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"Martin Van Buren
—The Presidents, by Jonathan Coulton.
Martin Van Buren could scarcely have been more different from his predecessor, the hard-assed Andrew Jackson. The first President born to American parents (as opposed to colonial British subjects), and one of only two men (with Jefferson) to serve as Secretary of State, Vice President and President, van Buren's public image was of an effete intellectual. His opponents criticized him for serving "unmanly" fare like strawberries and celery in the White House.
A shrewd political operator, he was unfortunate to preside over a period of economic hardship and a straining of relationships with Britain and Canada. Before becoming president, he nearly prevented those hardships. Van Buren was also both a brilliant congressman and a decent man.
His nickname while running for President was "Old Kinderhook" , and his election campaign was known as "The Democratic O.K. Club". While the term "O.K." had been known for a few years, it seems to have been popularized by the election campaign.
Martin Van Buren was the first President to be born in the United States of America, having been born following 1776. The only president with no ancestors from Ireland or Great Britain, he is also the only president thus far to speak English as a second language (he was born to one of the Dutch-speaking families in the Hudson Valley dating back to the Nieuw-Nederland settlements).
Van Buren possessed Hotblooded Sideburns and was the first president to grant an exclusive interview to a reporter, James Gordon Bennett, Sr., of the New York Herald in 1839.
It was in his administration that the U.S. first encountered an economic downturn. Van Buren was powerless to stop it and he lost his bid for re-election to William Henry Harrison. Had the American people known he was gonna die a month later, they would have voted Van Buren.
Martin Van Buren would be the last sitting Vice President to be elected President for 152 years--the next would be George H. W. Bush.
- Man Behind the Man: See the below trope for more exact details, but he was quite successful at molding public opinion to favor Andrew Jackson, so much so Jackson considered him invaluable enough to make a cabinet secretary and later his Vice President.
- Manipulative Bastard: Modern day political campaigning was born of his political designs. Prior, politics was determined by "notables", who essentially campaigned in the backrooms of power, with presidential elections being low key affairs. Van Buren popularized the concept of appealing the public at large and gauging the opinions the popular vote, which thereby would make backroom dealing harder to favor those who went against their constituents. It was this sort of political machination that robbed Henry Clay of any chance of becoming president and later ensured both his and Andrew Jackson's ascent to the presidency.
- Memetic Mutation: During his presidential campaign, he was affectionately referred to as "Old Kinderhook", commonly shortened to O.K., as in, things would be fine with him in office. This meme became the word "Ok/Okay".
- Odd Couple: Politically, it was strange how well Van Buren and Jackson got along. Van Buren was an urbanite who liked the finer things in life, while Jackson was the rough-hewn frontiersman who made a point of being the everyman. It was slightly less strange in hindsight given Van Buren came from humble roots like Jackson and both men played off the strengths of one another for their mutual benefit, with Jackson providing the force of personality and common man appeal and Van Buren providing the political acumen and campaign experience.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: While Andrew Jackson wasn't a stranger to being a sentimental sort, his public image was that of a "take charge" type, so Van Buren served to be the smoother of the edges politically.
- In an episode of The Monkees entitled "Dance, Monkee, Dance", Martin Van Buren is the answer to a trivia question entitling callers to a free dance lesson. Later in the episode, Van Buren himself shows up for the lesson.
- In Gore Vidal's novel Burr, Van Buren is secretly the illegitimate son of Aaron Burr.
- In a popular episode of Seinfeld entitled "The Van Buren Boys," Kramer and George are threatened by a street gang called the Van Buren Boys with the secret sign of the number 8 because Van Buren was the 8th president. They apparently picked that name because Van Buren was the man they most admired. The gang is apparently "every bit as mean as he was".
- In the 2000 PBS documentary series The American President, Van Buren's voice was provided by Mario Cuomo. In the 1997 film Amistad, he was played, more conventionally, by Nigel Hawthorne.
- Rutger Hauer would probably have done it better.
- In The Simpsons episode "Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington", Krusty is assigned petty janitorial jobs as his first term in the House. One of them is to clean off "Capitol Hill graffiti", reading "Martin Van Buren is a wiener", followed by:
Bart: Grover Cleveland sucks what?!
- In an episode of Pete and Pete, Little Pete gets a piece of cereal that resembles Martin Van Buren stuck in his nostril.
- In 2004 version movie of "The Alamo", Martin Van Buren appeared uncredited with another character portraying Andrew Jackson during the scene at Washington D.C. Martin Van Buren was talking to Sam Houston (portrayed by Dennis Quaid) while Andrew Jackson stand beside him.
- On the show "Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the episode "Soultaker" we see towards the start of the episode a fuzzy TV screen with a picture of him and Crow T. Robot says that its Martin Van Buren.
- He appeared as a character in the podcast RPPR in the episode "Dodgeball to Save the World" with electricity, liquid and portal powers.
- "Project Van Buren" was the code name of an early version of Fallout 3, when it was still in production by Black Isle.
- According to John Hodgman, he is a Time Lord.
- In the second book of Eric Flint's Trails of Glory Alternate History series, he's referred to as "The Little Magician" for his political acumen.
- Don't forget the Duck Dodgers series, in which the titular character was forced to compete in "roller derby TO THE DEATH" against the "Lesser Known American Presidents," among which were William "Tippiecanoe" Harrison, Grover "Uncle Jumbo" Cleveland, John "Tyler Too" Tyler, and, of course, Martin "Red Fox of Kinderhook" Van Buren.
- A bust of him is occasionally seen on Homestar Runner.
- The Weekenders makes a reference to him when Tino has a bad dream, fuelled by his mother's cooking. "Down with the cotton gin! Down with the cotton gin!"
- He's one of the Presidents of the independent Republic of New England in Decades of Darkness.