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By J.p. Tangen
Special to Mining News 

Is Donald Trump the new Andrew Jackson?

For many years, the burden of the federal bureaucracy has been an impediment to mine development on the public domain In Alaska

 

Last updated 6/18/2017 at Noon



There have been numerous comparisons of President Trump to President Jackson in the news and elsewhere, some of which have not been flattering to either; however, it does seem reasonable to take a brief look at the past in order to make an educated guess about the future.

First, the two men are extraordinarily different. Jackson was a war hero, despite the fact that his most noteworthy victory, at the Battle of New Orleans, took place after the War of 1812 was over. (Neither side was aware of that fact at the time.) Trump has fought all of his battles in the private sector as a real estate magnate and has won enough to amass a significant fortune.

Both men, however, are transformers. Both purport to stand up for the "common man," although neither was a common man. Jackson was a wealthy slave-holder. Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Jackson opposed most of the democratic social movements of his era, including abolition, women's suffrage and rights for blacks and Native Americans. He went so far as to oppose the distribution of abolitionist literature. He was an intense nationalist who refused to enforce Supreme Court decisions with which he disagreed, vetoed more legislation than all preceding presidents put together, and was branded "King Andrew" by his critics.

Jackson pointed out that he was the only government official "elected by all the people" and that he was using his power to tear down special interests that had come to dominate Washington. He rotated key people in his administration to battle the "entrenched aristocracy" that had come to dominate Washington, and he relied on a "kitchen cabinet" of advisors, not confirmed by Congress, to avoid the influence of his regular cabinet officials whom he did not trust.

Finally, Jackson justified his actions by a strict interpretation of the Constitution, which united his followers who otherwise had little in common except for the fact that they all wanted change.

Trump has wrapped himself in the aegis of President Jackson, having paid obeisance at his grave at the "Hermitage" on March 15 of this year and hanging Jackson's portrait prominently in the White House.

While there is a great deal to be learned by comparing the two men, clearly Trump is not a second Andrew Jackson. Times are very different. Contemporary issues have only an attenuated similarity to those of the early Nineteenth Century. Nonetheless, it is clear that, like Jackson before him, Trump is an iconoclast who is destined to change America. President Obama, by comparison, campaigned on the concept of "hope and change", but changed very little.

Trump's changes, like those of Jackson, have the potential of actually redirecting the nation, for better or for worse. This, perhaps, explains why the jackals of the minority and the hyenas of the press insist on nipping at his heels.

We have a lot of "common" men and women in Alaska, so how the Trump presidency will work out for us should be of great interest. Encouragingly, the nation's largest landlord, Trump's Interior Secretary Zinke, has already made a trip to the state, if for no other reason, to give comfort to the energy sector.

Admittedly, Alaska's mining industry got short shrift during the Zinke trip, but a Special Assistant to the Secretary for Alaska has been nominated, so there may soon be a pipeline into the Department. In recent years, that office, while staffed, has languished and exercised very little influence over what has happened in the state.

The good news is that the Pebble project has recently reached an understanding with Trump's Environmental Protection Agency, and this settlement will allow the permitting process to get out of the doldrums. Furthermore, despite unexciting times in metals prices, several projects across the state are starting to gain traction.

Because the State of Alaska's budget is in disarray at the moment, it is foreseeable that mining projects on state land are going to be delayed, no matter what happens to the metals markets. The inconvenient truth is that Alaska is always out of sync economically with the Lower 48. This, however, may mean that with a little luck, operations on federal land may gain a long overdue breath of life.

We can only imagine a day when the location of federal mining claims will be a welcome development and the opening of new mines on federal land will be a normal event. Until then, we must watch and wait.

President Trump is not the new President Jackson, but he does bring a new approach to the presidency. We, Alaskans, must cross our fingers in the hope that the impending changes are for the better.

 

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