Turns out Donald Trump wasn't the worst president in US history, gli storici dicono

Thomas Balcerski insegna storia alla Eastern Connecticut State University. È l'autore di “Amici del seno: Il mondo intimo di James Buchanan e William Rufus King” (la stampa dell'università di Oxford). He tweets @tbalcerski. Le opinioni espresse in questo commento sono le sue. Visualizza più opinione alla CNN.

Di mercoledì, C-SPAN released its 2021 Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, including for the first time former President Donald Trump. The survey organizers have assembled a broad ideological and demographic spectrum of 142 presidential historians and professional observers of the presidency invited to participate. Io ero uno di loro.

The results are from my fellow historians are now in: Donald Trump is not our worst president. Anziché, James Buchanan continues to hold the bottom spot. Trump ranks in 41st place, with three presidents beneath him.
Thomas Balcerski

As a historian who has studied James Buchanan, I can’t say I am surprised. Il Astuccio for Buchanan as the worst president in American history is, Dopotutto, a very strong one. From unwise meddling into the affairs of the Supreme Court durante Dred Scott Astuccio — he allegedly influenced the court’s ruling that Black people arenot included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizensin the Constitution” — to his role in the struggles that split his own Democratic Party in two, Buchanan blundered badly when the nation needed a steady hand to guide the ship of state.
    Worse still, he presided over the secession of seven Southern states from the Union and declared himself unable to stop it. “It is beyond the power of any president, no matter what may be his own political proclivities, to restore peace and harmony among the states,” he said in his annual message to Congress in 1860. “Wisely limited and restrained as is his power under our Constitution and laws, he alone can accomplish but little for good or for evil on such a momentous question.
      Whether right or wrong, Buchanan has as a result often been pinned with the full blame for the resulting Civil War.
        Tuttavia, the idea that Donald Trump would surpass James Buchanan for last place had seemingly become standard thinking by 2021. A veritable torrent of opinion pieces arguing for the historical magnitude of Trump’s failuressuch as those in the Il Washington Post e nel atlanticomake the point. Several of my fellow historians also said as much in the days immediately leading up to and a seguire Trump’s departure from the White House.
        Public opinion equally mirrored the new conventional wisdom. In dicembre 2020, un Fox News poll found quella 42% of voters said history would remember Trump as one of the worst presidents. Ovviamente, this initial polling about Trump’s place in history took place before the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the ramifications of which are ongoing. A recent Gallup poll on the question, conducted over January 4 per 15, 2021, revealed that fully six in 10 Americans thought Trump would be rated eitherbelow average” o “poor.
          So why did Trump not rank last in this latest survey? Per i principianti, it’s helpful to look at how Trump fared in the 10 le zone established by C-SPAN: Public Persuasion, Crisis Leadership, Economic Management, Moral Authority, International Relations, Administrative Skills, Relations with Congress, Vision/Setting an Agenda, Pursued Equal Justice for All, and Performance with Context of Times.
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          Trump scored highest in Public Persuasionno surprise given his once massive Twitter followingand Economic Management — ancora, unsurprising given the historically large tax cuts passed earlier in his term. tuttavia, he scored dead last among all presidents in both Moral Authorityperhaps as a result of his two impeachmentsand Administrative Skills, equally expected, given his administration’s disastroso handling of the Covid-19 crisis.
          But Trump’s ranking also implicitly relies on comparison to his immediate predecessor. Di nuovo dentro 2017, nearly half of Americans polled thought Barack Obama’s presidency would go down as either “eccezionale” o “above average.” Nel 2017 C-SPAN Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, Obama ranked 12th overall, and he has now cracked the top 10, coming in at 10th place. Certainly, Obama continues to cast a long shadow over his successor.
          But even as Trump’s relative underperformance ensured a low ranking, his failures as president did little to raise the profile of other poorly ranked presidents. Infatti, the needle had hardly budged among the bottom quartile of presidents. Besides Buchanan, Andrew Johnson (43rd), Franklin Pierce (42nd), and William Henry Harrison (40th) join Donald Trump in the bottom five of the 2021 sondaggio.
          So why didn’t Donald Trump take over James Buchanan for the bottom spot? Perhaps the most powerful explanation is a version of historical inertia. Once historians have decided a president’s place in history, they rarely leave the basement of American history.
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          Allo stesso tempo, there have been some notable exceptions of historical reevaluation. Ulysses S. Grant, chi placed 33rd nel 2000, now sits comfortably at 20th place. In Grant’s case, his efforts to suppress the Ku Klux Klan through the Enforcement Acts of 1870 e 1871 increasingly stand out for their executive vigor and courage.
          Beyond inertia, tuttavia, a longer view of history also explains why Trump did not finish last. While it may have been common to call Trump the worst president in American history, the passions of the immediate moment tend to cool over time. Forse, pure, historians take a somewhat longer view of events.
          It’s hard to know how Trump will be ranked in the years ahead. He may follow a course similar to George W. cespuglio, chi landed 36th overall in the 2009 C-SPAN survey, but just 12 anni dopo, he now sits considerably higher, standing at 29th overall. Al contrario, Richard Nixon finished 25th nel 2000 sondaggio, but he had dropped considerably, down to 31st place since then.
            As for me, I ranked Donald Trump number 43 fuori da 44 presidents scored, ahead only of Andrew Johnson, a man to whom he has been often compared. And I placed James Buchanan two spots above the blatantly racist and politically recalcitrant Johnson. But like American democracy itself, mine was just one vote of many.
            Per adesso, almeno, James Buchanan remains our worst president. Whether Donald Trump will surpass him as our worst president in the long run, only time can tell.

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