This week we will be review presidential greatness. What constitutes presidential greatness? Why are some presidents considered great while others are mediocre or poor? C-SPAN’s academic advisors devised a survey in which participants used a one (“not effective”) to ten (“very effective”) scale to rate each president on ten qualities of presidential leadership: “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 Within the Context of His Times.” Presidential Survey
Other historians argue that great presidents are able to reconstitute the political system in ways that are more consistent with the nation’s guiding constitutional principles. Some scholars dislike the whole idea of presidential greatness. They believe it is wrong to treat presidents as the principal agents of democratic change. It is argued that democratic change depends on the groundwork laid by other agents of democratization. It is pressure from the people not presidential leadership that results in democratic change.
Fred Greenstein, a political scientist, believes that public communications, organizational capacity, political skills, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence are essential ingredients to political success and greatness.
In short, there are a number of ways to measure the success of presidents. It is also the case that conservatives would probably rank a Democratic president lower than liberals, and vice-a-versa.
Take a look the video this week, Leadership in Turbulent Times. The famous author Doris Kearns Goodwin has her own thoughts on presidential greatness.
We are now in the midst of one of the most turbulent presidencies in our history. Some of you see lots of problems with our current president. Other students think he is doing a good job. It is too early to rate President Trump. There needs to be some distance between the end of a presidency and his or her presidential ranking. But let’s give it a try.
How would you rate President Trump? In order to be fair and methodologically sound, you must use a standard that you apply to him and to all presidents (watch the Doris Kearns Goodwin and review the C-SPAN study for ways to measure presidents). After you have devised a method of rating Trump, make an argument that he is a good or poor president based on your standard.
In order for this discussion to work, please do not include more than three items in your rating system. If you’d like to include one or two ways of measuring Trump, that is fine.
The most important part of this discussion is that we gain a deeper understanding of presidential behavior and presidential decisions and then judge if those decisions were fair, wise and consistent with democratic ideals and principles.