Turnout Is Key


Nixonian History Legend Rick Perlstein declined C-SPAN’s recent Presidential Historian Challenge, reasoning that:

Maybe there are people who can really responsibly rank John Tyler vis-a-vis Ulysses S. Grant as to their “Administrative Skills,” Grover Cleveland versus Calvin Coolidge as to their “Morality Authority”—but I am not that man.

In the wake of the outcome he’s bitter he didn’t bullet vote against the poll’s beloved Ronald Reagan:

I reproach myself for not voting strategically in return by putting RR at forty-third place across the board—strategy in the spirit of doubt. Even though I don’t actually think Reagan is rock-bottom in any of the categories this would have been the principled vote nonetheless. The writers who make a living at saying Ronald Reagan is the Greatest American Who Ever Lived do so not (or only partially) as an act of scholarship. They do so (at least partially) as part of a well-financed, decades-long propaganda campaign. I should have sent in the survey with Reagan the only one ranked, 43rd in every category, as a pragmatic gesture in the interests of the highest principles of historical inquiry. I don’t think Reagan is the 43rd best president; nor do I think he’s the tenth best president. But one historian ranking him 43 across the board as a matter of rote, to cancel out the one who most likely put him at Number One as a matter of rote, at least resets the scale back at zero.”

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