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Sunday, July 25, 2004

Frank assessment

Thomas Frank:

I haven't yet had a chance to read, What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank, but I've started to follow the controversy about it.

Frank, like me, grew up in Kansas and then attended the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in History from the University of Chicago.

Here's some info about the book's purpose from the blurb on Powell's website:
In asking “what ’s the matter with Kansas?”—how a place famous for its radicalism became one of the most conservative states in the union—Frank, a native Kansan and onetime Republican, seeks to answer some broader American riddles: Why do so many of us vote against our economic interests? Where’s the outrage at corporate manipulators? And whatever happened to middle-American progressivism?
Just a few minutes ago, I saw Frank on C-SPAN2 in a forum that seemed to be taking place in Lawrence, KS. I missed Frank on Bill Moyers show "NOW" July 9, but I did find the transcript of that program.

Basically, Frank argues that the Republican party, using issues like abortion, have fomented "Populist Conservatism" in places like Kansas:
People have decided that cultural issues outweigh their economic interests. Or they outweigh everything. And they vote for conservatives on this basis.
He adds, however, that Republicans have made no headway in the culture wars. I guess the recent defeat of the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage supports this conclusion.

So a significant portion of the Republican base rallies around school prayer, the public posting of the 10 commandments, abortion, tv/movie content, etc. Yet, the crusades on these issues go nowhere -- even as the politically empowered Republican government leaders move to rework economic policies that hurt the common person. They've deregulated, privatized and crushed unions.

When I was driving to Cincinnati last week, I heard Laura Ingraham on the radio criticizing the book and its elitism. Thus, I know the right is paying attention to Frank's book.

Has anyone here read it yet?

Note to Avery: Did you notice that I linked to Powell's as you suggested, rather than amazon? Will the left blogosphere follow suit?

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