The following is a ranking of the 10 best and 10 worst US Presidents. It is based off what the Presidents did while in office, in terms of policy, decision making, and legacy. This does not include the overall lifetime achievements of each person on these lists. If it did, for example, men like Jackson, Grant, Eisenhower, etc. would be in different spots due to their pivotal military leadership.
The time period was also taken into account (Franklin Pierce supported slavery, that makes him much worse on a moral level by our standards today than Jimmy Carter, who is ranked as “worse” than him). We looked at the morality/practicality of the Presidents’ positions through the national zeitgeist at the time in question. However, this does not mean that we can’t judge the long term consequences of their choices, as we do below.
To be clear, this is just the opinion of SoCawlege, since there obviously is no factual rankings. We included some of our reasoning for the 10 best.
10. Warren G Harding
9. Richard Nixon
8. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Ulysses S. Grant
6. Franklin Pierce
5. Jimmy Carter
4. Barack Obama
3. Woodrow Wilson
1. James Buchanan
10. Calvin Coolidge
Booming economy, amazing personality, great philosophy on life. Read about him here.
9. James Madison
Oversaw the War of 1812, and at least cared about strict adherence to the constitution. Unlike many of our current leaders.
8. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Intelligent foreign policy, mixed with effective domestic policy.
7. John F. Kennedy
Strong on foreign policy, cutting taxes, civil rights, and an inspiration to the country. He encouraged us to go to the Moon, one of the best things America ever did. Here’s a great quotation on his economic philosophy:
“I believe in an America where the free enterprise system flourishes for all other systems to see and admire – where no businessman lacks either competition or credit – and where no monopoly, no racketeer, no government bureaucracy can put him out of business that he built up with his own initiative.” Source
6. James K. Polk
Do you like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California? Then you like President Polk. One of the lesser known Presidents for sure.
5. Harry Truman
Truman wrapped up WWII in the best way possible. He made the incredibly tough decision to drop the atom bomb in order to save lives. Post-war Germany and Japan were reformed in ways that prevented another conflict in the future, unlike how the end of WWI was handled. And most importantly, Truman knew to take the threat of communism seriously, like Winston Churchill did. He started off our cold war policy, and was willing to support a war in the Korean Peninsula to save half the area from devastating communism, which still plagues the North to this day. He also recognized Israel, making the US the first nation to do so. Oh, and along with congress, he controlled fiscal policy in a way which did not add much more to our already massive war debt. A booming economy followed suit. Read more here.
4. Ronald Reagan
Finishing off (for the most part) the greatest enemy America ever faced (communism), and unleashing what would become 25+ years of mostly strong economic growth is hard to beat. He was able to work with a Democratic congress to do it too, influencing their decisions on many things (although not all, like spending too much money in some areas). On top of it all, he had a sense of humor:
3. Thomas Jefferson
The Louisiana purchase is one of the best things a President has ever pushed for. The incredible amount of land we bought from France puts Jefferson over the top, however he also fought back against the Barbary pirates, showing early on in America’s life that it would not stand for attacks on its interests. Additionally, Jefferson showed a constant desire for his actions, and the actions of the federal government as a whole, to remain constitutional. Being unsure of his ability to do certain things was a healthy reaction. Too bad our leaders today don’t have that reflex.
2. George Washington
The leadership of George Washington was what the country needed at the time. A unifying political figure that transcended politics, and was officially the member of no political party (although he was in some ways a de facto Federalist). His presence helped America when it needed help the most, which got him on this list.
1. Abraham Lincoln
Yeah it’s cliche. But it’s cliche for a reason. He sacrificed his mental health, body, and ultimately his life so his country could remain unified. And, whether he intended to fully or not, his leadership helped bring an end to slavery. He is #1 for good reason: