Monday, July 20, 7pm CST
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Left Bank Books welcomes author and CNN Political Analyst Julian E. Zelizer, who will discuss his new book, Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party, on Facebook Live at 7pm CST on July 20. Zelizer will be in conversation with Norman Ornstein, author and contributing editor for The Atlantic. Join us on our Facebook Page and order copies of Burning Down the House from Left Bank Books to support authors and independent bookstores!
The story of how Newt Gingrich and his allies tainted American politics, launching an enduring era of brutal partisan warfare.
When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, President Obama observed that Trump “is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party.” In Burning Down the House, historian Julian Zelizer pinpoints the moment when our country was set on a path toward an era of bitterly partisan and ruthless politics, an era that was ignited by Newt Gingrich and his allies. In 1989, Gingrich brought down Democratic Speaker of the House Jim Wright and catapulted himself into the national spotlight. Perhaps more than any other politician, Gingrich introduced the rhetoric and tactics that have shaped Congress and the Republican Party for the last three decades. Elected to Congress in 1978, Gingrich quickly became one of the most powerful figures in America not through innovative ideas or charisma, but through a calculated campaign of attacks against political opponents, casting himself as a savior in a fight of good versus evil. Taking office in the post-Watergate era, he weaponized the good government reforms newly introduced to fight corruption, wielding the rules in ways that shocked the legislators who had created them. His crusade against Democrats culminated in the plot to destroy the political career of Speaker Wright.
While some of Gingrich’s fellow Republicans were disturbed by the viciousness of his attacks, party leaders enjoyed his successes so much that they did little collectively to stand in his way. Democrats, for their part, were alarmed, but did not want to sink to his level and took no effective actions to stop him. It didn’t seem to matter that Gingrich’s moral conservatism was hypocritical or that his methods were brazen, his accusations of corruption permanently tarnished his opponents. This brand of warfare worked, not as a strategy for governance but as a path to power, and what Gingrich planted, his fellow Republicans reaped. He led them to their first majority in Congress in decades, and his legacy extends far beyond his tenure in office. From the Contract with America to the rise of the Tea Party and the Trump presidential campaign, his fingerprints can be seen throughout some of the most divisive episodes in contemporary American politics. Burning Down the House presents the alarming narrative of how Gingrich and his allies created a new normal in Washington.
“Newt Gingrich was one of the most consequential figures in American politics in the Twentieth Century, with major responsibility for our current political turmoil. A lot has been written about the rise and fall of Newt. It takes a good historian to provide insight, new material and context to what we already know. Julian Zelizer is a first rate historian, and even for those of us present at Gingrich’s emergence into national life, especially through his assault on Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, and throughout his career, Burning Down the House enlightens and enriches our understanding of a pivotal time in American life.” —Norman Ornstein, co-author of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism
“In this essential history of Newt Gingrich, Zelizer shows that Donald Trump isn't so much an innovator as an imitator. Zelizer argues that Gingrich wrote the modern Republican Party's destructive playbook, and the Democrats and the media have yet to figure out an effective response.” —Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money and Chief Washington Correspondent, The New Yorker
Julian E. Zelizer has been among the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and a CNN Political Analyst and a regular guest on NPR’s "Here and Now." He is the author and editor of 20 books including, The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society (2015), the winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for the Best Book on Congress. His most recent book, co-authored with Kevin Kruse, is Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 (Norton). His new book is Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, The Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party (Penguin Press). Zelizer, who has published over 1000 op-eds, has received fellowships from the Brookings Institution, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the New York Historical Society, and New America. He also co-hosts a popular podcast called Politics & Polls.
Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is a contributing editor and writer for The Atlantic, and has been an election eve analyst for CBS News and BBC news. He is also Chairman of the Board of the Campaign Legal Center. He served as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission and co-directed the AEI-Brookings Project on alternatives to the Independent Counsel Act. His many books include Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy (AEI, 2006); The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, with Thomas E. Mann (Oxford University Press, 2006, named by the Washington Post one of the best books of 2006 and called by the Economist "a classic"); and the New York Times bestseller, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, also with Tom Mann, published in May 2012 by Basic Books. His latest book, with EJ Dionne and Tom Mann, “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not-Yet-Deported” was published by St Martin’s Press in September 2017, and was immediately on the New York Times and Washington Post best seller lists.
All you need to do to participate is log in to your personal Facebook account, go to Left Bank Books' Facebook Page, "Like" the page, and wait for the livestream to begin on the page (you may need to refresh the page periodically until the stream begins).