America’s Best and Worst Presidents Ranked
Contemporary US presidents such as Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan are ranked near the top of the best leaders in American history, while Donald Trump is closer to the bottom, according to the latest survey by presidential historians.
According to the C-SPAN survey, the five highest-ranked presidents are Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The bottom five are William Henry Harrison, Donald Trump, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan.
The common denominator among the presidents at the top of the list is that most of them faced huge challenges related to the survival of the nation. Lincoln presided over the Civil War and kept the country from disintegrating. Washington, the first president of the United States, helped nurture the fledgling democracy by not taking the throne and stepping down after becoming president. Franklin Roosevelt presided over America during World War II and Eisenhower negotiated an end to the Korean War.
“They were all presidents during critical periods in American history,” says Cassandra Newby Alexander, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of history at Norfolk State University, who participated in the survey. “And all of them, from John F. Kennedy (the eighth), all the way to Abraham Lincoln (the first) have created some utopian vision of America.”
Presidents have been judged on the vision they have for America, public persuasion, crisis leadership, economics, moral authority, foreign affairs, administrative skills, relationship with Congress, the pursuit of equal justice and their performance in the context of the time they have led the country. .
It’s important to distinguish between greatness and an effective president, says political scientist Robert Kaufman, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University who also participated in the survey.
“Not all highly effective presidents can be great, in my estimation, because greatness also depends on the scale of the challenge,” he says. “Theodore Roosevelt, at the beginning of the twentieth century, and Bill Clinton, at the end, were effective, but they never faced the kind of challenge that would give way to greatness.”
The man at the bottom of the list, James Buchanan, is often ranked as one of the worst presidents of the United States. His refusal to take sides with slavery, while sometimes siding with slave owners, is believed to have inflamed divisions within the country before the Civil War.
Both Kaufman, who calls himself a Republican, and Newby Alexander feel that Truman (VI) may be the lowest rated president. Both refer to his fight for civil rights while Kaufman also praises the 33rd president for “putting in place the successful architecture of winning the Cold War.”
In general, says Newby-Alexander, the survey results reflect a traditional view.
“If we consider the average age of historians, they tend to be older, they tend to be white and they tend to be male, and that actually leads to many of them having a fairly traditional perspective,” She says, noting how highly Theodore Roosevelt (4th) and Woodrow Wilson (13th) were ranked despite their deeply entrenched racist views and actions.
“Under their administrations, we had more lynchings with impunity than at any other time in American history,” she says. “[Wilson’s] The one who strictly separated the federal government. This did not exist before. He separated the Navy. This did not exist before. It started a lot of very reactionary politics during a critical period in American history.”
The passage of time and the gaining of perspective tend to change how presidents are viewed. While Newby Alexander thinks Reagan (ix) is exaggerated, pointing specifically to his stance on apartheid — he vetoed the sweeping apartheid act, which imposed economic sanctions against South Africa in 1986 — Kaufman lists his reasons for pushing The fortieth president of the United States to the top of the list.
“Winning the Cold War, restoring American economic prosperity rooted in Judeo-Christian values, and optimism about American exceptionalism,” says Kaufman. He understood a) what the Soviet threat was about, b) what we needed to do to defeat it, and left Bill Clinton’s hand very strong. In many ways, we were living off the borrowed military capital of the Reagan rally in the 1980s, when he inherited the military in shambles.”
And though he says it may be an unpopular opinion, Kaufman believes Trump (now ranked 41st out of 44 presidents) will also rise in future polls.
“I think as the years go by, the president will get credit, however sausage-like the process, for bringing to the table certain issues that have long been neglected—sovereignty, particularly China, and energy independence,” he says. “I think China, the dominant foreign policy threat of our time, in my estimation, is something Trump will have more credibility, of substance, not of temperament, than he would now classify in the wreckage of his presidency.”
Newby Alexander believes history will best judge Obama (X).
“I would put Barack Obama under Abraham Lincoln because not only could he provide us with an incredibly important health care initiative — while there are a lot of flaws, it was something presidents have tried to do for nearly 100 years, and it worked.” , as you say. “Also, he was the guy who pulled us out of a crisis that was actually deeper than the Great Depression when the stock market crashed in 1929. What we lived through before he took office was worse than what Franklin D. Roosevelt dealt with, and he was able to pull us out. And I think that’s grossly underestimated.” “.
The current president, Joe Biden, is not on the list, and historians say it is too early to judge him.
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