The Presidential Century

The new Presidential ratings are here! After polling American historians, the political wonks at C-SPAN have ranked the 43 previous leaders of the United States from first to last.

And the results? Their Top Three selections, as expected, are Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. All of these leaders triumphed in massive wars that saved the American nation and forged its global role for generations into the future.

Other choices are interesting in a quirky sort of way. Two of the top four Presidents, for instance, are from a single family: the Roosevelt clan. Barack Obama is ranked 12th, placing well in front of the 18th ranked Andrew Jackson, whose positions are believed by many to have “epitomized racist 19th century presidential policies.” And George W. Bush is ranked 33rd, significantly behind the 28th ranked Richard Nixon, the only President in American history who resigned in disgrace.

The most ironic result of all may be that the worst two Presidential administrations in American history were bisected by the term of the best one. Andrew Johnson, who followed Abraham Lincoln and who was impeached after botching the post Civil War Reconstruction process, is ranked the second worst ever. And James Buchanan, who preceded Lincoln and who watched passively as the nation slid into its Civil War, is at the bottom.

Are there any unexpected results? Well, yes, there is indeed a surprise. Seven of the top ten Presidents served in the 20th century. And to the chagrin of political partisans, these seven were almost perfectly dispersed across party lines, with four serving as Democrats and three as Republicans.

Furthermore, a stunning five of the top ten Presidents served in an uninterrupted string that began with the 1932 election and ended with the 1968 contest. Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson led the United States in succession through this pivotal period of American history.

This is, without doubt, a major reason why the United States shaped the 1900s into a time that Henry Luce called The American Century. An unbroken 36 year streak of superb leadership led the nation in an era of unparalleled prosperity and strength.

The results of the C-SPAN poll testify to the crucial role that a successful (or unsuccessful) Presidency plays in the fate of the nation. It’s a key factor that has defined America’s past, and it will continue to serve as a driving force that determines its future.