The 20 Worst Figures In American History

by John Hawkins | August 16, 2010 4:40 am

Last week, I did a conservative blogger poll of the 20 worst figures in American history[1] that has been heavily criticized by both the Left and the Right. You know what I say about that? Regrettably, I have to say that much of the criticism had merit. The list, which was compiled via blogger vote, wasn’t all that good.

There are probably three reasons for that.

The first and most important is that the instructions I gave should have been significantly more detailed. Had I put a line in the instructions similar to the article description, suggesting people think about “gangsters, serial killers, mass murderers, incompetent & crooked politicians, spies, traitors, and ultra left-wing kooks,” it would have almost certainly produced better results. In fact, I’ve done this list in past years and gotten better results (See here[2] (right) and here[3] (Left)) — although it has been intriguing to see the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” criticism on serial killers. On the previous list, the complaint was that serial killers AND prominent Democrats were on the same list. People didn’t seem to feel like they should be compared. This time, one of the complaints has been that there are prominent Democrats on the list, but no serial killers. Like I said, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Also, it’s worth noting that in a poll like this, there is ALWAYS going to be a heavy bias towards recent history. Had this been a list of the worst figures in the last 40 years of American history, then people like Jimmy Carter, Al Sharpton, and Harry Reid, who seem out of place on a historical list, would have richly merited inclusion. Placed against the worst people in American history, they don’t quite rise up to that level — but, that’s an easy mistake to make. Even some liberal historians who were polled during the Bush years were ranking him as the worst President of all-time[4]. That’s every bit as ridiculous as having Jimmy Carter as the worst figure in American history — and even historians were making that mistake.

Last but not least, there’s a big difference between people getting around a table and brainstorming out on something like this and just taking the highest vote getters from people who don’t collaborate. On something historical like this, when it’s easy for names to slip people’s minds, people will come up with a much better result if they discuss their selections than if they make their choices separately.

So, since some of the criticism hit home and I wasn’t enamored with the list, I decided to post my own. Here are the people I’d select as the 20 worst Americans in history,

Aaron Burr: Shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel and led a treasonous plot to take over part of the United States.

Aldrich Ames: A CIA spy for the Soviets.

Al Capone: The Chicago mob boss whose name is synonymous with organized crime.

Alger Hiss: Hiss was a Soviet agent who penetrated to the highest levels of FDR’s administration

Barack Obama: His profligate spending, at a time when the United States desperately needed to cut back, imperiled the continued prosperity of the country in a way no previous President ever had before.

Benedict Arnold: Betrayed America during the Revolutionary War.

James Earl Ray: Assassinated Martin Luther King.

Jefferson Davis: He’s on the list as a representative of the rich land owners in the South who preferred to see hundreds of thousands of decent men on both sides die rather than give up slavery.

Jim Jones: The Commie cult leader who led over 900 people to their death in a mass suicide.

John Wilkes Boothe: Assassinated Lincoln.

Lee Harvey Oswald: Assassinated JFK.

Lyndon Johnson: He’s primarily responsible for the debacle in Vietnam and his “Great Society” helped create the backbone of the modern welfare state in America.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair: Nobody did more to promote atheism than her.

Margaret Sanger: Not even Mao, Hitler, or Stalin are responsible for the deaths of as many children as America’s foremost advocate of abortion, Margaret Sanger.

Nathan Bedford Forrest: A military genius who unfortunately, was also responsible for creating the KKK.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg: Spies who helped the Soviets get the A-bomb.

Ted Bundy: He doesn’t have the largest body count or even necessarily the sickest modus operandi, but he is the most notorious American serial killer.

Timothy McVeigh: The man behind America’s worst homegrown terrorist attack. His truck bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City killed 168.

Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams met Raymond Lee Washington: Founders of America’s worst street gang: The Crips.

Woodrow Wilson: Not only was he an honest to goodness fascist, his incompetence in the aftermath of WWI set the stage for WWII.

PS: On Thursday, RWN will be releasing “Conservative Bloggers Select The 20 Greatest Figures in American History.”

  1. conservative blogger poll of the 20 worst figures in American history:
  2. here:
  3. here:
  4. worst President of all-time:

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