With Presidents Day coming up on Monday, this author has, already, made clear which Presidents were transformative in the areas of foreign policy and diplomacy, and in domestic affairs.
Now, it is appropriate to make clear which Presidents have been the true “turning points” in American history, in the sense of changing the dynamics of Presidential leadership.
This author would say that there have been EIGHT Presidents who transformed America by their actions in office. In chronological order, they are:
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), who was the first President to transition from opposition leader to one who united the country in his inaugural address, adopted many ideas of the opposition as his views, and doubled the size of the nation, and kept America away from a war with Great Britain.
Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), who added greatly to Presidential power, and was the symbol of the spread of democracy to all white men, rather than just the aristocracy, and became the father of the Democratic Party.
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), who saved the Union by fighting the Civil War against the Confederacy, brought about the end of slavery, promoted nationalism over states rights, made the Republican Party the majority party in America, and greatly increased Presidential power
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), who revived and expanded the Presidential office, promoted government intervention in the economy, advocated for the environment and for labor rights, and became a model for later Presidents of both parties.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945), who helped bring America out of the Great Depression by massive federal government intervention and programs through his New Deal, and took America through another great crisis (World War II), all the time greatly increasing Presidential authority.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), who greatly expanded federal authority beyond beyond the New Deal through his massive Great Society domestic programs, becoming the image of modern American liberalism at its peak.
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), who promoted a conservative “Revolution”, reversing the direction of the previous fifty years, and helped to bring about the end of rhe Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union.
Barack Obama (2009-2017), who brought about the greatest domestic reforms, including ObamaCare, since the Great Society of Lyndon B. Johnson, and moved to change the direction of foreign policy and fight terrorism effectively, with of course, his final record of accomplishments still in process.
These eight Presidents all ushered in a generation or more of their political party’s dominance, with the exception of TR and LBJ, who saw what they represented repudiated or replaced by the opposition party within a short span of time.
And of course, the long range effect of Barack Obama is still questionable, although at the moment, it looks likely that his agenda will be pursued by a stronger Democratic coalition seen as likely to keep the Presidency in 2016 and beyond, with either Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden as the standard bearer and inheritor of the Obama legacy!
Also, notice that these “Turning Point” Presidencies occur within a 16-40 year range from one President to another, with most within a generation of earlier such Presidents by the end of each of these Presidencies!