Sunday, April 27, 2008
I have been thinking about my support for John McCain. What has attracted me to him? As a history teacher I have looked back for historical connections. While I have wanted the connections to be to great Americans, I have struggled. I have thought about various heroes but I haven't made the connection.
Finally, I have made the connection to someone we have in history. While I would have hoped that he would connect to Washington or Jefferson or some other superstar that isn't the case. American history is filled with people who we don't know, but who have shaped this country just as surely as those Founding Fathers we have always heard about. John Adams is a tempting choice and he is my favorite Founding Father. My admiration dates not from the miniseries, but from long before that. I have always admired those who are described as mavericks. Adams was certainly a maverick who was able to debate any point and didn't shrink from a fight. This is a man who when reading a book would write in the margins essentially arguing with the book. My kind of man!
But the comparison breaks off at one point. He wasn't a warrior. That doesn't in anyway, diminish his importance because Adams was the most important Founding Father. He fought the philosophical battle that needed to be fought. No one else could have done it. He was the conscience, the intellect, and the brains of the revolution.
McCain was a warrior. His philosophy was his action and his life. This being the case I have found a historical precedent. That would be Andrew Jackson. Jackson was a warrior with a plan. At the age of 14 he was assaulted by a British officer in the Revolutionary War for refusing to clean his boots. He bore the scar of this confrontation on his hand and head for the rest of his life. He carried with him a hatred of the British and the aristocracy throughout his life.
Jackson was not to be dominated again. This led him to the White House and immortality. He was a man who felt the fire and led his men. He led his country in a sometimes unpopular way, but he was a true leader. When it was all said and done, he was an eponymous leader who revolutionized the country. He was the first president who was a common man. He was a warrior who understood the use of power. For him philosophy didn't trump practicality. He got things done. I don't condone some of the things he did, but I also know he was a man of his time. He revolutionized America in his own way.
I think the most enduring accomplisment of his presidency was his refusal to give up executive power to the jucidiciary. Up to this time, presidents were wont to give the power position to the legislature. Jackson didn't buy the subservient position of the executive branch. He pioneered the strong executive, or the imperial presidency.
When confronted with a ruling concerning the Cherokees and their occupation of land in Georgia that gave the land back to the Cherokees, he stated "Mr. Marshall has made his ruling, now let him enforce it." Now that is not politically correct, but it does say that the executive branch is coequal to the judicial branch. Jackson pioneered the presidency as a powerful position and one that took on leadership of the country. He provided the model that persists to this day of a strong executive.
JACKSON AND McCAIN, A GOOD CONNECTION. Now I'm comfortable.