The 7th president and the 45th president share much in common. Both populists, both mercurial and excitable, both men of wealth (In Jackson’s case acquired wealth. In Trump’s case inherited), both faced vicious and personal opposition, both used media well, and both believed they had an election stolen from them. In that last instance, both were wrong.
Why does this matter? Because history, and only history, holds the keys to today and tomorrow. As we shall see here, looking at 2024, the scenario is much like 1828.
Jackson was the first American presidential candidate to use mass media to his advantage in a detailed and planned way. In 1824, 1828, and 1832 Jackson send out images to voters of himself as a military hero, his own version of Twitter. That memory of his leadership in the Creek War and his victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 went along way to cementing his national political allure.
His team also organized the working class grass roots as had never been done before. Thousands of “Jackson Clubs” sprang up in the 1820s American West and South. They featured bands, food, booze, and political fellowship with the like-minded. Trump used his mass rallies to much the same effect and both strategies inspired fanatical loyalty amongst the white working class and emotionally driven voters.
The two men were also different. Jackson was a military hero. Trump never served. Jackson was faithful to his wife. Trump has a roving eye. Jackson came up from nothing. Trump was born wealthy. Trump is Ivy League. Jackson was mostly an autodidact. Trump has a temper and is vindictive. Jackson had both but took it farther. He killed men in duels. That’s quite a list. However, they had more in common than their different backgrounds might suggest.
Perhaps their most striking similarly of career is in the myth of the stolen election. Trump actually has a good case that hijinks went on. In fact, they did. Big time. But it is unlikely, looking at all factors in the disputed counts, that the bad numbers got him cheated out of enough to tip the election. However, his people have a legitimate reason to be angry and be very suspicious of 2020 totals. Per the stolen election scenario though? Close, but no cigar. As for Jackson’s people? They were just plain making up the allegations of a stolen election.
It’s 1824, a vicious contest, and the race was crowded with 4 main candidates. When the dust clears Jackson had the most electoral votes at 99. You needed 131 to won. So Jackson had a plurality, also of the popular vote, but not the majority needed to won. The election was thrown to the House. In the House the count was by state. 24 states in the game. 13 to win.
Henry Clay, Speaker of the House, had the least votes of the 4 presidential candidates. So he dropped out and cut a deal with John Quincy Adams, the initial runner up to Jackson. Clay managed to get Adams to 13 and Adams won. Clay then became Secretary of State in the new administration. Thus Clay probably gave his votes to Adams for the SecState slot. Was it backroom politics? Yes. But it was by the rules. No stolen election of any kind.
But the Jackson people saw it differently and rode that resentment to landslides in an 1828 rematch against Adams and in Jackson’s reelection bid in 1832. In the process Jackson also founded the Democrat Party. So, can Trump pull off a Jackson in 1828? Can he recover enough from the 2020 loss, fueled by the ire of his supporters, to win in 2024? Ask us in the spring of 2024.