“Thanks to Trump, Jackson is in vogue again,” declared Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut, midway through a roundtable discussion of Andrew Jackson’s legacy during the “Andrew Jackson at 250: Race, Politics, and Culture in the Age of Jacksonian ‘Democracy’” conference, hosted by the Yale Center for the Study of Representative Institutions (YCRI) at the MacMillan Center on December 1 and 2. Twenty-three historians, political scientists, and a dramatist, along with members of the Yale and New Haven communities, joined Sinha for the two-day event, organized by YCRI Postdoctoral Associate Joshua Lynn, to “[reassess] the ‘Age of Jackson’ and Jacksonian ‘Democracy’” 250 years after Jackson’s birth in 1767.
Although Sinha and her fellow panelists admitted that Donald Trump’s presidency has revitalized public interest in Old Hickory, all of the scholars in attendance emphasized that Donald Trump is by no means Jackson. Sinha spent her entire presentation highlighting differences between the two administrations. She argued that while Jackson expanded the electorate during the 19th century, Trump and other Republican politicians are currently attempting to prevent large swaths of Americans from being able to vote. She continued that today’s GOP, comprised largely of the wealthy one-percent, is antithetical to Jackson’s economic populism and to repeated attempts to do away with special privileges in the private sector. Finally, Sinha contended that “today’s Republican Party is reactionary” while Jacksonian Democrats “were revolutionary.” For Sinha, analyzing how Jackson and his contemporaries reconfigured American political and social systems as a whole is far more academically beneficial than establishing tenuous ties between Old Hickory and Donald Trump.
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