Icons of democracy: American leaders as heroes, aristocrats, dissenters, and democrats
The most profound and disturbing examination of the dangers and possibilities of democratic leadership since Richard Hofstadter's classic, The American Political Tradition, this book traces a fundamental tension between leadership and popular democracy that has animated American life from the Revolution through the turbulent 1960s. Miroff examines nine emblematic political giants - Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Theodore Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. - revealing stunning differences in their passions for distinction, commitments to democratic education, uses of drama and even demagoguery, and responses to class, racial, and sexual tensions. Some show a deep commitment to nurturing the democratic dignity of the citizenry and empowering the excluded; others display elitist proclivities and pander to popular adulation. Even the best intentioned leaders, argues Miroff, may undermine the equality and participation of ordinary citizens. Blending history, biography, political theory, and political science, the book uncovers disquieting implications in the careers of some familiar American heroes, and presents new insights into major American figures. We watch as Alexander Hamilton battles Aaron Burr, the demagogue who would destroy all the aristocratic statesman had labored to build. We observe Abraham Lincoln disciplining a youthful instinct for superiority while constructing the most haunting of all American images of democratic leadership. Teddy Roosevelt emerges as an amusing yet troubling figure whose artful spectacle of heroic leadership enervated citizens as much as it entertained them. Andwe are challenged by the presence of Martin Luther King, Jr., as a doomed prophet of democratic redemption. By reexamining and reinterpreting the leadership of these nine figures, Miroff plumbs our national heritage to determine what leadership has meant - and can mean - in American public life. "In an era when American leadership seems sunk in petty power struggles and shallow media spectacles, Miroff writes, "some of our icons have much to teach us about the forms of leadership that can still speak to the democratic possibilities of the American people".
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The Aristocratic Statesman
Merit Fame and Political Leadership
Democratic Leadership and
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