A contributor for CNN equated President Trump with President Andrew Johnson by implying both men share white supremacist views and “a tainted ascent to the presidency” in an op-ed that distorts American history to satisfy a far-left political agenda.
“Donald Trump likes to compare himself to Andrew Jackson, but the Andrew he really resembles is Andrew Johnson. What they have in common are delusions of personal grandeur and a tainted ascent to the presidency,” declared Manisha Sinha, the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut.
“Trump was elected by a minority of the American electorate, with help from the vagaries of the Electoral College system and from considerable Russian interference. Johnson became president thanks to an assassin’s bullet.”
While claiming Johnson’s “white-supremacist views were blatant,” and his policies “precipitated a constitutional crisis that put the President at loggerheads with Congress and his own party, the Republicans,” Sinha made one glaring factual error: Johnson was a Democrat, not a Republican.
When his home state of Tennessee voted to secede from the Union in 1861, Johnson, who was serving in the Senate and adamantly opposed to secession, fled the state and became the only Senator from a state in the Confederacy to remain in the Senate.
In his campaign for reelection in 1864, Abraham Lincoln sought to create a National Union Ticket with a Democrat as his vice president, replacing Republican Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine. Johnson, the country’s most prominent Southern Unionist who had left the Senate in 1862 to serve as Military Governor of Tennessee, was selected as Lincoln’s vice president and the ticket handedly defeated Democrat George McClellan.
Lambasting Republicans for not pushing back on President Trump’s criticisms of Robert Mueller, Sinha equated the situation with Congressional Republicans who, strongly opposed to Johnson’s agenda for Reconstruction, passed the Tenure of Office Act in 1867, making it illegal for the president to fire a cabinet secretary without the consent of the Senate.
When Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, a Radical Republican who fully supported the policy of tough Reconstruction supported by a majority of Congress, Congressional Republicans “put their country before a traitorous President” and began an effort to impeach Johnson.
Though he survived the trial by one vote, Johnson was politically weakened and was ultimately denied the Democratic Party’s nomination in 1868.
It is worth noting the Tenure of Office Act was fully repealed in 1887, and in a similar case in 1926, the Supreme Court noted “that the Tenure of Office Act of 1867, insofar as it attempted to prevent the President from removing executive officers who had been appointed by him by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, was invalid.”
“The Republican Party, like Southern slaveholders of yore, is rapidly becoming an anti-democratic force willing to sacrifice the country, democratic institutions and the sanctity of the electoral process to protect its political power and enact its reactionary political and economic agenda,” she concluded, again inaccurately equating Southern slaveholders with the Republican Party.