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February 20, 2012 8:41 AM Against Presidents Day

By Jonathan Bernstein

Presidents Day is a terrible idea for a holiday.  Just an awful idea.  In this republic, there’s absolutely no good reason to take a day to honor our presidents.

On the other hand, Washington’s Birthday is a perfectly good idea.  If we’re going to honor great Americans, I’m not going to argue with those who put George Washington first on the list of those to be honored.  In fact, the official federal holiday is Washington’s Birthday, but lots of states have renamed it to Presidents Day or something similar.

The consensus Three Greatest Presidents are Washington, Lincoln, and (Franklin) Roosevelt, and I wouldn’t argue with any celebration of those three. The other two Greatest Men Who Were Presidents are Jefferson and the sadly undercommemorated Madison, and I’m also on board with honoring them (I’m not a huge Jefferson fan, but I don’t really object to his status as a great American. Want to argue Adams?  Ike?  Take it to comments).  On the other hand, I’m also pretty comfortable with Washington and King being the only two Americans honored with national holidays.

So, Happy Washington’s Birthday, even if it isn’t actually Washington’s birthday, and even if most of what you’re seeing are references to Presidents Day, President’s Day, or Presidents’ Day — any way you spell it, a really bad idea.  Which reminds me — if you happen to think of James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, or Richard Nixon today, I think what you’re supposed to do is spit twice over your left shoulder to avoid bad luck.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.

Comments

  • Roddy McCorley on February 20, 2012 5:10 PM:

    I couldn't agree with you more. I find myself thinking about Kurt Vonnegut's observation on Veterans Day. "Armistice Day was sacred," he wrote. "Veterans Day is not."

    Washington's Birthday is not sacred, of course - anyone who would suggest such a thing doesn't understand the man. But Washington richly deserves that sort of honor. Most of our presidents do not.