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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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PRINTED FROM KENTUCKY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.kentucky.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The University Press of Kentucky, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in KSO for personal use.date: 16 January 2021

To Flatter and Obey

To Flatter and Obey

The Triumph of Ambition

(p.101) 5 To Flatter and Obey
Ambition in America

Jeffrey A. Becker

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter argues that the ascendency of direct democracy diminishes the capacity of citizens to exert substantive collective control and accountability over political institutions. Avenues of political leadership have opened to average citizens in many ways, but these ways have not been conducive to democratic control over government. The selection of presidential candidates has become more open to the influence of popular opinion, but it has also become more closed to broader participation by everyday citizens because the process itself now requires financing and organization available to few citizens. Consequently, a politics has emerged in the United States where ambitious office seekers are increasingly beholden to no enduring political organization for the rise and success of their political careers. This chapter argues that as formal and informal processes of peer review for potential political leaders have become more plebiscitary in orientation, a more dynamic system has emerged, but it is one tilted to the benefit of the personally wealthy and to those who are beholden to sources of financial support. It is a system not necessarily better at selecting politicians capable of governing effectively.

Keywords:   ambition, representation, self-government, presidency, political parties

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