Andrew Jackson (AKA Donald Trump) is President once again… now what? or I can’t guarantee that this blog entry won’t just devolve into a bunch of angry face emojis
Listen. Last week when I wrote a pithy little blog entry about how I’m 30% convinced Donald Trump IS Andrew Jackson (not the reincarnation of Jackson. Not the heir apparent to Jackson. Not the clone of Jackson BUT ACTUALLY FUCKING ANDREW JACKSON) I was being (mostly) cheeky because what are the odds that Andrew Jackson is actually some kind of immortal who made an unscrupulous deal with an evil demon so that he could live forever and figure out new ways to terrorize people of color and “elitist” politicians FOR THE REST OF TIME.
The deal is, I said it, I compared it and I basically went “look once again we are faced with choices like the election of 1824 and 1828.” Remember the one where John Quincy Adams was like “I am experienced, but boring, and I can’t campaign for shit, but vote for me because I actually know how to run a country!” And Jackson was like “Vote for me because PEOPLE ARE COMING FOR YOUR LAND! And THE BORDERS, THE BORDERS!’” And then at the end I said:
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.
And then on Tuesday November 8, 2016 (FUCKING TUESDAY) the United States of America elected zombie Andrew Jackson as President and the whole world went “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!”
And then Rudy Giuliani said on National television the night of the election:
“And Chris, I know you're a historian,” the former New York City mayor told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews late Tuesday. “This is like Andrew Jackson's victory. This is the people beating the establishment…
Rudy, this is not a compliment. This is a terrifying assertion of settler colonialism and the ongoing continued violence that has built this country. Violence that sees the elimination of Indigenous people and the exploitation of people of color, their bodies, their livelihoods, their talents, their minds, their children, their labor – as a logic of exploitation and a logic of elimination.
This is Rudy Giuliani proudly standing up and saying:
I HAD THE WORST HISTORY TEACHER EVER. Also, I see the normalization of violence against Natives and people of color as really just an awesome way to assert my white supremacy. In this Game of Thrones scenario I’m like god damn Qyburn (because Trump is Joffrey. Face it, he is. Face it.)
Anyway. Less we end up in an entire Game of Thrones discussion and trying to figure out where our Jon Snow is (even though he knows NOTHING) and how long until the White Walkers take over (according to climate scientists, maybe not that long) I want to instead provide a little bit more context about Andrew Jackson.
Because Andrew Jackson (immortal demon seed) is once again the President-elect of this country, so now what?
What people think Andrew Jackson did:
Democracy. “Jacksonian democracy” to be exact.
Everybody knows that Jackson did that whole “Trail of Tears” thing but they tend to excuse that and go “it was complicated because he’s also really important to democracy cause of his democracy. So the whole forced removal of Indians is like, a thing, but not as much of a thing as the democracy thing.”
I like that this website also describes his “Jacksonian Democracy” and policies like this:
Beyond these general principles, however, Jackson's campaign was notably vague about specific policies.
So his platform was a little like “I’m gonna have so much democracy. It’s gonna be great democracy. The best. The best democracy that anybody ever democracied.” SOUND FAMILIAR. It should.
Other things Jackson is often known for:
He won an election based on the will of the “common man.” And he was a “champion of the common man” saying that elitist politicians could care less about the common man. This would shape what would become the Democratic Party’s (yep, ha ha ha, Jackson is known as one of the founders of the Democratic Party) reputation as the party of farmers and workers.
I KID YOU NOT. Jackson was such an asshole that his political opponents would often refer to him as a “jackass” which he liked because THAT’S HOW TROLLS ARE, so he started to use the symbol of a jackass on his political posters etc. And that is why the Democratic Party is the frigging donkey.
Jackson railed against and hated the political “elites.” He also thought smart people were dumb. And even though his opponents made fun of him for misspelling words like government and implied he had a low IQ Jackson was like “STUPID ELITIST SPELLERS!”
For instance, when Harvard granted an advanced degree to Andrew Jackson in 1833, John Quincy Adams boycotted saying that Jackson was ''a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar.'' To which Jackson replied: ''It is a damn poor mind indeed which can't think of at least two ways to spell any word.''
Translation: I CAN SPELL IT HOW I WANT TO.
What did Andrew Jackson really do?
Consider, if Trump is highlander Andrew Jackson (and you know, I’m 35.5% sure he is) then what are the (very possible) basic tenants of this Presidency going to be?
1. I am the King President (I am right, you are wrong, deal with it).
Jackson basically blew up the government banking system because he felt like it. The Bank of The United States had been around since 1791. It was owned by the US and investors and was the government’s bank. According to this website because of his “economic nostalgia” (you know like Jackson thought getting rid of the bank would MAKE AMERICA GREAT… again) Jackson went and vetoed the bank. But not only that he used this veto to extend the powers of the President. And people were pissed. They started calling him “King Andrew. the First” AND some scholars have pointed out the destruction of this bank wasn’t so much about how much he hated the centralizing of money and the possible corruption of the bank, but that it was just another way for him to mess with people from the Northeast who he felt had wronged him.
2. Infrastructure can suck it.
Jackson also didn’t like using government funds to do things like build roads or fix bridges. Mostly because he didn’t like the government getting involved in corporate dealings. Fuck those roads.
3. If you support me and never disagree with me I will give you a job in the government.
Jackson instituted the “spoils system” which meant he planned to replace basically everyone who was already working in the government with people who were supportive of him. He said these people didn’t have to have any experience or background. And he used it to ensure loyalty from people. “To the victor go the spoils.” You’re welcome Chris Christie and Sarah Palin. WHAT? SARAH PALIN.
4. Remember I said I was going to round people up and forcibly remove them. I was serious. You might think I wasn’t serious. I was serious.
I cannot stress this enough, Jackson ordered the mass removal of Indian people from their homes, so that they could be walked through their homelands in the dead of winter, many of them dying along the way, so he could open up that land for settlement by white people. These were his base voters, the ones who thought that these Indians were in the way. One biographer wrote about Jackson:
“Indian removal was Andrew Jackson’s major policy aim. Historians, however, have failed to place Indians at the center of Jackson’s life. They have interpreted the Age of Jackson from every perspective but Indian destruction, the one from which it actually developed historically.”
Now, pay attention. He began his Presidency by calling for a “voluntary” emigration of Indian people. He also reiterated that this wasn’t just about removing Indians, it was about keeping law and order. Should the Indians choose to remain, they must be subjects to laws and obedience.
The State of Georgia was already on pins and needles trying to get rid of the Cherokee and when Jackson got elected they were emboldened to move forward with Cherokee removal. The Cherokee Nation sued, and it went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee could not be removed. And Andrew Jackson was like “COME AT ME BRO.”
See, even though Jackson was (supposedly) all about State’s rights, he’d actually made it so that the President would have jurisdiction over Indian-State relations (where this had been the jurisdiction of Congress). Once again, consolidating power to the President to get what he wants (King Jackson).
He ignored the Supreme Court. The Cherokee were removed. And it sucked. IT SUCKED MAJOR BIG JACKASS BALLS.
Take this testimony from an eyewitness:
I was sent as interpreter into the Smoky Mountain Country in May, 1838, and witnessed the execution of the most brutal order in the History of American Warfare. I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started toward the west. … The trail of the exiles was a trail of death. They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without fire. And I have known as many as twenty-two of them to die in one night of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold, and exposure.
Okay, so undead Andrew Jackson is back in office. Now what?
For the past few days I have been consuming as much as I can from all sides of the panic-don’t panic spectrum. There are many people who want to believe that maybe Trump isn’t this racist, hateful person who is going to round people up and march them out of the country. “Don’t worry” they say “there’s more of us who support immigration and gay marriage and civil rights then there are of him.” MOST people didn’t vote for him because they want to remove people, MOST people are just upset because of jobs and stuff. The other branches will stop him. Being President doesn’t mean you have all the power. People talking about being ‘scared’ are just being dramatic.”
And I just want to scream “WE HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE!” And that scared feeling, that’s because this is not a new story. It’s because it is entirely possible. It’s because even if you truly believe it’s not possible, Trump said it’s what he wanted to do! He has the same mentality of a slave-owning, plantation master, Indian killer and people voted for him or didn’t vote at all.
We are allowed to be scared/sad, because our DNA, our heritage memory knows. And we also know what a Jackson 2.0 Presidency really means. Take this lovely description of Jacksonian Democrazy:
On the one hand it was an authentic democratic movement that contained a principled egalitarian thrust, but this powerful social critique was always cast for the benefit of white men. This tragic mix of egalitarianism, masculine privilege, and racial prejudice remains a central quality of American life and to explore their relationship in the past may help suggest ways of overcoming their haunting limitations in the future. (READ)
This is a real thing that is happening right now. Dismissing it, that’s not going to effect change. And guess what, change is coming. Because even though I walk out the door and see the sadness on people’s faces, the disbelief, and in some cases the fear, I also see radical dreaming, radical envisioning, radical love and radical hope.
My baby girl stayed up way past midnight on Tuesday waiting to celebrate the first woman President and the defeat of Jackson 2.0. When it didn’t happen she crawled into bed with me and I held her, mostly to comfort myself.
There was quiet between us for a moment and then she said “Well, I guess I’m running for President.”
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...