As a former high school teacher (US History, World History, Afro-American History–as we called it then) on the South Side of Chicago during the 1990s, I deny having any responsibility for Kanye West’s lack of perspective on the political party system. In brief, the political parties have changed their platforms quite a few times in the last 200 or so years. The Democratic Party of the 21st century is not the same as the party of Andrew Jackson, whom President Trump seems to adore. The Republican Party of 1854 did not begin by fetishizing lower corporate tax rates. The anti-immigrant party of the day wasn’t the Republicans, it was the Know-Nothings. The “bad” immigrants of the 1850s were Catholics, just as they are now, but they were Irish, not Mexican. I wonder if John Kelly (since he is not, unlike his boss, an “idiot”) knows that?
Anyway, Kanye West went to a high school in southwest suburban Oak Lawn, Illinois, whereas I taught in southeast Chicago, so I never taught his history class. I wonder if he is aware that, on his good days, he has Whiggish tendencies. With his social media reach he could probably reanimate the Whig Party in no time. An alternative scenario: we do not yet have a 21st-century political party bold and honest enough to come out publicly as the Know-Nothing Party. But if anyone could rebrand Know-Nothingism, it is Kanye–excuse me, the Honorable Mr. President Kanye.
In his Loyalty Day proclamation for 2017, the president claimed that “the United States stands as the world’s leader in upholding the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice.” In other news today, Trump suggested in a radio interview that Andrew Jackson could have cut a deal to prevent the Civil War.
Before I say anything, let me say I feel like the dumbfounded Aflac duck, or goose, or whatever. The CEO of the Hermitage Museum suggested that he, Trump that is, might have been referring to Jackson’s “disunion is treason” remark during the nullification crisis of the 1830s. I don’t think so–and even if so the Tenth Amendment fundamentalists must be having a conniption fit at the equation of disunion with treason. Let me not be either too loyal or too disloyal to Trump here. He went to Tennessee recently to relive his election victory, and he apparently thinks that he learned something worth sharing. I can sympathize, but let’s not fall for the idea that Jackson might have been the “tough but fair” big man with big heart who could have cut a great deal almost as great as the ones Donald Trump would have cut had he been there. To be fair to the president, he did use the locution “had he been” very beautifully and correctly in the interview, at least as it was transcribed. Also, to be really really fair, the causes of the American Civil War are complex. But for an American president to claim in 2017 that Andrew Jackson, slaveowner–and enthusiastic, unapologetic slaveowner–could have been an honest broker in the conflict between slave states and free states is way off-base and reflects willful ignorance. Trump’s Loyalty Day proclamation reminds us how important freedom, justice, and equality are. Loyalty to those values sometimes mean repudiating and rejecting, sad to say, the utter BS pouring out of the White House.
Contrary to our president’s assertion in a Sirius XM/Washington Examiner interview, Andrew Jackson was not “really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this.'” And Frederick Douglass, who really is becoming better and better recognized, explained this to the president in a previously secret briefing, just search for it and you’ll surely find it under “causes of U.S. Civil War, real,” as opposed to “theories of the Civil War, fake and gratuitously offensive.” Jackson died 16 years before the war began.