Trump Administration Punts Yet Again On Putting Harriet Tubman On The $20 Bill

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin punted once again on the question of replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, making clear that any change that does occur won't happen until after Donald Trump is out of office.

In the closing years of the Obama Administration, it was announced that the Treasury Department was considering redesigning American currency by placing a woman on the $10 bill in place of Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the who had also served as a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention and an aide to George Washington during the American Revolution. Thanks largely to the popularity of the Broadway musical Hamilton, though, the plan to replace Hamilton was scrapped and it was announced that the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who later helped to found the Underground Railroad that led escaped slaves to freedom in the 19th Century and later served as a Union agent in the South during the Civil War, would replace former Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. After the Trump Administration took power, though Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin seemed to throw cold water on that idea, although it wasn’t clear if the idea was being abandoned entirely.  Asked about the issue again last year Mnuchin still would not commit to the idea of making any change to the $20 bill.

Today, the Treasury Secretary made clear that there would be no immediate change to the design of the bill and that any such change likely wouldn’t be seen in circulation until well into the next decade:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin punted again Wednesday when pressed about an Obama-era plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, questioned Mnuchin during a House Financial Services Committee hearing, asking about plans to put the Underground Railroad hero on the bill as part of its redesign.

“I’ve made no decision as it relates to that,” Mnuchin replied.\

He said in response to repeated inquiries from Pressley that he is focused primarily on anti-counterfeiting and security measures, and that he anticipates the new $20 bill would not come out until 2028. He went on to say decisions about the imagery on the $20 bill “will not be an issue that comes up until most likely 2026.”

“It’s not a decision that is likely to come until way past my term even if I serve the second term for the President,” Mnuchin said. “So I am not focused on that at the moment.”

The comments on Wednesday were the latest in a years-long saga to redesign the bill.

(…)

President Donald Trump previously slammed the move as “pure political correctness.”

He said that Tubman was “fantastic” and suggested putting her on the $2 bill, which features President Thomas Jefferson, instead.

As President, Trump visited Jackson’s grave and put a portrait of the 19th century populist in the Oval Office.

Mnuchin said in a January 2018 interview that “we haven’t made any decision as to whether we’ll change the bill, or won’t change the bill,” and a Treasury Department spokesperson told CNN this year that Mnuchin’s position remained the same.

As I have said before, replacing Jackson with Tubman would be a measure of justice. Unlike Hamilton, whose place on the $10 bill is apparently secure for now, there is very little about Andrew Jackson that is admirable. In addition to being a slave owner, Jackson was also responsible for the death of thousands of Native Americans who were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and sent on forced migration to what is now Oklahoma on what came to be known as the “Trail of Tears.” While he was President, Jackson defied Supreme Court orders, including orders directly related his policies toward Native Americans. Additionally, Jackson’s position on the Second Bank of the United States was the primary factor behind the Panic of 1837, which sent the United States into one of the most prolonged economic downturns in its history that in many respects was worse than the Great Depression.  Tubman, on the other hand, stood against pretty much everything that Jackson stood for, was a genuine hero to anyone who respects what America really stands for and assisted Union forces in the South during the Civil War during several crucial moments in history. If any woman deserves to be honored in this manner, she does, and it would be especially appropriate for her to replace someone like Jackson.

Despite that, the Administration has been slow-walking the decision made before it took office. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is the fact thatthe President seems to have some kind of weird affinity for him:

Andrew Jackson was a slaveholder, a populist and an emotionally volatile man who fought in as many as 100 duels during his lifetime.

Naturally, Donald Trump has great admiration for him.

In fact, Trump—despite his gaping and well-demonstrated ignorance of American history—has developed an unusual fixation with the seventh president. In January, Trump described Jackson as “an amazing figure in American history—very unique [in] so many ways” and hung a portrait of the early president in the Oval Office. And on Monday, during an interview with Salena Zito, a host on SiriusXM, Trump made some of his most mystifying historical proclamations to date: He claimed that Jackson might have been able to stop the Civil War. (Jackson died in 1845, a decade and a half before the war broke out.)

(…)

Why does Trump like to compare himself to Jackson? Maybe because so many of his allies made a point of positioning Trump as a successor of Jackson, usually as a way of beefing up his populist credentials.

“Like Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon said in an interview shortly after Trump’s victory. Newt Gingrich invoked Jackson’s name way back in August, touting Trump’s psychological capabilities by saying that he’s “at least as reliable as Andrew Jackson.” And here’s Rudy Giuliani on election night: “This is like Andrew Jackson’s victory. This is the people beating the establishment.” (Trump surrogates don’t tend to mention the ethnic cleansing stuff.)

Though he boasts constantly of his wealth (and favors a tax plan that would mostly aid the wealthy), Trump clearly likes to be thought of as a champion of the “forgotten man”—and comparing himself to Jackson gives him a historical antecedent that he probably finds flattering. It legitimizes his presidency. Jackson is on the $20 bill. Despite the more despicable aspects of his legacy, he remains reasonably popular among historians. (Though his popularity is sliding, and some are blaming Trump for that.)

The temperamental similarities between the two men are significant, though less commonly remarked upon. Andrew Jackson was known to be vengeful, violent and obsessed with his honor. He fought in dozens of duels and once killed a man who called him “a worthless scoundrel.” (During one of these duels he was shot in the chest, yet carried on and killed his rival.) He was quoted as saying he had two regrets from his presidency: “that I have not shot Henry Clay or hanged John C. Calhoun.” Trump is similarly unstable and obsessed with his enemies, though he generally prefers insulting people on Twitter to fighting duels. Maybe if Twitter was around in 1830 Jackson could have just done that instead of shooting people who pissed him off.00

Trump also displayed that weird affinity, and an odd view of history, on other occasions:

This is hardly the most serious issues facing the nation, but it does provide an insight into this President and explains a lot about how he has governed as President. Over the past two years, Trump has clearly operated in the spirit of Jacksonian populism, usually in the worst possible way. Like his campaign, Trump has portrayed himself as a champion of the “common man” notwithstanding the fact that his Cabinet is full of elites from the worlds of banking, business, and Wall Street. On the campaign trail, though, Trump has presented himself as the same kind of populist that Jackson was, and he’s engaged in the same kind of battles with Congress, the media, and the Courts that Jackson did. The only difference between the two seems to be that Trump at least appears to recognize that he has to comply with Court orders no matter how much he disagrees with them, but one could argue that his continued efforts to undermine the Russia investigation are akin to Jackson’s defiance of the Supreme Court. Additionally, his open contempt for the media mimics the attitude that Jackson took toward his own critics of the day, right down to the name calling and the accusations of disloyalty. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Trump is the most Jacksonian President we’ve had since Jackson himself, and that’s not a good thing. In any case, given the fact that we’ve got a President who not only admires Jackson but openly emulates him, the odds that he’ll allow his hero to be removed from the $20 bill are pretty slim.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Economics and Business, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    LMFAO…affinity for Jackson, or not…no way this band of racists put Tubman’s picture anywhere.

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  2. Moosebreath says:

    This seems overdetermined:

    Reversing Obama Administration decision — check.
    Picture of white man instead of black woman — check.
    Jackson being Trump hero — check.

    One can only wonder why this took so long.

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  3. Teve says:

    Jackson didn’t separate Cherokee families while they did the Trail of Tears though. They got to walk together.

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  4. Kylopod says:

    @Teve: That’s because Trump doesn’t idolize Jackson, he sees him as competition.

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  5. CSK says:

    Trump’s cloud of unknowing is vaster than even I could have imagined.

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  6. Jay L Gischer says:

    I actually agree that a Civil War would probably not have played out like it did were Jackson president. South Carolina tried to annul the tariff under Jackson’s administration, and he said if they did he would raise an army and hang every single one of them as traitors. So they didn’t do it. Nobody doubted that Jackson would do what he said.

    However, it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to secede during a Jackson presidency, since he would likely let slaveholders do whatever they wanted, being one himself.

    The thing is, this wouldn’t stop the Civil War, it would just delay it for another 8 or 10 years, and the result probably would have resulted in even greater harm to America.

  7. al Ameda says:

    I’m surprised Trump hasn’t issued an Executive Order directing Treasury to put Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin on the $20.00 bill.

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  8. CSK says:

    @al Ameda: I doubt Trump knows who Bachmann is. As for Palin, she’s been used and discarded.

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  9. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Novelty toilet paper maybe…

  10. Tyrell says:

    @Jay L Gischer: When Jackson was president, there was talk from some of the southern leaders of secession. Even though he was a southerner, Jackson made it clear to them that he would crush the south if they tried any such thing; they took Jackson seriously and dropped it.
    I think that Tubman would be a great choice and has an interesting biography. I have expressed my ideas before that it would be nice to have more choices of people on the currency. People like Michael Jordan, Arnold Palmer, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, General Sherman, General George Marshall, Mickey Mantle. On the back could be a short biography. When those bills hit the bank people would be in a frenzy, grabbing them up for collections. When I was younger collecting coins and currency was popular. I think this would happen again and stimulate interest in currency and history. Most people still don’t know who Alexander Hamilton was.
    I knew one guy who had a penny with Lincoln on the front and back! I told him that could be worth a lot of money.
    Jackson – the hero of New Orleans: “In 1814 we took a little trip along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp” (Johnny Horton, the most requested song in radio history.

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: According to Answers.com:

    Today – the most requested song – by far – has been Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven” Atlantic records has paid songwriters Plant/Page over $25,000,000 in airplay royalties for this song (at .03 cents per play) since it’s release in 1974. This 35 year old song is still on most rock stations play list in 2009!!! Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is also very popular – but it is very seasonal!! Led Zeppelin IV was released on November 8th 1971.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    That is just a mockup, right? Because otherwise I oppose it on the grounds that I don’t like the way her right shoulder is out of the frame.

  13. Guarneri says:

    I’m voting for Robert Johnson on the 20……………

  14. Guarneri says:

    BTW, folks, how’s your hero Michael Avennati doing these days?

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  15. EddieInCA says:

    @Guarneri:

    Name one person from this blog who specifically wrote about Avenatti being a hero. Just one name, you lying sack of…..

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  16. michael reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Better than Trump. Avenatti’s just a good, honest, straightforward thief. He’s not also a money-launderer, racist, misogynist, coward and traitor.

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  17. inhumans99 says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Guarneri is trying to make But Avennati a thing or something like that. Good luck with that.

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  18. Barry says:

    @Jay L Gischer: “The thing is, this wouldn’t stop the Civil War, it would just delay it for another 8 or 10 years, and the result probably would have resulted in even greater harm to America.”

    Possibly less; in a 1870 Civil War, the US would have 10 more years of industrialization.

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  19. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m not too sure about Avenatti not being a misogynist. The restraining order against him for domestic violence was extended last January.

  20. StressNStrain says:

    Whenever they do put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, I hope they don’t use that sketch. That’s a terrible sketch. What’s with the jawline? It looks more like Robert Z’Dar than Harriet Tubman. I hope they based the engraving on the portrait here: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/treasury-secretary-mnuchin-plans-put-harriet-tubman-20/story?id=63206762 . This would be the age she was at when she was kicking ass and taking names.

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  21. Pete S says:

    So is this a case of Mnuchin trying to protect Trump from himself, since cancelling the new bill altogether would not appeal to anyone who is not already 100% planning to vote for Trump in 2020. Or does Mnuchin think the change is the right thing to do and he is keeping the change from being killed off altogether? Bad look for Trump either way but I don’t think he cares.

  22. Blue Galangal says:

    @inhumans99: I have no doubt that if you go to lucianne.com or some other RW fever swamp, Avenatti has his very own set of conspiracy theories and threads. You can always tell what’s bouncing around in the daily talking points.

  23. Teve says:

    See what Guarneri’s gonna say before he even plagiarizes it: https://twitter.com/RealSaavedra

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  24. Teve says:
  25. Tyrell says:

    @StressNStrain: they need to retouch some of the currency images. Hamilton, Geant, and Washington seem okay. If they had more modern people it would be easier.

  26. Libtard Slayer says:

    What a terrible idea to put that ugly face on any bill. Every form of US currency introduced for politically correct pandering (the Susan B Anthony Dollar, Sack-o-joe- wee-a dollar,) has been a FLOP of uncirculated currency that cost the Bureau of engraving and Printing more to make than it was worth.
    You stinking seditious subversive pinko commies only like the idea to erase more of US history, part of the Commie Manifesto….
    Yeah, simmering stinking libtards, you tolerate those who killed 100 million people in the 20th century alone, yet your rotten black hearts swell with anger at Andrew Jackson for a few lost Indians . Your scale of offense and proportion are always 180 degrees from reality.
    If Tubman ever does disgrace the face of the 20 dollar bill it will immediately flop, and the 50 and 10 dollar bills will become used more to replace them. Americans outside your bubbles hate Political Correctness and love their country and its noble history.