Icons of Democracy
American Leaders as Heroes, Aristocrats, Dissenters, and Democrats
"In an era when American leadership seems sunk in petty power struggles and shallow media spectacles, 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," writes Bruce Miroff. In Icons of Democracy, Miroff looks at how nine American leaders have either successfully encouraged or undermined citizens' participatory role in their democracy and helps us rediscover what leadership has meant in the past and how it can reinvigorate public life today.
In a blend of history, biography, political science, and political theory, Miroff offers examples of the finest democratic leadership as well as cautionary tales of prominent leaders whose styles were essentially aristocratic. His study examines John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eugene V. Debs, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr., as leaders who embodied or advanced democratic ideals. He also presents iconoclastic analyses of Alexander Hamilton, Theodore Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, in which he concludes that these leaders actually discouraged a truly participatory democracy. In addition, in a new preface to this edition he criticizes Bill Clinton as a postmodern leader more concerned with political fashion than democratic vision.
“A provocative meditation on the commitments and deceptions of leadership in the U.S.”
“This would make an excellent textbook for a college-level class on leadership in American politics.”
—ALA BooklistSee all reviews...
“We have too few books of this sort today. . . . It merits the wide audience it seeks and alerts us to the virtues of sometimes taking that audience to be one of fellow citizens rather than fellow historians.”
—Robert B. Westbrook, American Historical Review
“A most impressive work [and] major contribution to the study of American politics.”
—Michael A. Genovese, American Political Science Review
“Through a vivid and telling chronicle of nine emblematic public figures, Bruce Miroff has produced a challenging new picture of the American political tradition, warning us against our wish for heroes and showing us how our finest statesmen have helped to expand our democratic vistas. Every serious student of American politics will want to read this book.”
—James Miller, New School for Social Research and author of Democracy Is in the Streets
“Packed with telling anecdotes and insights, Icons of Democracy offers analyses of diamond-like brilliance.”
—James MacGregor Burns, author of LeadershipSee fewer reviews...