The results are from my fellow historians are now in: Donald Trump is not our worst president. Instead, James Buchanan continues to hold the bottom spot. Trump ranks in 41st place, with three presidents beneath him.
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. In fact, 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 poll.
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.
Beyond inertia, however, 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. Perhaps, too, historians take a somewhat longer view of events.
For now, at least, James Buchanan remains our worst president. Whether Donald Trump will surpass him as our worst president in the long run, only time can tell.
#Opinion #Turns #Donald #Trump #wasnt #worst #president #history #historians