Americans Voted For Their Favorite Ex-President And Republicans Aren’t Going To Like The Results

If you happen to catch a Republican debate this primary season you may notice that the only name mentioned more times than Jesus is Ronald Reagan. That’s a bit strange. The conservative president left office in 1988 with a spotty record, and the following decades of ballooning wealth inequality thanks to his “trickle down” economics plan have seen his legacy collapse. Despite it all, for a certain segment of the country, he’s practically a messianic figure.

But while ultra-conservatives bicker over who gets to call themselves the “next Reagan,” the rest of the country isn’t buying it. When asked who their favorite recent ex-president was, people from all political backgrounds overwhelmingly said… Jimmy Carter.

The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, found that 40 percent of American voters thought President Carter had continued to have an incredibly positive impact on the world after his presidency. Ronald Reagan was 16 points behind, with Bill Clinton just behind him. In yet another thing to keep Jeb up at night, his brother and father floundered at the bottom with just 6 points and 5 points, respectively. Apparently no one is impressed with George W.’s new interest in painting.

Quinnipiac University concluded:

“Pummeled for his presidency but praised for how he conducted his post White House life, Jimmy Carter far surpasses Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton for what he accomplished once he left the Oval Office,” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said.

It’s not hard to see why Jimmy Carter continues to remain extremely popular with Americans long after his career in politics was over. He’s devoted the rest of his life to helping others. In recent months, Carter shared that he had cancer. It would have been certainly understandable if he decided to take a break from his charity works, instead he got down to business with perhaps even more vigor. The 91-year-old recently arrived at a Habitat for Humanity site in Memphis carrying his own hammer and saw ready to get to work.

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Carter, seeming invigorated during an interview at the build site, told The Associated Press:

“We haven’t cut back on my schedule yet. I know it’s going to come, particularly if my cancer progresses, but we don’t yet know what the result will be from the treatments.”

While conservatives have long used Jimmy Carter’s presidency as a punching bag to rile up the conservative base, there is no denying that Carter’s motivations were always out of a deep commitment to his fellow man. In his fight against poverty to his fight against environmental ruin, his humanity always shone through. As he’s grown older, it appears that drive to help has only increased. His work with Habitat for Humanity alone has put 5 million people into homes.

For Reagan fanatics, this deep appreciation for Jimmy Carter’s lifetime of work probably comes as quite a shock. There is an astonishing amount of revisionist history that runs through the Republican Party and with it comes the myth that Reagan’s time in office was America’s Golden Age. In fact, it was the beginning of the end for many things that made America great in the first place. Union-busting, one percent favoritism, rampant homophobia, and the demonization of the poor were all regular features of Reagan’s worldview. Ironically, non-profit groups grew in size in the aftermath of Reagan’s presidency — not because of his generous spirit, but out of necessity. He had slashed many of the social welfare programs that kept people fed and clothed. (When told about the harm, his adviser infamously quipped that charity groups would just have to “pick up the slack.”)

This poll makes it clear that charity, humanity, and humility are really what help define a person’s post-presidential life. The next time a Republican wants to impress people by comparing him or herself to a former president, they might want to swallow their partisan pride and consider Jimmy Carter.

Feature image via Wikipedia