The new Jacksonians

As a kid I was enchanted with the life of Andrew Jackson. Growing up in Tennessee, he was a ‘national’ hero. When I was a kid I saw the movie about him and Rachel. It showed him duelling, fighting for her honor, trying to protect her from her fierce critics and critics of their marriage.  When the ‘Battle of New Orleans’ became a country hit I memorized the words “In 1814  ‘took a little trip, ‘long with Genr’l Jackson down the mighty Mississipp’ .”

I read kids books about Jackson and our family went to The Hermitage in Nashville. He was a hero.

Strange, because our family was Rebublican and if the Civil War had broken out in our lifetime, I would have been one of the many East Tennessee Whig boys who would have fought for the Union (as almost half did). 

But there was something about Jackson.  He truly was a man of the common people. He was not an elitist. When he was elected president, he threw open the White House. On inauguration night there were street people with muddy boots or no boots crawling all over the carpets and boozing it up with moonshine on the South Lawn.  No wonder Tennesseeans loved him! He appointed no-names to many high offices in Washington. He turned the bureaucracy upside down.  He stood for what he stood for and he stood for the common man and woman and kid.

Jackson was no saint, and he made many mistakes – among them the policy he led against Native Americans, especially the noble Cherokee.

But beyond that it might be argued that he brought a truly popular meaning to the American experiment and removed it from the hands of the elite and the highly educated.

Fast forward to 1990.  Look in The The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House, by Garrett Graff.  There is a chapter called “Web 2.0 Meets Campaigning 3.0” in which he describes a convention in which bloggers, ultimate outsiders (called ‘pajamaudheedeen’ by the cynics) were meeting in Las Vegas and and contemplating the powerful force they had become in poitics. No insiders they, the talk was all about grassroots politics of a new kind – the power of the amateurs, and the incredible things happening online to influence the real power in the country – the voters.

As I read that, I thought of Jackson. One of the thngs that has been so disappointing to me over most of my lifetime has been the turning of the Democratic party toards a sort of ‘educated-elite-we’re-smarter-than-mainstream-America’ mentality. Even though I never voted with the Democratic party I took no joy in seeing them make that movement. Now, out of the blue, comes the Internet, the new media, complete with its conversations and peer-trusting-peer paradigms, and the Democrats are understanding it and opening it up to the masses. 

Good for the country. Somebody needed to turn the snobs out! I don’t care which party they come from!

Garret writes: “The truth is that few of the political elites in the country are comfortable with the new power being exercised online through blogs, social-networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, grassroots multi-media endeavors like YouTube, and the power of cell phones, which allow almost anyone, anywhere, to snap a candid photo and beam it around the world). (p. 250).

Amen! And one might add – neither are the media elites, the business elites, the academic elites, the health industry elites, or the elite elites comfortable either!

It is time for a new day and truly a day of the people.

The old Jacksonians were messy. They were muddy. They tore up things and a lot of the new bureaucrats that came in didn’t know a thing about management. But they might have saved us from a British-style aristocracy. And that alone is worth a lot.

I may still not vote Democrat – we’ll see – Whig runs deep in my blood -but I sure want to see what happens.

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