Tom Mertes on Sean Wilentz, Andrew Jackson. A retouched portrait of the Democrat founding father—minus Indian massacres, slave exploitation and financial bubble.
Reviewing the wave of political upheavals around 1830 that overthrew the Bourbons in France, detached Belgium from the Netherlands, secured Catholic emancipation to Ireland, brought the Reform Bill to England and unleashed civil wars in Spain and Portugal, in his Age of Revolution Eric Hobsbawm saw the most radical popular advance of the time in the election of Andrew Jackson as President of the United States. Viewed comparatively, two landmarks of his presidency stand out. The electorate of 1828 that put Jackson into power, with a record 56 per cent of the vote, was by far the largest in history: over a million strong, it was three times the size of the American turnout in 1824. The mobilization that produced this majority, moreover, was the work of the first modern mass political party. The second development was more original than the first, but together they spelt a lasting transformation of American democracy, of whose importance posterity has never doubted. The reputation of the man personifying this change remains far more contested. In his own day, Jackson was hailed by many as a heroic democrat, the beau ideal of a self-made man who rose to the nation’s highest post as a foe of social privilege and slayer of the ‘monster bank’, saviour of the nation and fearless champion of the people. Others saw him as ‘King Andrew’, a divisive tyrant driven by petty personal prejudices, contemptuous of the law of the land and merciless to the weak, who debauched government with a spoils system and destroyed the nation’s prosperity with a fixation on hard money.
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By the same authors:
Crash of 1837
Tom Mertes on Alasdair Roberts, America’s First Great Depression. Political outcomes of economic crisis in the antebellum United States.
War, Crash, Slump
Tom Mertes on Liaquat Ahamed, Lords of Finance. Bestselling portrait of the interwar world’s central bankers as originators of the Great Depression—with edifying comparisons to their modern counterparts.
Tom Mertes on Jerry Hough, Changing Party Coalitions. Ethnic and confessional divisions as the origins of America’s political alignments, and the elite strategies that have culminated in today’s red–blue polarization.
A Republican Proletariat
Why did cultural bogeys trump economic distress as working-class voters went to the polls in the US? Can the case of Kansas stand in for proletarian America at large, as Thomas Frank suggests? Billionaire Democrats and blue-collar Republicans in the twisting shapes of the 21st-century political system.
Tom Mertes on Walden Bello, Deglobalization. Ideas of another world economy, less subject to the diktats of the imf and the straitjackets of the WTO.
Replying to Michael Hardt with an alternative look at Porto Alegre, Tom Mertes argues that while the variety of movements and forces in the WSF is not to be reduced to a single scale, the differences between them are less to do with organization than strategy.
Light from Florida
Tom Mertes on Richard Posner, Breaking the Deadlock. The first lucid analysis of the upshot of the US Presidential election, and its setting in the West’s most backward democracy.
Baffler in Boomtown
Tom Mertes on Thomas Frank, One Market Under God. The Robin Hood of anti-Cultural Studies leads a merry chase against market populism.
On No Logo
Tom Mertes on Naomi Klein, No Logo. Emblems of ownership: from branding hides to clothes, cattle to people? A Canadian reporter’s stinging attack on the new corporate logic behind logo-mania.
Counsellor to Clinton
Tom Mertes on Dick Morris, The New Prince. America's fallen political adviser as a surrogate Machiavelli for the White House.