm telling you. TRUMP IS ANDREW JACKSON. Somebody check and make sure he has a reflection.
Cutcha Risling Baldy is an Associate Professor and Department Chair of Native American Studies at Humboldt State University. She received her PhD in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis. She is also a writer, mother, volunteer Executive Director for the Native Women's Collective and is currently re-watching My Name is Earl...
(5) Top Posts
On telling Native people to just "get over it" or why I teach about the Walking Dead in my Native Studies classes... *Spoiler Alert!*
Hokay -- In which I lead a presentation on what happens when you Google "Native American Women" and critically analyze the images or "Hupas be like dang where'd you get that dentalium cape girl? Showing off all your money! PS: Suck it Victorias Secret"
In which we establish that there was a genocide against Native Americans, yes there was, it was genocide, yes or this is why I teach Native Studies part 3 million
5 Reasons I Wear "Indian" Jewelry or Hupas...we been bling-blingin' since Year 1
Pope Francis decides to make Father Junipero Serra a saint or In Which I Tell Pope Francis he needs to take a Native Studies class like stat
I need to read more Native blogs!
A few that I read...