Trigger Warning: if the 2016 presidential election has you waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats, you may wish to give this conversation a pass.
There’s no easy way to say it: This is a very strange year in American politics. Pundits and sober-minded experts have been consistently wrong. As an exercise in self-critical thinking, historical or otherwise, it’s useful to remember who got things wrong and why. Few are willing to detail their faults; Nate Silver has been a refreshing exception. (And why should it only be “empirically minded journalists” who confess their mistakes?)
This week I’m taking with Historically Thinking’s Official Presidential Historian® Professor Michael Connolly. We take a leisurely stroll along memory lane, starting with the election of 1860 and the “Wideawakes.”
Then we move to a discussion of whether Donald Trump is anything like Andrew Jackson–something proposed by historians and NPR journalists alike. Connolly, one of the most articulate defenders of Andrew Jackson not named Sean Wilentz, thinks not.
We also explore whether American history contains an election in which two candidates are so unpopular with their own parties (spoiler alert: we’re stumped). Connolly concludes with observations on the longevity of American political parties, why they survive, and why they die.
This conversation raises the question of whether most historical comparisons are worth the powder to blow them to the faculty lounge in the sky. But that’s been the subject of previous podcasts (see Episode 46: History of the Future). Enjoy this one! (Management apologizes for any cold sweats it may induce.)
As always, you’re welcome to join our Facebook group, let us know how we’re doing, and what you’d like to hear in the future!
For Further Investigation
Andrew Burstein, The Passions of Andrew Jackson
David Feller, “Andrew Jackson’s Shifting Legacy”
Steve Inskeep, “Donald Trump’s Secret? Channelling Andrew Jackson”
Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson
Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln