Andrew Jackson’s election in 1828 marked the first modern campaign in American history. After a bitter defeat in arguably the first truly democratic election of its time in 1824 –due to its free, fair, and competitive nature– Jackson set out to defeat John Quincy Adams in the next election. Embarking on a long four-year campaign that reflects the lengthy campaigns of modern politics, Jackson implemented a number of never before used tactics that are common in today’s election season. These included “coordinated media, fund-raising, organized rallies, opinion polls, campaign literature and paraphernalia, ethnic voting blocs, image making, opposition research, smear tactics, and dirty tricks.” Jackson, less politically experienced than his opponent, made to win the presidency from popularity and widespread fame.
It was improper for gentlemen in the Revolutionary-era to publicly self-promote. Andrew Jackson changed this ideology. John Quincy Adams, Jackson’s opponent, firmly opposed electioneering but was more politically experienced. Jackson campaigned wildly and used his friends, allies in government, and editors to help promote him. Issues were less important than the image of the candidates, something new to the nation that would end up becoming the norm in later years. The campaign was long and bitter, reminiscent of the modern day exhausting horse races. Soon other state politicians adopted this method, competing against the old style of politics, and winning handedly. Similarly, Jackson won by a large margin, shocking Adams and bringing in a wave of new campaigning. In addition, the groundwork was laid for a two-party system with the Democrats-Whigs battle in 1840.
Andrew Jackson faced the first ever censure-motion against a sitting president in 1834 over the First Bank of the United States. In 1832, Jackson had vetoed a bill to recharter the bank and when Senator Henry Clay asked for notes detailing why he vetoed, Jackson refused. Clay then started the censure motion in the Whig-led Senate, and it passed in a 26-20 vote. Censure motion comes from Article 1, Section 5, Clause 2 of the Constitution, which says that “each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.” Basically, they’re public shaming of government officials. However, the Constitution says nothing about Congress having the power to pass a censure motion against a member of another branch of the government. Jackson. This wasn’t lost on Jackson, who claimed the censure was “wholly unauthorized by the Constitution, and in derogation of its entire spirit.” He was bitter about it for years and his supporters, when the Democrats controlled the Senate in 1837, had it expunged from Senate records. Censure motions against sitting presidents have always been controversial, and many have faced them including John Tyler, James Polk, Abraham Lincoln, and in recent years, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Jackson’s presidency was the first to really face open and bitter opposition from Congress, something that characterizes modern American politics.