I’ve been away from the blog for about a week now because of spring break last week (and my completing of a book chapter for Cambridge University Press’s forthcoming Cambridge History of the American Civil War), but today is a good day to return to it. Lots of good stuff! (Much of it steming from Trump’s budget proposal, visit to Andrew Jackson’s grave last week, and his praise of Henry Clay last night).
Trump’s budget proposal was a nightmare realized, and I have no doubt that it won’t go through in any where near the form it is now. There is no point in me rehashing what has already been repeatedly said by others (the best I saw was this piece by a former Republican congressmen, arguing that only tyrants fear the arts) about the damage that would be done to this country if his cuts to the national endowments to the arts/humanities and etc. went through, as well as to parks and recreation (including many historic sites).
But one connection I have not seen made is to our beloved Mercy Street. The more we learn about why the show was cancelled, the more we know that it was an issue of funding. They lost some major corporate sponsors after season one, but a big budget show like this is a burden for PBS in more ways than one, so I just wonder if perhaps the network could foresee Trump’s proposed cuts coming? Anyway, good article today about the show’s struggles, the pride the producers took in it, and how it has gotten Hollywood’s attention. Is there still hope? YES, But MONEY is the key to saving it.
So last week, Trump went down to Nashville to bask in the adulation of his minions, and while he was there he took a trip to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. After a tour and wreath-laying photo-op, he gleefully compared himself to Old Hickory. Now we all know that Donald has probably never read a history book in his life, so he is obviously drawn to Jackson because other people have made the comparison based on his populist “damn the elites” appeal. But over on the Daily Beast, Asawin Suebsaeng makes the case that this is all Steve Bannon’s influence on the Putin-Puppet. It is true that Jackson might like aspects of Trump’s budget cut proposal, but it is ironic that today’s leader of the Republican Party is celebrating the founder of the Democrat Party. Of course the Democrats are a much different party now in ideology and have lately been running from Jackson’s legacy because he was a particularly harsh slaveholder, defied the Supreme Court, destroyed the economy by killing the National Bank, and has the blood and moral stain of the Trail of Tears solely on his hands. None of this would bother Bannon, however, as Suebsaeng points out that Trump’s top advisor once declared, “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan. That’s power.”
Invoking Satan? But what about all those evangelicals that supported Trump because they believed he would surround himself with good people? One of those evangelical supporters was Mike Huckabee, and he let his sentiments be known about the Trump/Jackson comparison when he tweeted: “Hoping @Potus tells Hawaii judge what Andrew Jackson told overreaching court-“I’ll ignore it and let the court enforce their order.” Huckabee was referring to the Hawaii judge’s blocking of Trump’s latest travel ban, and connecting it to Jackson’s defiance of a supreme court ruling. The fact that Huckabee would do such a thing is beyond morally reprehensible, considering that Jackson’s defiance of the courts was when he ordered the forceful removal of Native American tribes from the southeast, and that thousands were killed or murdered as a result. And the thing is, I think Huckabee knows his history enough to know that. Disgusting, Mike Huckabee, disgusting.
And then last night, Trump got the historical community buzzing on Tweeter, cracking jokes about his praising of Jackson one day, and then of Henry Clay the very next week. It is true that Clay was all about encouraging American manufacturing as a means of creating jobs and making the US economy more self-sustaining, which is how Trump invoked him (though with a very shallow understanding of Clay’s policies and his times). But in his policies, Clay’s biggest rival was Andrew Jackson, and you could argue that the entire era was defined by their competing visions. (Lincoln’s political hero was Clay, so Trump is probably better served to try and make this connection rather than to Jackson). This is all stuff you learn in your US history classes, but in case you need a primer on why it is a bit head-scratching that Trump would embrace the policies of both men, Time has got you covered. (The good thing in all of this is that Henry Clay was trending last night on the internet, and that’s not a bad thing). But as I remarked on a Facebook post, I am pretty sure that Donald doesn’t know much about either guy beyond the fact that people compare him to Jackson, and that he happened to be in Clay’s Kentucky last night.
Despite Trump’s budget, it looks like a new Washington DC memorial to Dwight Eisenhower is about to get final approval and could break ground as early as September. I have no problem with an Eisenhower memorial (whom Trump seems to love, even though the so-called president’s foreign policy and efforts to fill many top Pentagon and Homeland Security offices with defense contractors would send Ike spinning in his grave), but as described here, it seems a bit gawdy.
Trump’s praise of Jackson caused one commentator, Shaun King, to argue that no president that ever owned a slave should be honored (or anyone else, for that matter). That statement is problematic in itself (though King is way more right than wrong), but public historian Nick Sacco took exception to it in regards to U. S Grant, who at one brief moment in his life owned one slave. On his blog, Exploring the Past, Nick posted an impassioned response to King, extolling Grant’s overall record on race and slavery. It is a fine read not only because of what he says about Grant, but also because it is a big reminder that almost nothing in history is a simple as we often make it out to be.
And while we are on other blogs: my buddy Christian McWhirter, historian at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (such an awesome institution) has a really fine post today over on his Civil War Pop that has nothing to do with Lincoln or the Civil War: it is about a new exhibit that he worked on there which presents the history of baseball’s Cubs/Cardinals rivalry. Do baseball history and the history of sports rivalries matter? You bet they do, largely because of what they tell us about how we see ourselves.
And just a quick update on that story about an ancient statue of Ramses II rising from the Cairo mud: turns out it isn’t him, it is of another Pharaoh.