Trump’s comments on the Civil War resonate among white supremacists

Politico reports: The president’s comments [on Andrew Jackson and the Civil War] on Monday struck some historians as darker than a history goof, with the president seeming to minimize the painful history of slavery in the United States and to talk up Jackson’s role as a strongman leader who proudly owned many slaves.

“It’s the kind of comment that will get applause from neo-Confederate circles in the South,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University.

Confederate flags were a common sight at Trump rallies during the 2016 campaign, and monuments to Confederate leaders are common in Southern states.

Some in Trump’s circle, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, have sought to liken Trump to Jackson, a populist. In March, Trump visited Jackson’s gravesite in Nashville, Tennessee, where he declared himself “a fan.”

“Steve Bannon has made Jackson the epitome of the hardscrabble, American folk hero,” added Brinkley. “And Trump has bought into Steve Bannon’s version of Andrew Jackson.”

On Monday night, the president tweeted: “President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!“

Jackson, who was a slaveholder, threatened to use federal military force against South Carolina when the state sought to nullify federal tariffs. He died in 1845, 16 years before the Civil War erupted at Fort Sumter.

“What I saw in that comment was his belief, his attraction to a kind of strongman history,” said David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University. “It’s so completely out of any knowledge or context to suggest that somehow Jackson would have headed off the Civil War.”

The broad consensus among historians is that the secession of 11 Southern states, and the resulting war, was driven by slavery and the racial order that slavery represented. The Confederacy’s vice president, Alexander H. Stephens, said himself that the South’s “foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”

The myth that the Civil War was fought over not slavery, but states’ rights, has become an article of faith for some in the South and those in the white supremacist movement. [Continue reading…]

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