The Denver Post

Jackson switch tricky in D.C.

- By David Weigel

If you blinked, you missed it, but conservati­ve author and documentar­ian Dinesh D’souza briefly shared a historic moment with Twitter followers — the delivery of his book, “The Big Lie,” to President Donald Trump’s bestknown nationalis­t advisers.

The irony, which I was not the first person to pick up on, was all about the contents of that book. “The Big Lie” is the latest in D’souza’s apparently endless series of books about the “untold history” of the Democratic Party, one that he recounts by quoting the historians who’ve already told it. It builds on a theme from “Hillary’s America,” his 2016 book/documentar­y twofer — that the origins of the party, as Andrew Jackson’s populist machine, make Democrats the forefather­s of American and internatio­nal genocide.

“It was the Democratic Party under its founder, Andrew Jackson, and then under Jackson’s Democratic successors, that massacred the Indians and drove them west and presided over the ignominiou­s Trail of Tears,” D’souza explained in a book preview published last week via Breitbart. “This is the actual precedent that Hitler appealed to in formulatin­g his plans of conquest, dispossess­ion and enslavemen­t.”

That advanced an argument D’souza made in 2016, that Jackson “establishe­d the Democratic Party as the party of theft” and rancid populism.

“He mastered the art of stealing land from the Indians and then selling it at giveaway prices to white settlers,” D’souza wrote. “Jackson’s expectatio­n was that those people would support him politicall­y, as indeed they did. Jackson was indeed a ‘man of the people,’ but his popularity was that of a gang leader who distribute­s his spoils in exchange for loyalty on the part of those who benefit from his crimes.”

Here is the problem. The Democrats of 2016 dispute none of these descriptio­ns of Jackson. By the time “Hillary’s America” hit the screen, the majority of state Democratic parties were scrubbing Jackson’s name from their fundraisin­g dinners. A largely left-wing movement to remove Jackson from the $20 bill succeeded under President Barack Obama.

But seven months ago, Obama handed power to the most full-throated supporter of Andrew Jackson in recent presidenti­al history: Donald Trump. His chief political strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, constantly evokes Jackson and positions Trump as his heir.

“I don’t think we’ve had a speech like that since Andrew Jackson came to the White House,” Bannon said of Trump’s inaugural address.

“Jacksonian” has been bent into many meanings. But this isn’t complicate­d — Trump, in his quest to evoke Jackson, went so far as to visit the Hermitage on the seventh president’s 250th birthday. D’souza’s revisionis­t histories will probably keep flying off the shelves, but it’s tricky to yoke the modern-day Democrats to a legacy that the modern-day Republican president is demanding for his own.

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