Both saw themselves as taking on a wealthy, self-serving elite that rigged the system for its own benefit. Jacksonian democracy embodied a deep hostility towards the East Coast banking and commercial elites, who were blamed for putting their economic interests above those of the common people, especially farmers. In keeping with their avowed anti-elitism, Jacksonian Democrats favored wider participation in the political process, which they achieved mainly by an expansion of the franchise. To this end, they also established the controversial spoils system, which, although eventually associated with widespread graft and corruption, was designed to give more opportunities to the common man to get involved in the administration of government.
Reformers of the Gilded Age shared a similar animus towards robber barons and the institutions of Wall Street. They argued that the rampant greed of industrialists and financiers was getting out of control, leading to a massive, unsustainable gap in wealth between the rich few and the vast majority of Americans. Robber barons and their spokesmen in Congress preached the benefits of a free-market economy, while, at the same time, lobbying for laws that would give them special treatment; the growing consolidation of big business through trusts was cited as a prime example of this.
Progressive reformers, like their Jacksonian antecedents, advocated political reform to make the system more democratic, reducing the power of elites and giving it back to the people. One major difference, however, is that reformers during the Gilded Age were committed to ending corruption in public life, especially in relation to the notorious party machines of the big cities; whereas Jacksonian Democrats had arguably contributed to the corrupt nature of contemporary politics by their championing of the spoils system. Rampantly corrupt party machines, such as Tammany Hall in New York were, to a large extent, examples of Jacksonian-style patronage in action.