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Political Historian Focuses On Lingering Gingrich Effect

Newt Gingrich in 2012.
Gage Skidmore
Newt Gingrich in 2012.

Republicans had not held control in the U.S. House of Representatives for 40 years when they won it in the 1994 election. The rise of Speaker Newt Gingrich was foreshadowed five years earlier by his bare-knuckled takedown of Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, with a flurry of accusations and terminology previously considered out-of-bounds.

Political historian Julian Zelizer, a regular on CNN and public radio, tells the story in Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party. Zelizer shows how Gingrich changed the rules of the game, spurred on by Republicans happy at victory and Democrats reluctant to embrace the new tactics.

The author gives us most of an hour to explore what happened, and why it still matters today.

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The Jefferson Exchange is Jefferson Public Radio's daily news program focused on issues, people and events across Southern Oregon and Northern California. Angela Decker is the program's senior producer, Charlie Zimmermann is the assistant producer, and Geoffrey Riley hosts the show.