Why Republicans are embracing Andrew Jackson, as Democrats abandon him

Just as the Democratic Party turns its back on Andrew Jackson – some even want 'Old Hickory' off the $20 bill – the GOP seems to have fully embraced him. Republicans are now the anti-elites.

Bill Sikes/AP/File
A likeness of Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States, adorns the front of the $20 bill, in this file photo taken April 17, 2015, in Boston. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) of New Hampshire filed legislation on April 16 to create a citizens panel to recommend an appropriate woman candidate to be put on the bill.

Andrew Jackson has long been credited with starting the Democratic Party. He brought the Western frontier to Thomas Jefferson’s anti-federalist (and anti-Wall Street) sect and created the party of the underdog.

In fact, it was at a Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner in Iowa where Barack Obama first became a political rock-star.

Old Hickory has been dead now for exactly 170 years, and over those seventeen decades, things, of course, have changed.

The Democratic Party is now more closely associated with the coastal elite than it is with the agrarian south or frontier west.

Some Democratic activists are pushing to push Jackson’s face off of the twenty-dollar bill. It’s time to put a woman on the double-sawbuck, the argument goes, just as Hillary Clinton kicks off a strong campaign to seize the White House.

Just as the Democratic Party turns its back on Jackson, the GOP seems to have fully embraced him.

The Republicans are now the anti-elites.

They are the ones who are furiously trying to kill the Export-Import bank, a symbol of crony capitalism. This fight reminds me so much of Jackson’s efforts to kill the Second National Bank of America.

The party faithful is most concerned with the national debt, a shibboleth of Jackson, who was the last president to actually pay off our debt in its entirety. The result of that effort was financial crisis and a long depression.

Jackson was a country lawyer, but had no formal education. He learned not from books, but from the hard school of the real world. In fact, he was barely literate.

The GOP’s frontrunner didn’t graduate from college, and should he be elected, he would be the first non-college graduate in the White House since Harry Truman.  Truman made his money as a haberdasher before entering politics, and, of course, Harry is another icon of the Democratic Party.

Gov. Scott Walker’s lack of a college degree is seen by most party strategists as a plus in a Republican primary that is populated by modern day Jacksonian populists.

A party that could seriously consider Sarah Palin as a viable contender for the vice president (and by extension, the White House), is a party that has a real problem with the elites in this country.

If anybody hated this country’s elites, it was Andy Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans.

Jackson was a tough old bird who didn’t care much for Indians, who hated John Quincy Adams, and who absolutely despised Henry Clay.

If Andy Jackson were to run in the Republican primary today, he would win in a cakewalk.

He may have once been a symbol of the Democratic Party, but his spirit lives on with the GOP.

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