Friday, November 07, 2008

The Greatest Men? (Part 2)

With almost a mind of its own, yesterday's post veered from the intended course. Although I haven't any empirical evidence to support my theory, I'd suggest that the greatness to which we esteem Mr. Abraham Lincoln was not the public's original opinion of the man who was killed shortly after spending all but a few short weeks of his administration fighting to hold the republic together. Over 600,000 americans died to make his cause. The south and much of the north was left in ruin. The economy was torn asunder. Complete honesty suggests few of his contemporaries considered Abraham Lincoln more than a great speech writer. History, perspective eased by years to ponder and a clearer understanding have brought most to believe Abraham Lincoln was a great president.

Before sidetracking to the vitriol that has been the tone of this blog for the past few weeks or months, the goal was to suggest George W. Bush might be credited with far more greatness than today's historians and media are willing to acquiesce.

It is probably very difficult to suggest a ranking of these 43 men that is not going to be biased by certain political leanings. The criteria by which such a task should be benchmarked has to be established in as close to an objective manner as possible. Simply going by my first thought that a President should be considered great by how well he upholds his oath of office to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States," leaves us lacking any real empirical evidence by which to judge. Still far too much room for opinion and subjectivity.

I read a suggestion that a very objective manner in which to rank the presidents would be to look at the electoral college vote. Of course, this might not give us a complete view of what actions the man may have taken while in office or how those actions affected the nation in the long term. Conversely, using this method shows a pretty clear picture and it does not completely disagree with historians.

The top ten round out with George Washington - 96.14%, James Monroe - 90.55%, Franklin Roosevelt - 88.32%, Dwight Eisenhower - 84.65%, Ulysses S. Grant - 75.40%, Bill Clinton - 69.65%, Woodrow Wilson - 67.04%, Thomas Jefferson - 64.71%, Richard Nixon - 64.46%, and Abraham Lincoln - 64.18% (75% if ignoring the southern states which had already seceded before the 1864 elections).

Since Ronald Reagan won one electoral vote in 1976 from a faithless Ford elector, his total was reduced from 94.23% (a number two ranking) to 63.44% (still ranked at a very respectable #12). The '80 and '84 elections are treated like FDR's second and third terms.

These are the voting public's view of the top ten presidents of the United States based on the electoral college. Wartime and the aftermath seems to be one of the more significant common threads. Of course, there are some exceptions.

Is this a fair way to reason out who might be the greatest of the POTUS alumni?

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