Alternatives to Woodrow Wilson

David Greenberg of Slate, at the end of a lengthy apologia for the worst president of the twentieth century, Woodrow Wilson, writes, “We might ask whom today’s Wilson haters would have preferred.”

Okay, Grover Cleveland, three administrations prior to Wilson’s, and Calvin Coolidge, two administrations later, were far better on most relevant metrics. The administration of Wilson’s successor, Warren Harding, was scandal-plagued, but he cut government spending by 40%, freed political dissidents like Eugene V. Debs locked up by Wilson, shared little if any of Wilson’s appalling racism, and appointed excellent Supreme Court Justices, most prominently William Howard Taft and George Sutherland. So, David Greenberg, this Wilson hater would have vastly preferred Cleveland, Harding, or Coolidge.

UPDATE: If we limit ourselves to Wilson’s opponents in the 1912 and 1916 elections, Taft and Hughes were way better choices. Roosevelt is a less clear choice, but it’s really hard to see how he could have been worse than Wilson, and at least he wasn’t crudely racist.