Princeton historian and CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer shares the history of the "new" Republican party with  Bruce McGuirk, leader of Pages Through the Ages, Westport Library's history discussion group. In BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party, Zelizer pinpoints the moment when our country was set on a path towards the current era of bitterly partisan politics, arguing that Newt Gingrich’s ruthless political strategies in the 1980s inspired some of the most divisive episodes in contemporary American politics.

If you missed this event, you can watch the recording in our video gallery here.

Community Partner: League of Women Voters of Westport

Elected to Congress in 1978, Gingrich quickly became one of the most powerful figures in America through a calculated campaign of attacks against political adversaries. He weaponized newly introduced government reforms against corruption and used them to attack his opponents. At the same time, post-Watergate investigative journalism--meant to hold Washington accountable--became a partisan weapon, as Gingrich and his allies manipulated well-meaning reporters. Gingrich routinely mixed fact and fiction and smeared opponents through a new, brass-knuckles form of politics. Ultimately, Gingrich orchestrated the demise of the most powerful Democrat in the country, Speaker Jim Wright, and led Republicans to their first majority in Congress in decades.

Gingrich’s brand of warfare worked not as a strategy for governance but as a path to power. What Gingrich planted, his fellow Republicans reaped, and Democrats failed to take an effective stand against this turn. Partisanship came to define how elected officials dealt with almost every issue, ranging from who should lead the parties to mundane budgeting matters to decisions over war and peace. We see Gingrich’s legacy throughout US politics today: The Republican Party’s denial of the 2020 election results, the misinformation campaign that contributed to the January 6th insurrection, and the enduring triumph of partisanship over political ideals all have links to the sea change that Gingrich created in the 1980s. Like a narrative alarm bell, BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE rings with urgency as Zelizer both enlightens us about a pivotal time in American life and provides essential context for America’s current political crisis.

Julian E. Zelizer is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University, a CNN political analyst, and a contributor to NPR’s Here & Now. His most recent books are Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 (co-authored with Kevin Kruse) and The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society, winner of the D.B. Hardeman Prize for best book on Congress. Zelizer has been awarded fellowships from the New-York Historical Society, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and New America.

 

Powers of Congress

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Biographies of American Politicians

In her book, WE NEED NEW STORIES: The Myths that Subvert Freedom, Nesrine Malik will examine six political myths used to deflect and discredit demands for social justice with Catherine Lewis.

Exploring how political myths function, she breaks down how they are employed to subvert calls for equality from historically disenfranchised groups. Interweaving reportage with an incendiary analysis of American history and politics, she offers a compelling account of how calls to preserve "free speech" are used against the vulnerable; how a fixation with "wokeness," "political correctness," and "cancel culture" is in fact an organized and well-funded campaign by elites; and how the fear of racial minorities and their “identity politics” obscures the biggest threat of all—white terrorism. What emerges is a radical framework for understanding the crises roiling American contemporary politics in this "Publishers Weekly most anticipated book of Spring 2021."

This is a virtual event, please register.

Purchase a copy of WE NEED NEW STORIES.

Nesrine Malik is an award-winning British-Sudanese columnist and features writer for the GuardianWE NEED NEW STORIES is her first book. She lives in London.

Catherine Lewis, LCSW, MS, is a member of the teaching faculty at Ackerman Institute for the Family and the Director of Ackerman's Foster Care and Adoption Project (FCAP). Catherine specializes in working with individuals and families impacted by interpersonal and systemic trauma. She maintains a small private practice in New York City and Westport, working with families, couples and children and is a member of TEAM Westport.

Read The Guardian's review. 

 

Towards a More Perfect Union: Confronting Racism

Own Voice Booklist

Stop Racial Injustice

Please note: This is a virtual event. REGISTER HERE.

For five days, the country sat glued to the coverage of the 2020 Presidential Election. We were transfixed, anxious and exhausted.  Now, find out what it was like in the newsroom from the reporters that kept us informed during this extraordinary moment of American history.

Join for this unprecedented look behind the scenes of the most historic and consequential Election Night in American history.

Join CBS News correspondents Jeff Pegues, Major Garrett, and Nancy Cordes for this unprecedented look behind the scenes of the most historic and consequential Election Night in our history.

Nancy Cordes is CBS News' chief Congressional correspondent. She is based in Washington, D.C. and contributes to all CBS news broadcasts and platforms.

Cordes joined CBS News in 2007 as Transportation and Consumer Safety correspondent, where she covered significant stories about the nation's transportation infrastructure and important safety issues.

Previously, Cordes was an ABC News correspondent based in New York (2005-07).

Major Garrett is White House Correspondent for CBS News and Contributor to National Journal.

Garrett comes to CBS from National Journal as White House & Congressional Correspondent.  Prior to that, Garrett was at Fox News, where he was the Chief White House Correspondent.

Garrett's also authored three books. His third, The Enduring Revolution (2005), was recently voted one of the best non-fiction political books of all time by readers of Chris Cillizza's Washington Post "The Fix" blog.

Jeff Pegues is the CBS News chief justice and homeland security correspondent.  He reports for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms including CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News.

Since joining CBS News, Pegues has led the Network's coverage of some of the biggest stories of the last decade.  He has provided extensive reporting on the conflict between the black community and police, and has authored a book on the issue, "Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between Police and the Black Community." Pegues is the recipient of three Emmy Awards, numerous local and national Emmy Award nominations, the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, and in 2017 was part of the CBS News team that earned an Edward R. Murrow Award.

Pegues went to high school in Westport, Connecticut where he was an All-State sprinter and All-Conference running back on the football team.

Artist, Activist and Educator Darcy Hicks will moderate a discussion about the intersection of arts, awareness, and activism with local artists Iyaba Ibo Mandingo, Liz Leggett, and 5IVE Fingaz.

Art- both making it and experiencing it, is a way for us to see things through each other’s eyes, connecting us through ideas and building empathy. Throughout history, art has served to bear witness, ask questions and incite passion. In 2020, art is playing a particularly important role in how we understand others and engage in the world. There are a few exhibits around the area right now exploring this topic, including the Firm Art Gallery in Bridgeport with their show “Jim Crow to Black Lives Matter through the Lens of Covid-19”, the “20/20Visions” show at The Pequot Library, “World Peace” at MoCA Westport, and Westport's pop up show, “People, Politics, Planet.”

Darcy HicksDarcy Hicks is a community activist and arts educator who believes passionately in the power of art  to create dialogue and drive change.

Iyaba Ibo Mandigo’s earliest exposure to the arts was through his mother and his Iyaba Ibo Mandingograndparents who first introduced him to color and pattern, paving a path to the many ways of expression; drawing, painting, sculpting, writing and performing. Iyaba teaches in the tri-state area as a Master Teaching Artist.

Liz LeggettLiz Leggett is an award winning artist whose work has been exhibited internationally, and is currently the Director of Exhibitions at MOCA Westport, where she co-curated the current exhibit “World Peace.”

5IVE Fingaz is an artist, author and activist based in Norwalk, whose guerilla street art 5IVE Fingazmovement “Love More Than Ever” seeks to fight hatred with love.

This event is free thanks to the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.

This is a virtual event, please register.

Healing Power of Art

Arts and Crafts

Artists' Books

Meet monthly to explore  and discuss selected articles from The New Yorker, Bloomberg Business week and Mother Jones. We will look at US relationships with the world's people, countries and organizations on issues of economy, technology, regulation, politics, society and environment. Alex Anvari will facilitate this discussion where all points of view are respected. Magazines will be available through the Library's digital magazine app Flipster or copies available at the Library. Selected articles to read in advance of the discussion will be announced two weeks prior to meeting.

Alex Anvari, moderator, completed his Master's in Public and Private Management at Yale University with a concentration on Regulation and Competitive Strategy.  Alex’s career highlights include:  global program director for a Fortune 10 financial services customer, VP Controller at a Fortune 100 company and sales leader (North America commercial sector) at the world’s 2nd largest software company.  He also spent years delivering advisory services to ethics, compliance, risk and legal departments of global organizations.  Alex is currently the Sportsmanship Director of Westport Soccer, President of the United Nations Association of Southwestern Connecticut and moderator of The New Yorker discussion group at Manchester Community Library in Vermont.  He previously served on the Board of Directors for the Native American Health Center in Oakland, CA and the International Theater of Tehran.  In recent years he has been coaching for Stratton Mountain’s alpine ski racing program.

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