In Jon Meacham’s best-selling book The Soul of America, the Pulitzer-prize winning author writes about President Andrew Jackson’s commitment to maintaining the union.
Meacham points out Jackson’s considerable failings—he was a slave holder and oppressor of Native Americans—but writes that Jackson “believed in the union with all his heart.”
And so, when South Carolina threatened to ignore a federal tariff law, Jackson took an unyielding stand in support of federal authority.
Jackson wrote that nullification was, “Incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”
Meacham wrote that “The proclamation was intended to put down the rebellion and to put the presidency itself in the breach, defending both the ideal and the reality of the union.”
President Trump is an admirer of Andrew Jackson. “They say my election was most similar to his,” Trump said in March 2017. Trump has a portrait of the seventh president hanging in the oval office.
Trump should be reminded, then, of the principled stand taken by his hero, who stood by the Constitution in the face of potential revolt. If one state could get away with ignoring federal law, why not every other state, thus forever weakening the union.
President Trump now stands in the breach. The election is over, the country remains deeply divided. Many of those who voted for Trump believe the election was stolen, primarily because Trump continues to foment false conspiracy theories.
He made matters worse over the weekend with an hour-long harangue of Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Trump: “The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.”
Raffensperger: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
That was a simple, yet courageous response by Raffensperger. He can’t just “recalculate” the election results based on incorrect information. Raffensperger did not say this, but can you imagine the chaos in the country if he lost his nerve and “discovered” additional Trump votes?
Most chilling in the conversation was Trump’s plea to “find” votes for him. “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.”
Later he said, “So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.”
Give him a break?
Now, back to Andrew Jackson. Meacham writes that Jackson expanded the concept of presidential power. “The president is the direct representative of the American people,” Jackson said. That philosophy, Meacham said, began the galvanization of presidential authority.
But with that power comes great responsibility, which goes beyond the powerful human desire for self-preservation and aspires to a higher obligation. Trump is grasping at any straw to try to keep from accepting his loss, no matter the damage that causes to the democratic process and the country.
That is a tough position to defend, especially for someone whose political idol was committed to the preservation of the union.