Dear Reader: Allow me to introduce myself. My name is James Buchanan and I served as the 15th president of the United States from 1857 to 1861. Now you probably don’t often get letters from someone who has been dead for 153 years, but I just want to say right up front how grateful I am to Donald Trump, who has made an occasional visit to the Oval Office from 2017 to 2021.
President Trump and I have a lot in common, except I’ve been stuck underground here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for all these years while President Trump still gads about in jet airplanes. But let’s look at a little history here, because there are some interesting comparisons to be made between us.
I got to be the Democratic Party nominee because I didn’t have to defend what you all now call a “track record” because I’d been out of the country for a decade (ambassador overseas, etc.). President Trump didn’t have a “track record” of government service to defend either, and I figure he got to be the Republican Party nominee because he could insult more people in those silly primary elections you have and because he apparently had a ton of money (although since he never released his tax returns, I guess you all just took his word for it.) So basically, American voters stuck their heads in the sand when they voted for us as our party’s nominees.
I hated Republicans and I won election in 1856 by crushing the Republican Party. Now granted, back then the brand-new Republican Party was against slavery, but they weren’t very organized. My Democratic Party, on the other hand, defended the interests of Southern slave owners and we were like a well-oiled machine. From my perspective in Woodward Hill Cemetery, it looks like the two parties have flipped. The Democrats I read about seem to be concerned about racism and economic justice and quaint things like that while President Trump and his Republican friends seem to be really wealthy people with stock portfolios: My kind of folk. But whereas I crushed my Republican opponent by winning in 1856, ever since he lost in November 2020, President Trump seems to hate the Republican Party, too. I have to admit, I am a bit gobsmacked by that turn of events.
President Trump and I had rocky four-year terms. But here’s the thing: I had to deal with half of my country wanting to form their own country. Oh sure, I pretended to give the appearance I wanted to smooth over the differences but, frankly, I didn’t try very hard because even though I was supposed to be president of the entire country, I really kind of liked what those Southern politicians were saying. Sure enough, my Southern countrymen started forming militias and arming themselves and calling themselves true American patriots. From what I read (I do get newspapers down my way once in a while), President Trump pretended to give the appearance he wanted to be president for everyone, too, but he did seem awfully supportive of folks forming militias and arming themselves and calling themselves true American patriots. I totally get where he was coming from.
Things got really nasty towards the end of my first term. I say “first” because I really wanted another four years and would have gladly settled for 12. I don’t get good internet reception 6 feet down, but I’ve heard cemetery visitors grumble that President Trump wanted to be president for life and suspend that pesky term-limit clause you all approved after some guy with the initials FDR kept going and going and going. Yes, I know, I know, all those Southern states moved to insurrection in 1861 just after I left office, but at least you can’t say I publicly went in front of them and encouraged insurrection like President Trump did.
I’ll tell one big advantage I had over President Trump, though: I didn’t have to leave office until March. I was a bachelor my whole life so I just kept on partying until that gangly rube from Illinois moved in. Can you imagine what President Trump would do if he had two more months to party (or worse) at the taxpayer’s expense?
But here’s the real reason I am so pleased that Donald Trump became president. I read polls, too, you know, and even though you all have elected some clunkers as president since I checked out in 1868 (think Rutherford Hayes in 1876 or the dullard Warren Harding in 1920), it grieves me mightily that I am ranked the worst president in American history in every poll I read. Now I know polls can change over time, like that Truman guy who has gone up a fair bit in the rankings, but I have not budged in 150 years. I’ve been always ranked at the bottom, like number 44 out of 44.
But to my everlasting relief, that has finally changed. I have moved up in the polls. I’m still at number 44, but a one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind, and now I can proudly proclaim I am number 44 out of 45. By every measure imaginable, President Trump is ranked below me. I cannot express enough how good that makes me feel.
So, dear reader, thank you for allowing me to crow a little bit. It’s lonely at the bottom. I don’t mean I’ve been lonely in Lot 36, Section M of this lovely perpetual resting place, because believe it or not, I do get visitors once in awhile. No, it’s been lonely at the bottom of all those polls I’ve been reading all these years. I’ve been waiting for some president so awful that he (last time I checked there still hasn’t been a she president) is ranked even below me. It looks like that time has finally arrived.
Sincerely, James Buchanan, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Fred Bagley lives in Mendon.