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Ambition in AmericaPolitical Power and the Collapse of Citizenship$
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Jeffrey A. Becker

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813145044

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813145044.001.0001

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The Ambition of Popular Control

The Ambition of Popular Control

Jacksonian Democracy and American Populism

(p.61) 3 The Ambition of Popular Control
Ambition in America

Jeffrey A. Becker

University Press of Kentucky

Following from the institutional and historical contexts established in the previous chapters, this chapter shows how national American political ambitions are continually countered by local, populist, and more participatory impulses. Jacksonian democracy and the populism of William Jennings Bryan encourage the development of a culture of local and direct democratic attachments to counter the centralizing trend of nation and corporate capitalism—despite the attempts of political parties to bridge the two. This chapter shows that in order to sustain commitments to democratic norms citizens need local attachments and institutions capable of coordinating and keeping in check the fracturing ambitions of provincial citizens. This chapter shows that in order for citizens to enact lasting political reform they must steer clear of relying on prejudice and demagoguery for mobilizing broad based democratic movements. Democratic politics still require the building of forms and associations that tie expressions of ambition for political power with ideals grounded in local attachments and institutional practices designed to limit and direct political life towards democratic purposes.

Keywords:   ambition, Jacksonian Democracy, Populism, demagoguery, power (political)

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