Political analysts, historians, journalists, and political leaders are defining our present moment as a turning point in our democracy. Are we in fact abandoning our founding principles and moving towards authoritarianism? Are we so divided that we cannot bridge the gap of values and ideas?
Jonathan Alter and David Greenberg discuss defining moments in American politics that changed the course of how the nation viewed itself, and how those moments could lift a nation out of a Depression, or plunge it into a divisive civil battle. Alter’s national best-selling book The Defining Moment is a look at an “American miracle”–how FDR’s first hundred days changed the course of a nation that was defeated by the Depression.
David Greenberg’s The Republic of Spin shows us – though more than 100 years of history- how Presidents from Wilson to Obama used spin as both a tool of manipulation, and also a way for opening up our democracy. Greenberg’s analysis does not stop at spin.
He wrote a piece for Politico, which analyzed the effects on democracy of the loss of “neutral” institutions. He noted the shift away from the notion of neutrality, that arose post-World War II, could be attributed to figures such as Donald Trump whose speeches often disregarded and dismissed administrative institutions and civility norms. But looking back on history provides a more complete storyline as Greenberg writes “Trump isn’t the root of this problem so much as a poisonous flower. The cynicism he exploits and deepens has been metastasizing for decades.”
Greenberg and Alter use history to tell their stories. Reflecting and learning from the challenges and successes of our country may be the only definitive guide to move the country forward and away from the current political climate. Greenberg concluded his 2018 Politico article with hope that “the Trump presidency, with its ceaseless chaos and disruption, will prompt a recognition of what is being lost and fuel demand for a rebirth of statesmanship and objectivity.” As it turned out, in 2022 Americans voted for a return to normalcy.
Evangeline Morphos is a producer and educator who has worked in theatre, film, and television; and for twenty-five years was a Professor in the Theater and Film Divisions of Columbia University, where she established the University’s first courses in television and in new media. Evangeline has consulted on numerous new media projects for Democratic political campaigns, and has been active in arts advocacy. She writes frequently on the arts and politics for The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Reuters and NBC.com.She graduated from Wellesley College, and has a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Her late husband was the renowned American political historian Alan Brinkley.