Ranking The Mediocre US Presidents Seen In 'The Simpsons'

List Rules
Vote up the officeholders most worthy of their uncelebrated status.

To date, 46 men (no women yet) have been elected President of the United States, so it's inevitable that quite a few have largely faded from memory. The Whig presidents and the period between Ulysses Grant's second term and Theodore Roosevelt's time in office, in particular, seem to be a legacy graveyard for the executive branch. As a catchy little ditty in a classic episode of The Simpsons reminds us, you won't find their faces on dollars or on cents (not including commemorative coins). Of the eight historical presidents on the stage, six are named, while a few possibilities exist for the others. Fittingly, most of the kids in the skit aren't all that memorable either. 

For some of the officeholders featured here, the hand of fate took them early; others were thrust into the position by those premature demises, and the final group of non-entities was apparently just not up to the task. This list looks at the forgotten presidents and asks: do they really live up (or down) to expectations?

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  • Played by: Todd Flanders 

    In office: March 5, 1849 - July 9, 1850

    Party: Whig 

    In a nutshell:

    Zachary Taylor was a decorated general whose exploits in the Mexican-American War catapulted him into the White House with no prior political experience. He assumed the presidency at a difficult time in the aftermath of the conflict with Mexico and heightened tensions over the expansion of slavery.

    A slaveholder himself, Taylor opposed secession and promised strong action against any states that threatened to break away. He had little time to make much headway on the issue, as he fell ill in July 1850 - possibly from contaminated milk or raw cherries - and perished a few days later. He had been president for just 16 months.

  • Played by: Lewis Clark (possibly)

    In office: April 15, 1865 - March 4, 1869

    Party: National Union, Democratic 

    In a nutshell: 

    Abraham Lincoln was always going to be a hard act to follow, but Andrew Johnson's failings contrasted all the sharper with his illustrious predecessor. Chosen ahead of the incumbent Hannibal Hamlin as Lincoln's running mate on a National Union ticket in 1864, Johnson's vice presidency got off to a terrible start with a shambling drunken address at his swearing-in.

    His opposition to civil rights and the Freedmen's Bureau greatly undermined Reconstruction. His acrimonious relationship with Congress came to a head in 1868 with his impeachment trial. Johnson escaped removal from office by a single Senate vote. If anything, his legacy has only worsened over time. 

  • Played by: Lewis Clark (possibly)

    In office: March 4, 1857 - March 4, 1861

    Party: Democratic 

    In a nutshell:

    James Buchanan seemed to have the credentials required for the job: substantial political experience, legal and foreign policy expertise, and appeal in both northern and southern states. But Old Buck's time in the White House was an unmitigated disaster that ended with the union in serious jeopardy. He called the pressing issue of the status of slavery in the territories one of "happily a matter of but little practical importance" that the Supreme Court was about to settle.

    His influence on the Dred Scott decision forever tainted his legacy and hurtled the nation toward civil war. Buchanan's passivity in the wake of the secessions that followed Lincoln's election made his successor's already formidable task that much more difficult. Buchanan lived to see the end of the war his inept presidency helped to bring about and earnestly believed history would "vindicate his memory." He could scarcely have been more wrong

  • Played by: Unidentified Black kid

    In office: March 4, 1877 - March 3, 1881

    Party: Republican 

    In a nutshell:

    A middle-of-the-road president elected under controversial circumstances, Rutherford B. Hayes lost the popular vote to the Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden. However, neither man had the necessary votes in the Electoral College to win, so they struck a deal for Hayes to become the 19th President of the United States.

    In exchange for effectively killing Reconstruction, Hayes saw out a largely forgettable term and declined to seek a second. He might be little remembered by Americans, but his (actually quite limited) role in mediating a border dispute between Paraguay and Argentina means he's something of a hero in the former. 

  • Played by: Richard

    In office: July 10, 1850 - March 3, 1853

    Party: Whig

    In a nutshell

    Another accidental president who struggled to be recognized in his own house, Millard Fillmore was very much a filler president. He assumed the presidency after the sudden demise of Zachary Taylor in July 1850 and saw out the rest of his term.

    The last Whig president, Fillmore supported the Compromise of 1850 to keep the Civil War at bay for another decade and handled foreign policy pretty well. Passed over by his party for another term, he had another crack at the White House in 1856 as part of the anti-immigration Know Nothing Party, but only won Maryland. His passing in 1874 was barely noticed by the public

  • Played by: Lewis Clark (possibly)

    In office: March 4, 1853 - March 4, 1857

    Party: Democratic 

    In a nutshell:

    A moderate northern Democrat, Franklin Pierce was elected at a time when the US was becoming considerably less united over the issue of slavery. He wasn't exactly anyone's first choice to lead the Democratic ticket in 1852, but with four major candidates unable to get the required majority after 34 ballots, Pierce was offered up as a compromise and ultimately prevailed on the 49th ballot. In such charged times, there was a certain appeal in choosing a moderate to bridge the growing divide of the nation.

    Unfortunately, Pierce lacked both the will and political skills to deal with Congress. Simply overwhelmed by the demands of the job, he inherited a tough situation and left it even worse