How many presidents were there
Twelve Republicans and eight Democrats in the White House
From Theodore Roosevelt to Donald Trump - twenty very different personalities have shaped the American presidency since the beginning of the 20th century.
Twenty American presidents have ruled the White House since the turn of the 20th century, twelve Republicans and eight Democrats. For their presidencies, in the respective global political situation, party affiliation played less of a decisive role than the personality of the incumbent and his charisma. In these 120 years the importance of the American presidency and the worldwide interest for those in power in the White House have increased enormously. This is mainly due to the rise of the USA to become the leading world power. Finally, a glance at the twenty presidents also brings to mind the astonishing continuity of this important institution. With the exception of Great Britain, the constitutional structures of no other great power have remained as stable as in the USA.
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
Republicans from New York. Roosevelt was first assistant secretary for the Navy under McKinley and later fought as a successful officer in the Spanish-American War. From 1898 to 1900 he was Governor of New York and then became Vice President under McKinley, after whose assassination he was president with a re-election in 1904. Roosevelt advocated a foreign policy of strength, domestically he cracked down on corruption and big business and devoted himself to nature conservation. He promoted his successor William Howard Taft and, out of disillusionment with him, came again in 1912 without success.
William Howard Taft (1909-1913)
Republican. Ohio District Attorney and Judge. Taft made a career as governor of the Philippines and in Cuba, in between he served as Secretary of War under Theodore Roosevelt. This helped him in 1908 against Bryan to the presidency. Taft also pursued a tough anti-trust line, but fell more and more with the progressive wing of the party, which split off under Roosevelt's leadership before the 1912 elections. As a result, Taft lost the re-election against the Democrat Woodrow Wilson. He later made a name for himself as a Supreme Court judge. Taft died in the capital Washington in 1930.
Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)
Democrat from Virginia. Career as law professor and president of Princeton University, then governor of New Jersey. Wilson won the 1912 election against Taft and Roosevelt. After 1914, he tried to keep the United States out of the world war and narrowly won re-election in 1916. In 1917 he allowed entry into the war, but was already working intensively on a post-war order with the League of Nations as the cornerstone (14-point declaration from 1918). For this he received the Nobel Peace Prize. His ideas and his health collapsed at the resistance of the isolationist Senate. Wilson died in 1924.
Warren Harding (1921-1923)
Republicans from Ohio. Elected to the Senate in 1915, Warren G. Harding pursued an isolationist line and opposed Wilson's peace system and the League of Nations. In 1920 he won against the Democrat James Cox with the slogan "Return to normalcy" and was elected 29th President. His short term in office was characterized by conservative social legislation, an isolationist customs policy, disarmament efforts in the naval sector and the involvement of close employees in numerous corruption scandals (Teapot Dome scandal). In 1923 Harding died of illness in San Francisco.
Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
Republican, lawyer, Massachusetts governor, and 1919 Vice President under Warren Harding. After his death, he continued the policy of a cautious government as the 30th president. After the corruption scandals, he managed to regain confidence in the administration. Coolidge maintained the high tariffs and steered a decidedly business-friendly course. He refused to give help to the farmers who were already suffering from severe depression. The term of office of the brittle and colorless Coolidge was marked by inconspicuous, quiet work. He decided not to be re-elected in 1928.
Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)
Republican. Working as a geologist worldwide, he organized famine relief during the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. He later brought his experience to bear as a government coordinator for emergency aid in Belgium and Russia. He was trade secretary under Harding and Coolidge. As the 31st President, he insisted on a policy of state restraint during the Depression from 1929, which made him increasingly unpopular. He lost clearly to Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Truman made him head of the European Food Program in 1947. He founded the Hoover Institution in Stanford, California. Hoover died in New York in 1964.
Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945)
Democrat from New York. Only president elected to this office four times. Born in 1882, distant relative of Theodore Roosevelt. Senator for New York State, then Undersecretary for the Navy. Governor of New York despite severe disability from polio. Victory against Hoover for the presidency. Against the economic depression he launched the “New Deal” with state job creation and social programs. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he led the United States to war against the Axis powers. FDR died in office in 1945 during a spa stay in Georgia.
Harry Truman (1945-1953)
Democrat from Independence, Missouri. First a farmer, then on returning from the war, ran a menswear store in Kansas City. 1934 Senator, 1944 Roosevelt Vice-President. Sworn in as president after his death. As the master of the White House, he had to make important decisions unprepared: the use of the atomic bombs against Japan and a change of front against Stalin. The Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin blockade and the founding of NATO all fell within his term of office, as did the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. After renouncing a new candidacy, he withdrew with his wife to Independence and died there in 1972.
Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961)
Republican born in Texas and raised in Abilene, Kansas. Professional military trained at Westpoint, served under Generals Pershing and MacArthur. Commander in chief of the Allied forces in the landing in North Africa in 1942 and in the invasion of Normandy in 1944. After the war, President of Columbia University and in 1951 commander in chief of NATO troops. During his two terms in office, he tried to ease the tension in the Cold War: the armistice in Korea and the treaty on Austria's neutrality. To enforce the desegregation of schools, he sent troops to Little Rock, Arkansas.
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
Massachusetts Democrat. Was from a wealthy family of Irish descent. Service in the Navy during World War II. Congressman, 1953–1960 Senator for Massachusetts. 1960 elected as the first Catholic to the presidency with a narrow majority against Nixon. The youngest elected president in the country's history, aged 43. Foreign policy was shaped by the power struggle with the Soviet Union: construction of the Berlin Wall, missile crisis around Cuba, first dispatch of American troops to South Vietnam. Domestically, there was increased racial tensions. Kennedy was murdered in 1963 while visiting Dallas, Texas.
Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969)
Democrat from Texas. First teacher. 1937–1949 Congressman, 1949–1961 Senator for Texas in Washington, from 1953 Democratic parliamentary group leader. Elected Vice President with Kennedy in 1960. Moved into the White House after Kennedy's murder. 1964 victory over Republican challenger Goldwater. Under the catchphrase "Great Society", Johnson pushed through the expansion of social programs. Despite his commitment to legal racial equality, there were serious unrest and student protests. Johnson failed in the Vietnam War and in 1968 renounced a new candidacy.
Richard Nixon (1969–1974)
Republicans from California. Naval officer in World War II. 1947–1953 Congressman and Senator for California, elected Vice President in 1952 with Eisenhower's election victory. 1960 loss to Kennedy for the presidency. 1968 winner against Hubert Humphrey, 1972 against George McGovern. Together with Henry Kissinger, Nixon led an innovative foreign policy towards Moscow and Mao's China. He also achieved a solution from the entanglement in Vietnam. Strong domestic political polarization. The Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign early in 1974.
Gerald Ford (1974–1977)
Republicans from Michigan. Ford was a member of the House of Representatives for 25 years. He became Vice President after Spiro Agnew's resignation in 1973 and President after Nixon's departure in August 1974 - the first not to be elected in either capacity. Despite his motto "Openness and candor", he granted Nixon immunity from criminal prosecution shortly after taking office. He completed America's withdrawal from Vietnam and visited China. He resisted the democratically ruled Congress with 48 vetoes. In 1976 he prevailed against Reagan within the party, but lost the election to Carter. Died in 2006.
Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)
Democrat from Georgia. Comes from a Baptist and farmer family. Member of the Georgia Senate, then Governor. Elected president in 1976 as a challenger to Ford. In terms of foreign policy, he continued efforts to promote nuclear disarmament (signing the Salt II treaty with Brezhnev). The surrender of the Panama Canal was negotiated under his presidency. Mediator of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in Camp David. Domestic malaise; the taking of embassy staff hostage in Iran made his popularity fall. Voted out in 1980.
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
Republican from Illinois, son of an Irish shoe seller. Sports reporter and film actor, initially a democrat. President of the Actors' Union and Spokesperson for General Electrics. 1966 California Governor, two terms. Inaugurated as the oldest president in 1981, he survived an assassination attempt soon after. The internal Reagan Revolution and a strategy to undermine the Soviet Union by building armaments shaped the presidency. 1983 Invasion of Grenada. Agreement on medium-range nuclear missiles with Gorbachev. The Iran-Contra scandal weighed on the second term. Reagan died in 2004.
George H. W. Bush (1989-1993)
Republican son of a Connecticut Senator. Naval aviators in World War II. Bush began his career in Texas, first as an entrepreneur in the oil industry, then as a member of Congress. He was the American ambassador to the UN, headed the Beijing liaison office and the CIA. Under President Reagan Vice President. In 1988 he won the election campaign against the Democrat Dukakis. Strong leadership in foreign policy (intervention in Panama, support for German reunification, Gulf War against Iraq), domestically rather disoriented. Lost the re-election battle in 1992.
Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
Arkansas Democrat, husband of future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Elected governor at the age of 32. Won the 1992 presidential campaign as a challenger against Bush and the non-party Ross Perot. Four years later, victory over Republican competitor Robert Dole. The reform of the health insurance system planned by his administration failed, but the economy developed extremely successfully. Clinton escaped impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky affair. In terms of foreign policy, NATO expansion and the intervention in the Balkan wars are among the more important achievements of his administration.
George W. Bush (2001-2009)
Republicans from Texas. Born in 1946, son of George H. W. Bush. Studied at Yale and Harvard. Elected Texas Governor in 1994. 2000 presidential candidate. His democratic rival Al Gore lost the election despite a narrow majority of votes. Bush became president because he received a majority of the electorate (based on a Florida Supreme Court decision on the outcome). Re-elected in 2004. The defining themes of his presidency were the fight against terrorism after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the controversial invasion of Iraq.
Barack Obama (2009-2017)
Democrat. Son of a white American woman and a student from Kenya. Grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. Studied law and worked as a social worker in Chicago. Elected to the Senate in 2004, to the White House in 2008. First non-white president. The most important domestic political event was the reform of health insurance; the loss of the congressional majority prevented further legislative success. Foreign policy was shaped by the withdrawal from Iraq and failures in responding to the conflicts that broke out in the Arab Spring.
Donald Trump (2017-2021)
Republicans from New York. The only president of the United States who never held a political or military leadership position before his election. Career in the real estate industry, later television shows brought him national celebrities. Trump prevailed in his party's primary elections in 2016 despite bitter opposition from the party elite. Surprising victory against the Democrat Hillary Clinton, who narrowly won the majority of the vote, but lost the number of electors. His presidency was marked by a failed impeachment procedure, numerous changes in government and an extreme political polarization, also fueled by the president himself. A far-reaching tax reform initially favored an economic boom, which, however, came to an abrupt end in the Corona crisis. In terms of foreign policy, Trump implemented a change of course towards China, launched an unsuccessful disarmament initiative against North Korea and withdrew most of the troops from the Middle Eastern theaters of war. Lost the re-election battle against former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.
NZZ Live Event: After the US Election: The Analysis
After the election on November 3rd USA correspondent Marie-Astrid Langer and foreign editor Meret Baumann put the situation in order and answer your questions. What factors led to this result? What will happen after the US elections?
Wednesday, November 11, 2020, 7:00 p.m., online event
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