Jackson and Trump Against Clinton and Adams: The Never-Ending Cycle

It Began With the Need for Change

James Morone’s “The Democratic Wish” describes an unceasing cycle that gradually bloats the American Democracy one era after another. It begins with two parties unwilling to budge on issues, progresses to the citizens of the Democracy demanding an adjustment or transformation of current politics, and ends with a newly established system that inevitably becomes like the old one it was supposed to replace; only it’s bigger and more useless each time. And so the system repeats itself, term after term, generation after generation, cycle after cycle.

The election of 1824 isn’t of particular interest to most citizens. Frankly, no election is. Republicans argue that they haven’t had a candidate they truly loved since Reagan, and Democrats are singing the same tune with Bill Clinton’s first run for office. Nonetheless, only those who find elation in the political process are the ones who can name particular candidates to particular elections. For instance, I could not find a single person who genuinely knew who Gerald Ford ran against for his presidency that wasn’t heavily involved in politics. For those who know the answer to the question, have a good laugh with me, but don’t spoil its comedic value. An unfair question, I know, but it does prove my point; people don’t care about previous elections as much as they should, especially ones that happened 192 years ago.

1824_large1828_large

Yet, Morone’s message predicts the outcome of this year’s election based on a previous one. In 1824, Andrew Jackson, a fairly uneducated, crazy-haired candidate for the presidency ran against John Quincy Adams, a man whose family was drenched in politics for the past thirty-plus years. Why? Because Jackson felt the system was corrupt. He couldn’t stand the centralized bank nor the system it ran under. And when he lost the election, he claimed it was rigged. In a way, it was. The election is nicknamed the “stolen election” because he received more popular votes than electoral votes. He got his revenge four years later in 1828 when he obliterated President Adams, but once he got into office, many missed the corrupt establishment more than Jackson’s deranged view of a new America, an America where the Native American population would almost become extinct. At the very least, you could say Jackson was a mixed bag of freedom and tyranny, and Adams was a complete and utter repeat of his father’s. Popularity was not his strong suit.

And so the cycle repeated throughout the generations. Government becoming stagnant, people demanding change, electing a president they deemed fit to expel the stagnation, but ultimately creating an equally stagnant system as the previous one. There are rare exceptions to the rule, but they are exactly that; exceptions.

 

It Ended With the Same System

Fast Forward to the 2016 election cycle. A wealthy nominee, fairly uneducated about the political system, with a brute mouth who deems him a person of the people is running against the educated politician who has been deemed the core of the current political system. Establishment versus outsiders, the system versus the people, but in reality, Goliath versus Goliath. Both Clinton and Trump speak to the political system. Both are different means to the same end. Morone’s system repeats itself time and time again. With Trump, we are lead down a path that many deem profound in its best like, extreme in its worse. The system will be radicalized, agencies will brought down, walls will be built up, and a new, ‘better’ system will rise out of the corruption the political sphere is drenched in as of now. With Clinton, they established system will be just that; established. Minor tweaks will be made, but the country will be lead down the same path of stagnation that it is on right now.

Can It Change?

Absolutely. But it won’t.  What will change is the economy. GDP Historically correlates with Presidency Ratings. It’s slightly complicated to correlate without a graph that combines the data, but when the economy is doing poorly, the president is as well, no matter how hard they try. Some things cannot be tailored in the political process, as recessions are a natural part of the economy. Objectively, the longer you put off of a natural recession, the harder it hits. The Great Depression is a key example of a recession that should have happened a decade prior, right after the First World War. Not-so-ironically, this is also a fairly cyclical process. The economy booms, favorability ratings are high in the Executive and Judicial branch, the economy troughs, people demand change. This gives insight as to why the political system also remains cyclical in accordance to Morone’s “The Democratic Wish”.

If you want change, you’d have to create and implement a completely different form of government, one that doesn’t correlate around the financial situation of people. Political scientists haven’t created one that works pragmatically and in theory. The closest we came to a form of a system that breaks Morone’s cycle is communism, and we saw that depraved experiment. It only seems logical and fit, that I leave on this note. The cycle repeats, but is this such a bad thing? As long as there is no expansion on the stagnation, what is to fear? It’s gotten America this far, and we’re still (arguably) the greatest country in the world. Perhaps the cycle deserves much more praise than it currently gets, which is none at all.

 

Works Cited

 

http://visualizingeconomics.com/blog/2011/03/08/long-term-real-growth-in-us-gdp-per-capita-1871-2009

http://www.gallup.com/poll/116677/presidential-approval-ratings-gallup-historical-statistics-trends.aspx

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9 Responses to Jackson and Trump Against Clinton and Adams: The Never-Ending Cycle

  1. offthewals says:

    I’m a civil engineering major and, frankly, I had no idea who Gerald Ford ran against and I had to look it up… and was extremely confused at first. You’re right, and my ignorance of previous presidential elections completely proves your point. Your post is not just interesting; it’s also eye opening. The repetition and seeming entrapment of political cycles is disturbing. I love how you spent the last paragraph relating Morone’s theory to the economy. I don’t have much knowledge on economics, so please bear with me on this question. We follow a Keynesian style of economics which, to my understanding, is all about delaying recessions with government spending and tax cuts. As you mentioned, the longer we delay recessions, the harder they hit. So, if we are using Keynes’ theory, aren’t we, in essence, “expand[ing] on stagnation” right now, so we should in fact have something to fear as far as our economic system is concerned?

    • cvazquez131 says:

      I really like how economics was brought into this post. Whoever the next president is, monetary policy will be a defining aspect of their legacy. Trumps charge that Obama is purposing keeping interest rates low to keep the economy steady, and his approval rates up is an entirely valid claim. Our country’s current employment of Keynesian economics essentially means that a recession, or if we wait long enough, a depression is inevitable. One most overlooked flaws of our political system is allowing administrations to manipulate monetary policy through the federal reserve for political gain. I honestly believe more people could tell me with a straight face who ran against Gerald Ford, than could tell me who the current federal reserve chair is. And the Current federal reserve chair is actually a real person.

      • azwoodland says:

        I’m confused by your comment – the Fed is an independent government agency, operating in the public interest. Do you have a source? How do you reason that administrations are manipulating monetary policy for political gain? Is this because, like the Supreme Court, appointees are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate? Or, is this in response to the recent meeting President Obama and Vice President Biden had with Janet Yellen?

  2. morgandick says:

    I believe you briefly mentioned this in class “theory” in class, I was particularly intrigued so I researched it a little bit on my own and I have to say I was astonished at the similarities between 1824 and 2016. I love political history so thank you so much for sharing! I agree that it is unsettling and quite frankly sad that the vast majority of people seemingly do not care about the electoral process. In my opinion this election is extremely polarizing however we have also seen a great amount of apathy from voters. Perhaps it is the lack of appealing candidates or some unknown phenomenon that we have yet to discover. Either way, I agree that the lack of public interest in elections (or maybe even politics in general) can be traced back to the cyclical nature Monroe describes of American democracy. Finally, thank you for bringing in economic concepts and how the economic/financial situation in the nation can effect Presidential ratings. While I am a diagnosed “political junkie” I am incredibly naive when it comes to economic policy. In response to your final thought, I am conflicted in my response regarding if the cycle is such a bad thing, I see pros and cons to the current system and I see no other model that would work better in the United States. I wonder what system you would propose in order to create change “that doesn’t correlate around the financial situation of people”. Thanks for your insight!

  3. amcorell says:

    Whether or not this cycle is bad depends on who you ask. In my view, drastic regime change is always bad, so I might agree and give this cycle praise out of the want to not cause massive unrest. However, “it’s gotten us this far” is a pretty naive way to look at it because “it’s gotten us this far” can refer to any state up until its failure. The conclusion of the whole cycle being that it’s “more useless” is also dependent on who you ask. As someone who might ideologically (be careful with your confidence in ideologies) believe that a larger government is “more useless” might see a problem with the cycle, but one who views changes in the nuances of policy could view it as positive. It might be useful to some people that a bigger government resulted in the New Deal, but to others, something like this could negatively affect their lives directly, not considering the level of positive impact imposed on a large number of people. In my view, government is always “big,” and those who say that it is too big simply see how it imposes their life, not the actual size. An example is Nixon’s changes to Johnson’s War on Poverty. Nixon took much of the federal spending meant to lift and sustain those the state deemed as poor and reallocated it to police and prison funding. He took the idea of “starving the beast (referring to the federal government)” and stuck the money that was already spent somewhere else. In my view, government doesn’t get “more useless,” but instead power is reallocated, and this language depends on what side you’re on.

  4. kassandracarol says:

    I agree that there is a lack of knowledge for political history. However, I don’t see how a government could not be completely without a financial impact on the people. That is, we need the government for public goods. I don’t see how a government could not have any control on the economy. The cycle is not all that bad, like you said. That is because the economy is not and will never be constant. We need the cycle and sadly, that cycle greatly effects the president’s ratings due to the financial hardships we face. But, if we had more people who understood politics and knew of this cycle and that economy is not constant or well controlled I think we could have more voters that are well educated.

    • prestonmarshall says:

      We don’t need the government for public goods. That statement seems cyclical. If we don’t have government then we don’t have public goods, but that still doesn’t prove whether or not we need public goods. We don’t.

  5. tibblebits says:

    The president has remarkably little control over the economy especially without the assistance of Congress. I’m unsure if you’re insinuating that the president has control over interest rates because they assuredly do not. The president could have a meeting with the fed chair and say “I think it would be a good idea to raise rates”, but the president could not executive order or by fiat raise rates nor print money.

    In a democratic society, people vote based on how they feel at any particular point in time, and that feeling is almost entirely driven by their material i.e. economic situation, and to this I owe you credit for appreciating that fact. In terms of this 2016 election, I do not think we are at nearly the crossroads that the media and others think we are. Of course, Trump says he will enact major change, but rest assured mainstream interests will still control the legislature, and any attempt by Trump to deviate significantly will be met by obstruction especially the notion of “building the wall”. At this point, I think we should all come to terms that “the wall” is nothing more than a metaphor”. It is silly policy put forward by an altogether silly person.

    In terms of Morone, I do not like the theory because it is too monolithic, too simplistic. My experience with mathematics and economics has taught me that simple theories are preferred over complex theories, but politics has too many moving parts (not to mention an almost irrational voter base) to be broken down into simply 4-step processes. This isn’t a battle between large government or small government anymore. As someone mentioned above, the government will always be big. The question, in my opinion, is who does the government serve. Under a Trump administration, the government will attempt to serve the working class by “bringing back jobs”, but this ignores that fact that technology has and will completely eliminate the types of jobs Trump is referring to. The coming robotic revolution, much like the computer, electrical, and industrial revolution before it, will completely change the economic landscape. We should move forward, not backward, and we should ignore any and all theories that break this process down into big government vs. small government.

  6. cvazquez131 says:

    @azwoodland The federal reserve is not a government agency, it is a privately owned central bank that has zero legal obligation to work in the public interest.

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