1. Are There Ambitious Politicians among Us?
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1 1. Are There Ambitious Politicians among Us? chapter one This book is about personal motivators in the lives of politicians, especially those aiming for the highest levels of the political hierarchy—ambitious politicians. At the center of interest is the potential conflict between politicians’ personal ambition and their parties’ collective goals. The question is, how do politicians handle their own personal ambitions in a collective context? In the United States there is a prevalence of literature on personal driving forces; in Europe there is very little. The difference is striking: whereas personal ambition is a constant in US studies of the senators and representatives of Congress, studies of European ministers of parliament (MPs) instead focus on collective party goals and institutional constraints. Though it makes sense to put more focus on candidates’ ambitions in the US context than in the European, this is no argument for not studying individual politicians ’ career ambition at all in the European party-centered contexts. Instead, the findings from within the United States clearly indicate that politicians with career ambitions make a difference. American politicians with career ambitions are strategic about when and where they campaign for office (Jacobson 1989). Moreover , they work hard to cultivate a personal relationship with their voters and to understand voters’ preferences (Maestas 2003). Politicians with career ambitions also introduce more bills, are more active on the floor, and believe in legislative specialization (Herrick and Moore 1993). If there are ambitious politicians also in the national European parliaments, we should study who they are and what they do in the legislatures. The main claim I make in this book is that individuals’drive to achieve successful careers in politics affects how representative democracy works also in partycentered systems. In a nutshell, politicians’ personal driving forces deserve to be brought to the foreground of political analyses outside the American context. This book is the first to provide a thorough study of elite politicians who aspire to the top echelons of the parliamentary system.As surprising as it may seem,there has been no previous systematic study to determine who these politicians are and how they behave in parliament. The study makes use of a unique data set that enables comparisons among eleven European parliaments. It delves especially deep into a country where parties are particularly strong and coherent: Sweden. Sweden 2 chapter one provides a case where politicians need to balance potential personal driving forces toward the collective goals formulated by their party. If personal career ambitions matter in the Swedish context, they are likely to matter also in other settings where the party places constraints on politicians—so the argument goes. Sweden offers an excellent opportunity to work with data from an exceptionally long and ambitious tradition of studying political elites (which I’ll describe later in this chapter). Chapter 1 takes the reader through the argument that reluctance toward career politicians is deeply embedded in human nature. We will see that evolutionist studies claim that individuals’ ambition could threaten the group’s survival. Similar arguments are found in early religious thinking as well as in early political philosophy. Thereafter follows a description of the role of personal ambitions in Sweden along with some background on the Swedish political system. The methodological approach of the book is thereafter described, and I outline the data sources used. The specific research questions that the data enables me to pose end this first chapter. In Chapter 2 I discuss political science theories that explain personal driving forces in politics. The American approach to personal driving forces in politics is central—in particular, Joseph Schlesinger’s framework for analyses of political ambition. The chapter ends with a description of how I define and operationalize ambition in this book. Chapter 3 investigates the extent to which there are MPs who aspire to high positions in party-centered parliaments. Chapter 4 asks what these highly ambitious MPs have in common and whether they come from different backgrounds compared to other politicians. Chapter 5 investigates to what extent ambitious politicians’ attitudes and behavior differ from that of other politicians. And Chapter 6 zooms in on the actions of the ambitious politicians, asking whether they indeed are more successful than politicians who lack ambition. Chapter 7 discusses whether the lessons learned from the Swedish case are generalizable to other European party-centered systems. Chapter 8 summarizes and concludes the book. COLLECTIVE GOALS VERSUS PERSONAL AMBITIONS Political ambition has an accepted place in American...