1. George Washington- A stereotypical choice, but I defy anyone liberal or conservative to tell me he wasn't one of our best.
2. Theodore Roosevelt- Groundbreaking Progressive achievements (conservation, food safety, trust-busting) and handled America's emergence as a world power well. Also saved football!
3. Abraham Lincoln- As far as I'm concerned, the USA has been in a grand total of two "just wars", where we were threatened by truly evil ideologies, and had to take up arms to defend our nation and our freedoms. The Civil War was the first of those, defeating the Slave Power was the greatest single thing any President has ever done.
4. Franklin Delano Roosevelt- And WWII was the other just war. The New Deal was hugely beneficial too.
5. Dwight Eisenhower- A competent, incrementalist manager who preserved the New Deal and probably did the best foreign policy job of the Cold War era. The Interstates have since proved to have unanticipated negative consequences but they were a great achievement too.
6. Harry Truman- Finished FDR's job and continued the New Deal era of broad-based prosperity and improvement. Desegregating the armed forces was the domino that really started the civil rights movement going.
7. John Quincy Adams- Underappreciated and awesome. Internal improvements, humane treatment of Native Americans, and post-presidency abolitionism make him a shining beacon in otherwise a pretty horrible age.
8. John F. Kennedy- Perhaps loved more for the myth than actual accomplishments, but he pushed us on the road to civil rights and the Moon, and wasn't as tainted as LBJ by Vietnam.
9. Lyndon B. Johnson- Pro: Great Society. Con: Vietnam. But it didn't seem as bad an idea as we know in retrospect. All of the presidents of the New Deal era have to rank highly.
10. Thomas Jefferson- I think his emphasis on anti-urban agrarianism would become poisonous to our development as a society, but the Louisiana Purchase was a coup, and axing the Alien and Sedition Acts really saved our bacon. Hard to pigeonhole in modern terms.
11. Bill Clinton- America with likely the most broad-based prosperity we'll ever see. Popular and competent more than innovative, but that's still pretty good!
12. James Madison
13. James Monroe- I actually know really really little about these two. But they seem to have done a good job.
14. Richard Nixon- Yeah, that's right, a left-winger like me ranking Nixon in the top third. That's right! Dude was a racist, paranoid scumbag who poisoned our political discourse and resigned in shame, but he was also the guy who: a) opened up Communist China, b) got us out of Vietnam, and c) FOUNDED THE DAMN EPA. Those three things were so important that he deserves this high rank despite all his problems. If he was a decent human being, he'd be Top 5.
15. Jimmy Carter- Yes, he was ineffectual and vilified, but he was also the only president who truly saw with clear eyes how fragile and oil-dependent our prosperity was, and how we needed to work like madmen to find a way to get beyond fossil fuels. He was our Cassandra.
16. George H. W. Bush- The last Republican moderate, and I think his reputation is going to get better as time goes by. Desert Storm, Clean Air Act, and was willing to raise taxes to fix the deficit.
17. James K. Polk- One of the only effective presidents in the antebellum period, so I have to rank him decently, even though I think the Mexican-American war was an amoral abomination of aggression in the service of Slave Power. The independent treasury and Oregon was genuinely good for us though.
18. Chester A. Arthur- The Pendleton Act may be the only truly consequential thing he did, but given his origins it's impressive all the same. A good guy, rather than great, but that's still better than most. Also I'm related to him, so that's worth a few slots.
19. Barack Obama- Gets an incomplete, obviously. I think he's not been as effective as hoped, but it's a difficult situation. Basically everyone above Obama was a good president, everyone below him has been neutral at best.
20. Woodrow Wilson- His ideals were often loftier than his results (c.f. League of Nations), and he was also a raging racist, but he did have a bunch of positive accomplishments as well- Clayton Anti-Trust, for one.
21. William Howard Taft- A step backward from Teddy Roosevelt, but he didn't do anything horrible.
22. William McKinley- The best thing he did was choose Teddy Roosevelt as Veep.
He was wrong on the gold standard, but was right to focus on urban interests.
23. Gerald Ford- Not much to say here.
23. Grover Cleveland- Good on anti-corruption, but very, very bad on the Pullman strike.
25. Benjamin Harrison- Didn't do much.
26. James Garfield- Same.
27. William Henry Harrison- Did the least. Had he survived, he would have been a puppet of Henry Clay and that would have been so much better than what we actually got. Below WHH are the presidents who were negative in their impact, rather than just neutral.
28. Calvin Coolidge- Presided over prosperity, but turned a blind eye to business abuses, the crime-generating hypocrisy of Prohibition, and the great 1927 Flood.
29. Martin Van Buren- Gets respect for his later Free Soil run, but bungled the Panic of 1837 badly, as well as relations with Canada.
30. Rutherford B. Hayes- I realize he had to do it, but ending Reconstruction and letting Jim Crow take hold is a pretty bad legacy if you ask me.
31. Ulysses S. Grant- Did a good job on Reconstruction, but was a corrupt bastard and mishandled the economy, too.
32. John Adams- I like a lot of John Adams' policies, but the Alien and Sedition Acts are one of the darkest episodes in our history, and at an especially fragile time, too.
33. Herbert Hoover- Arguably underrated- but that doesn't mean he was any good. His Presidency is more than anything a stark reminder that sometimes government intervention is good and necessary.
34. Ronald Reagan- Deserves a little credit for his policy of out-spending the Soviets, but by and large his influence was pretty much awful in all other spheres.
35. Zachary Taylor- Least bad of the three Whigs who actually did anything.
36. George W. Bush- Yeah, not last. People forget just how bad the presidents were in the antebellum period.
37. Andrew Jackson- I have a deep and irrational hatred for Jackson. Indian Removal was one of the most immoral policies we've ever pursued, the crankaholic Ron Paul-esque Specie Circular was the direct cause of the worst economic downturn we've ever seen (Panic of 1837), and his style of "us rural Southerners are the Real 'Murika, all that fancy-pants northeastern elitist book-larnin is bad" is a truly toxic legacy as far as I'm concerned. I will give him credit for handling the Nullification Crisis well.
38. John Tyler- His Accidency, his horribleness. Neither party wanted him.
39. Millard Fillmore
40. Franklin Pierce- The antebellum appeaseniks deserve no love.
41. Warren G. Harding- Not just anti-progressive, but the most corrupt president ever.
42. James Buchanan- No explanation necessary.
43. Andrew Johnson- Confederate-sympathizing racist f***wit.