Demagogues in American Politics
By Charles Zug
Most of us think that demagoguery is, by definition, bad. Relatedly, scholars almost invariably treat demagoguery as a divisive practice that appeals to what is worst in an audience at the expense of what is best for the public good. In Demagogues in American Politics, Charles U. Zug offers a historical analysis of the role of demagoguery in the American political system. Challenging the conventional wisdom, he argues that demagoguery is not an inherently bad form of leadership. Whereas classical thinkers had believed that demagoguery was always a threat to political order, the most sophisticated founders of the American Constitution-inspired by Enlightenment political philosophy-recognized that demagoguery, though dangerous, could be recruited by the Constitution to improve the political system. Through case studies drawn from the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court, this book argues that demagogic leadership can be deployed by public officials to advance the aspirations of constitutional democracy.
Charles Zug is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Previously he taught at Williams College. Before earning his Ph.D. in Government at The University of Texas at Austin, he graduated from St. John’s College in Annapolis. His dissertation, “The Uses and Abuses of Demagoguery in American National Government,” argues for a descriptive theory of demagoguery through comparative case-studies of Constitutional officers in the three branches of American government. Zug’s scholarly work has been published in Critical Review, Interpretation, The Australian Journal of Politics & History, and Perspectives on Political Science. He has also written punditry on Constitutional issues for several publications, including The Washington Post and The Austin American-Statesman.
Professor Zug is a Jack Miller Center fellow.
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