Rounding Out the List

16. Justice Henry Billings Brown: For authoring the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which not only lead directly to the “separate but equal” doctrine, but played a major role in enshrining Jim Crow.p>17. John Adams: For signing the Alien Act of 1798 and the Sedition Act of 1798. Partly, it was directed at the French and French sympathizers (war with France was looming), but mostly it was a purely political play against the Jeffersonians. Adams should have known better-he signed the Declaration of Independence (but not the Constitution)

18. George W. Bush-For convincingly demonstrating that his father and Ronald Reagan do not belong on this list.

a. Erosion of civil liberties-detention without council or charges, for citizens!

b. Massive deficits

c. Unilateral war under false pretenses. Seriously, I’m guessing that a good chunk of conservatives might read this: what harm could Hussein have done to the United States of America? Clearly, I know he could and did do substantial harm to his own people, but my question concerns an imminent threat to the life and liberty of citizens of the USA.

19. Helen Kendrick Johnson, author of the influential anti-suffrage book, Woman and the Republic, which did a lot to delay women’s’ suffrage. From Johnson’s conclusion:

Woman is to implant the faith, man is to cause the Nation’s faith to show itself in works… Woman Suffrage aims to sweep away this natural distinction, and make humanity a mass of individuals with an indiscriminate sphere. The attack is now bold and now subtle, now malicious and now mistaken; but it is at all times an attack. The greatest danger with which this land isa threatened comes from the ignorant and persistent zeal of some of its women. They abuse the freedom under which they live, and to gain an impossible power would fain destroy the Government that alone can protect them. The majority of women have no sympathy with this movement; and in their enlightenment, and in the consistent wisdom of our men, lies hope of defeating this unpatriotic, unintelligent, and unjustifiable assault upon the integrity of the American Republic.

20. Nice thing about America–it’s tough to find 20 who were both influential enough and sufficiently misguided or malevolent to be on a “worst in history” list.

I could rattle off many other figures from American History that I dislike or find annoying, but they really don’t deserve the “Worst” appellation. G. Gordon Liddy didn’t affect history enough to make the list. Ollie North probably believed he was doing the right thing.

Many other names crossed my mind: Orville Faubus; Henry Kissinger; Billy Graham; Pat Robertson; Tom DeLay; Jerry Falwell; Geraldo Rivera (ok; Geraldo almost made #20); Dick Armey; Cap Weinberger; Ken Starr; Ed Meese; Trent Lott; Rick Santorum; John Poindexter; virtually the entire NeoCon crew from Perle to Wolfowitz; Cheney; Rumsfeld; Reagan; Schlafly; Coulter; Limbaugh; Clan founders Captain John C. Lester, Major James R. Crowe, John D. Kennedy, Calvin Jones, Richard R. Reed, Frank O. McCord (all veterans from the losing side of the Civil War); Birth of a Nation Writer/Director D. W. Griffith; and surely many more. My apologies if I left you off the list.

All of these “dishonorable mentions” annoy me and virtually everything they say or do is wrong, but I found them to be too historically trivial or not sufficiently malevolent to be list-worthy. Faubus, as well as the Clan founders, are almost list-worthy, but by expressing their views in such ridiculous fashion they actual aid the forces that oppose them. The opportunistic Faubus standing on the doorsteps of Little Rock’s Central High School was a great boon to the Civil Rights movement. The Clan? Just a bunch of evil sore losers-I couldn’t waste six spots on those clowns.

As for the political hacks in the dishonorable mention list, half of them are just expressing views I disagree with–deeply, deeply, misguided views. But political views nonetheless, so they don’t really belong on a “worst in history” list. The other half are just saying whatever they think will bring in another buck, and that’s the nature of Capitalism-an institution I happen to like. Basically, they’re misguided, annoying, or opportunistic, but not really “worst”.