Sorting the Presidents into Hogwarts Houses
This Presidential election season has had a lot of strife, angst, anger and hate. So I want to enter the fray–but with some frivolous fun: I am going to sort all U.S. Presidents into the Houses of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series.
I absolutely love the Harry Potter series. In fact, I recently went to Harry Potter World in Universal Studios (Florida) for vacation. While there, I couldn’t help but think of the sorting system at Hogwarts. For those that aren’t familiar with the series, the titular hero attends the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At the start of the school year, each new student gets “sorted” into one of four Houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin, which are basically known as the brave, loyal, wise and ambitious houses, respectively. Here’s how the four houses are described in the first book:
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
if you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends,
Those cunning folks use any means
To achieve their ends.
Muggles such as myself can sort themselves into one of these four houses via a variety of websites. J.K. Rowling’s official website Pottermore lets you do it, though you need a free account for that. If you’d rather do it quick and easy (if unofficially), many websites offer sorting quizzes. (Full disclosure: I’m a Ravenclaw.)
So I thought it would be fun to sort all Presidents (plus this year’s candidates) into these houses. One important point before I get started. Because we see these houses in the books through Harry’s point of view, the perceptions of the houses often get skewed. Gryffindor can appear the “good guys,” versus evil Slytherin, while the other two houses might be considered nerdy (Ravenclaw) or losers/leftovers (Hufflepuff). For example, in explaining the Houses to Harry, Hagrid tells him “There’s not a witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.” However, we learn over the course of the series that there are “evil” wizards who didn’t go to Slytherinn (such as Prof. Quirrell1 or Peter Pettigrew) or Slytherins who stood up to Voldemort (Snape and Regulus Black come to mind). So in doing this exercise, I’m thinking of these four houses more neutrally than perhaps they’re often considered. Similarly, I don’t want to appear partisan in assigning houses to the presidents. Just because I disagree with a President doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to place him in Slytherin. Similarly, some of the more, shall we say obscure Presidents, aren’t automatically Hufflepuffs.
Join me as I sort the Presidents!
George Washington: Gryffindor
The first President is one of the easiest ones. Lead the Colonial Army to victory over the British? You’re a Gryffindor
John Adams: Ravenclaw
Adams is a hard one to place, since he often was overshadowed by his Virginian peers. In a stereotypical view of the presidents/Houses he’d probably be considered a “worthless Hufflepuff.” But while he clearly was a secondary philosopher-intellectual compared to Jefferson, he did publish many political treatises and did work on the Declaration of Independence. So I can see him as a Ravenclaw that always felt eclipsed by some of his peers.
Thomas Jefferson: Ravenclaw
Here’s an example where our modern assessment of our Founders might skew our views. Yes, Jefferson was an unrepentant slaveholder, and perhaps the purchase of Louisiana might be a “Gryffindoresque” move. But the sage of Monticello definitely was a Ravenclaw.
James Madison: Ravenclaw
Madison was definitely a Ravenclaw. I recently visited Montpelier, and the guide shared that Madison was so fan boy nerdy about the Constitution Convention he showed up an entire week early.
James Monroe: Hufflepuff
The last Founding Father president, he fits well into the mode of loyal friend.
John Quincy Adam: Slytherin
Like his dad, kind of hard to pin down. He was very smart, so Ravenclaw is certainly a possibility. Defending the Amistad slaves could be seen as Brave and/or Loyal. But with things like the Corrupt Bargain, his “palsied by the will of our constituents” comment in his first Annual Message, and fact that he’s the son of a President, Slytherin’s elitism makes sense.
Andrew Jackson: Gryffindor
I think Jackson is the quintessential Gryffindor. In fact, his attributes might even be how people in the other houses negatively think of Gryffindor. He’s brash, aggressive, prone to fighting, but admittedly had a charisma about him that someone like John Quincy Adams lacks. (I will say the Spoils system is very Hufflepuff, though.)
Martin Van Buren: Slytherin
Considering he was nicknamed the Little Magician, Van Buren would have been welcomed at Hogwarts. As for which house, his designation as Slytherin here really should not be interpreted in the sense of “evil” Slytherin from the books. If Slytherin’s single adjective is “shrewd” then I think MVB is a great Slytherin. He brilliantly organized the Democratic Party under Jackson’s leadership, creating a North-South coalition that would more or less last until the Civil War. He was definitely more behind the scenes than in front of it at first, and eventually had a semi-mediocre presidency. Though Ravenclaw perhaps would fit, I think Slytherin works best.
William Henry Harrison: Gryffindor
His presidency wasn’t anything meaningful (what with it lasting 30 days), but the hero of Tippecanoe fits into Gryffindor.
John Tyler: Slytherin
Considering he was expelled from his party he certainly wasn’t a Hufflepuff.
James Knox Polk: Gryffindor
Perhaps not as brave as actual military leaders, but going to war with Mexico fits in with Gryffindor leadership, and then quitting the presidency after four years is a relatively bold move.
Zachary Taylor: Gryffindor
Yet another military leader who died in office. Still, Old Rough and Ready certainly sounds like a nickname for a Gryffindor, perhaps a beater on the House Quidditch team?
Millard Fillmore: Ravenclaw
Definitely one of the hardest, since there’s not much to say about him. But his early biography does show an inclination to read and study, despite growing up the son of an impoverished farmer in upstate New York. He also eventually founded the University at Buffalo and was the university’s first chancellor, and helped found the Buffalo Historical Society and the Buffalo General Hospital.
Franklin Pierce: Slytherin
James Buchanan: Slytherin
I consider these two doughface Presidents the equivalent of Peter Pettigrew. Instead of standing by their Northern states’ primary interests, they often sought to placate the powerful Slave South. Of course, Pettigrew was sorted into Gryffindor, and only by being in the shadow of James, Lupin and Sirius did he start to go to the “dark side” of Voldemort. But I’ve corrected that here and given Pierce and Buchanan the house that is the most supportive of slavery (albeit House Elf slavery).
Abraham Lincoln: Gryffindor
Unlike Fillmore where it’s hard to even choose one, Lincoln could arguably be all four. He dispensed more patronage than any other previous President, and also semi-ruinously was loyal to a fault when it came to his Civil War generals. He certainly was an ambitious President, suspending Habeas Corpus, issuing the Emancipation Proclamation etc… And yes, he is by far the most eloquent president ever, in a way that clearly only a sharp mind can be. But despite my personal wish to see Lincoln in my House, I think in the end he belongs in Gryffindor. His brave leadership during the Civil War (which obviously relied on elements of the other three houses) was instrumental in leading the Union to victory. If this blog post was a one-to-one comparison of each president to a Harry Potter character, Lincoln would get Dumbledore. So just like Albus, Lincoln gets Gryffindor, even if he was a brilliant president.
Andrew Johnson: Slytherin
If you’re drunk for your inauguration, kowtow to Southern racists, and get impeached, you just might be a Slytherin.
Ulysses S. Grant: Hufflepuff
Okay I realize this choice might be too cute. Grant is one of the most important military commanders in our nation’s history, and was viewed as a hero in his time. But when I think of his presidency, I think of Loyalty more than Bravery. Though many modern historians have done a good job countering the Lost Cause claim that he was a corrupt and terrible president, the truth is that the scandals that plagued his presidency were mostly due to loyalty to shady characters more so than actual malfeasance. Similarly, Grant’s initial dedication to Reconstruction, through legislation such as the Ku Klux Klan Act can be seen through the prism of loyalty to the Union cause. And as the Sorting Hat says, Hufflepuffs are unafraid of toil. Of course, he still might be Gryffindor in the end.
Rutherford B. Hayes: Slytherin
Both sides in the 1876 election used cunning to try to get their way (Democrats in the South during the election; Republicans after the votes had been cast). So it wasn’t just Hayes himself that participated in electoral shenanigans. Still, I think Old 8 to 7 AKA Rutherfraud Hayes, has to get Slytherin.
James Garfield: Ravenclaw
Garfield’s assassination was truly a tragedy, since I believe he would have made an excellent president. He received a degree from Williams College, and was both a lawyer and a lay preacher. He was a very smart politician, and his diary is a great tool for historians. I’d say this qualifies as Ravenclaw.
Chester Alan Arthur: Hufflepuff
Ironically, Arthur’s biggest accomplishment in office was the passage of the Pendelton Act, which limited patronage appointments. That’s definitely not a Hufflepuff move. But before that he was a Stalwart as Collector of the Port of New York. And he pushed through Civil Service reform to honor Garfield. So I think that counts as loyal.
Grover Cleveland: Gryffindor
Takes courage to run again after losing the presidency. As Allan Nevins wrote in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage (1932) “He possessed honesty, courage, firmness, independence, and common sense.”
Benjamin Harrison: Hufflepuff
I can just see Professor Sprout (head of Hufflepuff House), consoling Benjamin after he is forced to give the Head Boy badge back to Grover. Truly a “leftover” President.
William McKinley: Gryffindor
Meets the criteria of Civil War officer, and leader of the country in war. Even if his backbone was in question.
Theodore Roosevelt: Gryffindor
Another obvious one here. Giving a speech immediately after being shot is peak Gryffindor. So too is this painting.
William Howard Taft: Ravenclaw
You have to be wise to be Chief Supreme Court Justice (at least, hopefully). Then again, he does kind of look like the Fat Friar Ghost of Hufflepuff House.
Woodrow Wilson: Ravenclaw
Perhaps an early 20th century version of Thomas Jefferson, he might have been a hypocritical racist/idealist, but as the only President with a Ph.D. you got to sort him in Ravenclaw.
Warren G. Harding: Hufflepuff
Another president whose loyalty led to corruption. Return to Normalcy sounds exactly like something a Hufflepuff would say. “Hey guys, I know we just fought a war that was important, but could we like return things to normalcy and just chill out for a bit.”
Calvin Coolidge: Slytherin
Herbert Hoover: Ravenclaw
Great administrator pre-Presidency, but not a great leader in the White House. I think that sounds like a Ravenclaw in over his head.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Gryffindor
Shattering the relationship between ordinary Americans and the Federal Government; taking the nation out of the Great Depression; leading the country during World War II; and doing all that while battling polio. That shows bravery and courage.
Harry Truman: Hufflepuff
Truman just seems like a great guy to hang out with. Fairly loyal to the Democratic Party, but also demands it in return (bye bye MacArthur).
Dwight Eisenhower: Gryffindor
Landed at Normandy. Sent troops to Little Rock. Golfed 800 rounds while in office.
John F. Kennedy: Slytherin
Perhaps because Harry Potter starts the series as an eleven-year old, the series does not get into too much sexual content. Sure there are teenage crushes, and the epilogue shows us the offspring of Harry & Ginny, Ron & Hermione. But there’s no lothario House and/or character that might be a good parallel to JFK. So I’m going with Slytherin since dead people in Chicago certainly weren’t going to vote by themselves without JFK’s ambition.
Lyndon Johnson: Hufflepuff
I view LBJ’s commitment to Civil Rights, Education, and the other tenets of the Great Society as staying loyal to both his roots and his idol FDR. Vietnam probably puts him more in the Slytherin/Gryffindor mode. But there’s something about him that makes me feel he’d make a great friend, even if he’d given you the Johnson Treatment now and again.
Richard Nixon: Slytherin
Any president who has to say “I am not a crook” is definitely a Slytherin.
Gerald Ford: Hufflepuff
Jimmy Carter: Hufflepuff
Definitely more eggheaded than Ford, but Carter in a cardigan reminds me of Mr. Rodgers. And who’s more of a Hufflepuff than Mr. Rodgers? Plus, his post presidency Habitat for Humanity work definitely fits.
Ronald Reagan: Gryffindor
I don’t really get a sense of Reagan as a cunning manipulator like Nixon, so I’m not quite sure Slytherin works. I think a former actor leading the country via charisma is a combination of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. I’ll give him credit for battling back from an assassination attempt.
George HW Bush: Slytherin
I think of Bush as a Slytherin who wasn’t quite successful. His portrayal in Two Bad Neighbors is more about his crotchety personality than anything more evil. But the Willy Horton ad was certainly duplicitous, and saying read my lips no new taxes was a false promise.
Bill Clinton: Hufflepuff
Just like JFK, there’s no playa House that I can easily assign Bill. But I could see him as a good friend, even if he’d probably be a terrible wing man. I feel like a dad playing the sax fits with Helga Hufflepuff’s desire to take in anyone, regardless of their skill level.
George W. Bush: Hufflepuff
Dubya is the best example of how both our perception of the books and our partisanship can impact this exercise. I easily could just label him a Slytherin and call it a day. But I think Bush’s weaknesses was all about misplaced loyalty. He chose several cabinet members from his father’s administration, most notably Dick Cheney. He had a sense of duty to pursue Saddam Hussein possibly because of issues between his father and Saddam. And I think a quote that perfectly underscores this is him saying “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” in the aftermath of Katrina. So yes, I understand why from a liberal perspective he was the perfect embodiment of Slytherin evil. But that’s too easy of a comparison. Plus, would a Slytherin ever choke on a pretzel?
Barack Obama: Ravenclaw
Though I of course don’t think Obama is anywhere as great of a president as Lincoln, I think there are some similarities when it comes to where to sort him. He seems like he would be a fun person to have as a friend, especially if you’re into alt-comedy. His detractors certainly see ruthless Slytherin ambition in some of his directives. And of course he’s shown great Gryffindor leadership in hunting down Osama Bin Laden and in facing much of the racist hatred he’s received as our nation’s first African American president. But for me, the brilliance of Obama’s campaigning and the often high rhetoric of his speeches makes me view him as a fellow Ravenclaw. Plus he authored an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
So through Obama, we have 12 Gryffindors, 11 Hufflepuffs, 10 Ravenclaws, 11 Slytherins. That’s surprisingly even.
With the election this Tuesday, where do our two candidates fit?
Donald Trump is very obviously a Slytherin, all the way down to his racist white supremacist inclinations. But Hillary Clinton I think also falls into the Slytherin House. Even if I believe she genuinely can make a positive difference in the lives of ordinary Americans, I think it’s obvious that Hillary Clinton is ambitious. As I said in the very beginning, that doesn’t make her inherently evil. But compared to brave, loyal and wise, I do think shrewd is the best adjective to describe Hillary Clinton.
And perhaps this analysis shows exactly why this election has been so divisive: We have two Slytherins running for office! No wonder why they both have very low favorable ratings.
In conclusion, this totally arbitrary exercise has shown us that the presidents fall into the Houses fairly evenly. In fact, on January 20, 2017, no single House will have a lead. So perhaps the best lesson to take is that no one style of leadership is predominant among the presidents. They all have different personalities and that at times can give us good presidents and bad presidents.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Let me know what you think about my rankings and if you disagree with any! You can hit me up on this blog, or via @ZachHistorry on twitter.
Until next time, remember: Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.