Who’s Your Favorite President?

by Ryan on February 19, 2011

in Culture,History,Media Bias,Nostalgia,Politics,Pop Culture

In honor of President’s Day, Gallup has compiled a Presidential ranking list.  Guess who’s on top?  Ronald Reagan is with 19% of the vote — followed by Lincoln and… um… Bill Clinton.  Washington comes in fifth place and even Obama gets 5%, beating out Truman, Jefferson and Eisenhower.  So, obviously, this is merely a popularity poll, which is nice since Reagan seems to be the most popular president nowadays and hands-down the best in my own lifetime.

Ranking Presidents is tricky:  to historians Washington is usually 1 or 2, flipping with Lincoln, who are also my top 2.  FDR loves to make an appearance in historian’s top three, but that’s a hazardous choice.  There’s a tendency to look at American History as merely a succession of Presidents and their administrations.  By that standard, those Presidents who were more active get more attention and generally higher marks, even if their actions were ultimately harmful to the nation.

I want to take aim at FDR .  Somehow FDR (who actually put civilians in concentration camps) is generally ranked higher than Thomas Jefferson.  While Lincoln violated the Constitution in numerous ways, he had to deal with a crisis which was unprecedented;  whereas FDR merely fell victim to wartime hysteria — two very different things.  Yet, FDR is never punished by historians for prolonging the Great Depression through stubborn ideological policies, suspending civil rights unnecessarily, using the power of his office to destroy political enemies, ruling often by Executive Order, and sticking around more like a Pope than a statesman.  Tricky, indeed.

Anyway, I’m glad to see Reagan continuing to get some love after all these years.

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