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T H U R S D A Y

In the interminable, unedifying debate over America’s culture wars, a fresh idea is as rare as a kind word for Leonard Jeffries. But in The Twilight of Common Dreams, ’60s activist and cultural critic Todd Gitlin offers the first compelling explanation of why liberals have abandoned the left. It used to be that the American left preached universalism and the right preached elitism. Now, as Gitlin notes, the left practices identity politics and the right espouses an (allegedly) shared set of “family”/“middle-class”/“American” values. The result, according to Gitlin? Liberals who believe in a shared American history of progress—I count myself among them—have found themselves adrift, dismayed by the left’s cliquishness and appalled by the right’s smugness. Gitlin reads at 7 p.m. at Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. FREE. (202) 364-1919. (David Plotz)