Top 10 Conservative Presidents
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One self-proclaimed conservative's list:
- George Washington (1789-1797)
- Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)
- Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945)
- Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
- Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
- Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897)
- John F. Kennedy (1961-63)
- Harry S. Truman (1945-53)
- James K. Polk (1845-49)
- James Monroe (1817-25)
But to a certain extent both would have comfortably fit within the conservative movement of the 1970s and 80s. Today? Probably not so much. Even so, the wider conservative movement today is quite satisfied with most of the policies enacted by FDR and JFK, but especially FDR. When most conservatives speak ill of these policies, it's for what later liberals did to them (especially LBJ and Ted Kennedy), and they speak about returning them to their original intentions.
Even though some historians have opined that FDR was doing his damndest
to keep the capitalist system alive, I think the consensus
is that he was of the Left --
and much farther to the Left
than any later president of either party. (Ronald Reagan,
b t w, was the son of a New Deal party worker, which might explain some of the
hostility* he encountered on the Right.)
It is possible tomake a case for a COnservative JFK. I remember reading an article about two Freshman Senators who were in JFKʻs
"class" entering the senate in
1952: Barry Goldwater (R, AZ) and Al Gore, Sr. (D, TN)
It called them "a new breed of poltician: neither Liberal nor Conservative (!). " In the event, Gore became known as
a Liberal, albeit something of a maverick, while Goldwater
became the successor to Robert A. Taft (R, O.) as "MISTER Conservatilve". Conspicuous by his absence in those
"new breed" definitions was
John F. Kennedy (D, MA),
then in his third term in the House. . If thought of at all, he was assumed to be
very much of the "old Breed".
*but not a LOT of hostility;
compared to Eisenhower and Nixon: Reagan was generally very satisfactory to the Right.
W did try to do some good as president--e.g., immigration reform and social security reform--he just failed to get them done. And the three main achievements of his presidency--the tax cuts, the GWOT, and the Medicare drug benefit--have been bad, if not disastrous, for the country. Just like it took until the late-80s to clean up the mess that LBJ left, it's going to be a while before we come out from under what he did. And we only partially undid the damage caused by LBJ.
The only real power the executive should have is to declare war and make appointments. Let's hope that the SCOTUS appointments of Reagan and GWB help curtail the unconstitutional over-reach of the present executive.
There are presidents who have had little political experience who have actually worked out. Abraham Lincoln comes to mind. He briefly served in the Illinois legislature and Congress, but spent most of his adult life working as a lawyer prior to becoming president. And, as far as I know, his legal work was of the mundane, private variety, not working on governmental or political issues.
Of course, having loads of experience doesn't guarantee you'll make a good president. Just look at James Buchanan and Lyndon Johnson for proof. Buchanan has one of the most impressive political resumes upon entering the White House--Representative (1821-31), Minister to Russia (1832-33), Senator (1834-45), Sec. of State (1845-49), and Minister to Britain (1853-56)--but he was a complete failure. And when he was in Congress, he actually had some power; it wasn't as if he just put in his time to check off a box on his way to the White House, like RFK or Hillary Clinton was trying to do.
the soon-to be recognized Beijing regime, and head of the CIA. His going directly from incumbent Vice President into
the presidency, elected in his own right, marked a change in the status of the vice-presidency, traceable to the
prestige which Richard Nixon managed to give that
office. Bush I was the first president since Martin Van Buren, 152 years earlier to
make that transition. The vice presidents after Van Buren and before
T. Roosevelt** were never seriously considered for nomination to the presidency, not even those
who had become president.
*The position was not officially ambassador, because the recognition of "Red China"
did not come until the Carter administration.
**Curiously the other (and to me vastly superior) President Roosevelt, FDR, was the only man who was once the Vice presidential nominee on a losing ticket,
who later (not in the very next election) became president. (Nixon was a loser to John F. Kennedy in 1960,
and made his comeback 2 elections later in 1968, but was with the winning ticket in both
his vice presidential runs.)
(Alphabetic order only; I won't try to rank them in relation to each other.)
*Important: regardless of how much or little I agree with their policies; just trying to figure how
well they did their own idea of
the right thing.
# Accepting Bretzky's (2) designation of Cleveland as a Conservative, though it's not my own idea of him.