It’s easy to forget that there are dishonest, corrupt, and just plain evil politicians out there (hey, stop laughing), so as a reminder here is a list of the top ten worst politicians in American history.
- Joseph McCarthy. Some politicians these days like to throw around the word “socialist” to apply to anyone left of libertarian. Back in McCarthy’s day, being blacklisted as a communist sympathizer was a serious matter that could destroy a person’s career and social standing. Often compared to the Salem witch trials, Senator McCarthy's hearings ruined the lives of many people, communist or otherwise.
- David Duke. Duke has had a long and nauseating career as a very public face for the white supremacy movement. After winning a seat in the Louisiana State Legislature, he went on to run for Governor of Louisiana and President of the United States. Thankfully, he was less successful in those endeavors. He didn’t need to be a particularly successful politician, though, to earn his place among America’s worst.
- Richard Nixon. The words “I am not a crook” have practically become shorthand for political corruption in the United States. Nixon set the bar for corrupt Commanders in Chief with his involvement in the Watergate scandal, and resigned from office rather than face impeachment.
- George Wallace. As Governor of Alabama, Wallace became the face of segregation. Although he is well known for saying “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” he recanted later in life. It was too late to keep him from becoming one of America’s worst politicians ever.
- Strom Thurmond. Much like George Wallace, Thurmond was an ardent segregationist in his day. That didn’t stop him from fathering a child with his black maid and then never publicly acknowledging her.
- Newt Gingrich. When allegations of President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky broke during his time in office, this top ten worst politician was among the Republicans feigning moral outrage while engaging in an affair of his own. He later admitted so after Clinton had left office. His worst offense, though? The crusader for “family values” pressured his first wife for divorce as she recovered from cancer.
- John Edwards. Edwards did not ask his wife for a divorce while she was dealing with cancer, but he did cheat on her during that time. He also fathered a child with his mistress and denied repeatedly that the child was his until finally enough evidence came out that he felt compelled to admit to it. Cheating is pretty sleazy. Denying parentage of your own child? That is inexcusable.
- Rod Blagojevich. Illinois is a state with a reputation for dirty politics. Among its who’s who of corrupt politicians, though, Blagojevich stands out among the worst. Not only has he never admitted to or apologized for the laundry list of corruption charges he was ultimately impeached for, he has cashed in on the controversy with a stint in reality TV.
- Jesse Ventura. Few have contributed to the coarsening of American politics as memorably as this former pro wrestler and one term Governor of Minnesota. He has since gone on to star in TruTV’s “Conspiracy Theory,” which covers such topics such as “possible 9/11 cover-ups, secret government weapons and apocalyptic prophecies.”
- George W. Bush. Is it too soon to put Dubya on the list of all-time worst politicians? Perhaps. But it’s hard not to look back on his legacy of sending our troops to war based on imaginary evidence of WMDs, condoning torture, illegally spying on American citizens, and practically ceding the Presidency to Dick Cheney and think that maybe, just maybe, the history books will not look upon him kindly.