Andrew Jackson, the president whose divisive political instincts would shape the Democratic Party for generations, was born less than 20 miles from here, in the Waxhaw region between the Carolinas.
Until the 1980s, “Old Hickory” was considered a near-great president, just a few notches below Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, by the academics who are surveyed on such things, according to Curt Nichols, a leading expert on presidential rankings.
Now, with progressives rather than populists dominating presidential popularity polls, Jackson’s reputation has taken a tumble, Nichols said: “Jackson is now commonly regarded as our 13th or 14th greatest president, right about where experts place James Polk and Bill Clinton.”
The key to understanding is ethnic: “Jackson was a son of Scots-Irish immigrant parents who came to America two years before his birth.” The Scots-Irish have fallen out of favour in a major way with our elites because they embody an individual road to personal freedom when our elites are obsessed with collectivism (just think about Barack Obama’s fake inaugural speech). They hate doing what they’re being told to do (Jackson himself took his stand by refusing to polish the boots of a British officer during the Revolutionary War) and our elites, for all of their blather about choices and freedom, want a populace that does just that.
It’s not an accident that Jackson is being compared to Polk and Clinton, two other Scots-Irish worthies who have occupied the White House.
Jackson is certainly not faultless. He pushed hard for the Cherokee Removal, which was one of the greatest human rights violations perpetrated by our Federal government (and, sadly, not the last). And it can be frustrating dealing with people whose first impulse is rebellion. But the Scots-Irish, exasperating as they can be, have outlasted their critics, and Andrew Jackson’s star may rise again–although it may take the end of the Republic and its historical arbiters to make that happen.
P.S. A recent comment re my post Should Christians Drink? also brings the issue of the Scots-Irish back into focus. “John Small Berries” obviously thinks my thesis re these people and drinking is ridiculous, although no more so than the handlebar moustache he sports in his Gravatar. But this is what happens when the needs/preferences of one ethnic group comes to dominate an entire country or religion. I think that this kind of one-sided domination is unfortunate, but that’s the history of the Celts: either they are totally in control or they are in a state of abject ruin, and there is no middle ground. (Think the transition from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, Alesia, the Republic of Ireland, etc.)