Craig W. Korpela, a Ph.D. historian and professor at Olivet College was interviewed on whom he felt was the worst president in United States history. Being a historian, Korpela provided an eye opening history lesson on one former U.S. president during a recorded interview.
Question: In your opinion who was the worst president in United States history?
"A consensus is elusive in a way because you have so many bad presidents as well as so many good presidents to choose from. So we have any number of really terrible presidents, we could argue that Buchanan (James Buchanan, U.S. president from 1857-1861) who was there just before the Civil War started and he did little to try to stop the war from coming. You could really say that he was perhaps the biggest failure, because the country basically parted ways under his watch. Then you have Warren Harding (Warren G Harding, U.S. president from 1921-1923) who was post World War I. He didn’t believe in government doing much nor he himself doing much. He did little to stop, for instance, a lot of the nativism that we see today. You know the anti-immigrants or anti whatever outgroup we’re talking, about whether it’s African Americans or if it’s Jewish Americans or Catholic Americans, whoever it might be. He did not do what he should have done, which was to protect a lot of our minority populations at the time. So I tend to think of Harding as being at the top of my list or close to it," said Korpela.
What was the public’s general perception of Harding during and after his presidency?
"So they liked him, he said lets return to normalcy. He was catchy, charismatic and they were more than happy to think everything’s going to go back to normal. It’s only in retrospect that historians look at this and say this guy was not doing his job. That, and you had a massive recession after the war," said Korpela.
In your opinion, how did this president win the election?
"Well, he promised the return to normalcy, so America is all upset about what’s happening in World War I and what’s happening with the economy, so his promise of a return to normalcy that he would restore America to the way it was before the war. The other way he won the election was because the Republican Party actually came back together. During the time leading up to the War, you had the Teddy Roosevelt wing of the Republican Party - that was progressive they wanted to improve a lot for workers. They wanted to protect the workers, to protect the consumers. Then you had the conservatives that said laissez faire, damn the people. The one percent. So Teddy Roosevelt breaks the party in half, and as a result you get Wilson elected. (Woodrow Wilson U.S. president from 1913-1921) So now you have Wilson having run for eight years and the Progressive wing of the Republican Party and the Conservative wing having gotten back together. So when the war ends and Wilson runs us into the dirt, so to speak, with getting involved in all these external things, the Republican Party was coming back with a vengeance, and so it wouldn’t have mattered probably who ran. They would have won the White House anyway. So there was a trend as well as there was a promise of normalcy and that’s how," said Korpela.